Construction of Brisbane’s first vertical State school

The Queensland Department of Education is seeking to address projected school enrolment numbers in Brisbane’s inner Northern suburbs and Fortitude Valley State Secondary College was the first of two vertical schools developed to help address growing demand, the other being in Dutton Park.

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College, Brisbane’s first vertical State school, uses a vertical design to capitalise on its inner-city lot. With state-of-the-art education facilities, including ‘future focused’ learning areas such as an Innovation Hub and multidisciplinary, high tech labs and workshops, the school will create spaces which can be reconceptualised and activated in flexible ways to foster student and staff engagement, partnerships, community engagement and highly personalised learning.

As part of the winning consortia led by COX Architects, AECOM undertook all building services including mechanical, electrical, communication and security, hydraulics, fire protection and acoustics.

The project aimed to produce a design that:

  • Creates a school of the future, to enable students to become problem solvers, critical and creative thinkers.
  • Fosters innovation, enabling students to think beyond current solutions.
  • Provides successful senior schooling pathways to further learning and work.
  • Partners with business, industry, universities, families, and communities to support student learning; and
  • Values and supports our teachers and educators.

The project was delivered as an extension of the sterling team ethos Cox and AECOM fostered on the successful Adelaide Botanic High School, a $100M vertical school and the first of its kind in South Australia.


  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Communications and Security
  • Hydraulics
  • Fire Protection
  • Acoustics
  • Vertical Transportation
  • Air Quality


AECOM worked closely with the client, user groups and the design team from the early stages of planning to address the site constraints which drove the facility towards a vertical solution. This meant that the engineering outcomes would need to be more advanced than a typical low-rise school in Queensland. AECOM assisted the DOE in understanding the impact that would have on the reliability, cost, maintenance and occupant conditions.

The movement of students between floors was an important issue for DOE. The key was finding the balance between providing a lift solution, that catered for movement over a number of floors, and encouraging use of the large central stair where possible for movement over just one or two floors.

An obstacle for the development was the proximity to an existing rail line and a busy city road junction. Extensive acoustic modelling was required to determine how the school would operate in natural ventilation mode, which had to account for the intermittent rail noise to be balanced against a continuous noise source from the adjacent road junction.

The secondary issue related to location was air quality, which our Environment team undertook comprehensive testing for to determine where openable windows could be allowed and the requirements of the mechanical systems for outside air intakes.

Finally, the Performing Arts space was originally required to function for school productions and have some adaptability to allow more than one space to be used at a time. The building was then further developed to allow the space to be used as classrooms should the need arise for capacity reasons. This ended up being utilised when the school looked to take part occupancy of the site while the main building was completed.