RACV Cape Schanck Resort © Peter Bennetts; RACV Cape Schanck Resort © Peter Bennetts;

RACV Resort Cape Schanck, Victoria

From a visionary design to a cutting-edge construction

Above the southernmost tip of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, just 75-minutes from Melbourne's bustling CBD, an architectural opus has redefined its coastal landscape. The striking new $130 million resort at Cape Schanck will breathe fresh energy, tourism and economic rewards into the region.

The 4-storey complex exemplifies cutting-edge contemporary luxury with its distinct, free-form facade of curves and arcs. The design concept belongs to award-winning architectural firm, Wood Marsh, which engaged Arup as project design partner in 2013 having successfully worked together on the previous Royal Automobile Club of Victoria resort project at the popular Surf Coast town of Torquay.

Using our expertise in structural and environmentally sustainable design, building services, acoustics and geotechnical advice, we navigated three main challenges: building on a salty-aired, geologically-compromised coastal site, maintaining architectural aspirations as we focused on structural efficiency and integrity, and creating a multifunctional and buildable model that showcased the strikingly original concept.

Practical Considerations

After appraising the site, our geotechnical engineers concluded that the resort’s foundations should be anchored through a combination of pile and pad footings, each chosen for the immediate soil conditions, to safely optimise the load capacity.

Project Summary

22,000+ human hours


120hotel roomswith 43 different configurations

The preliminary placement of supporting structural walls and columns on the lower levels required a creative engineering approach. The architect presented an alternating hotel room layout, positioned above the hotel’s conference and pool facilities on the upper three floors.  These ground-level structural supports were required to distribute the significant, non-linear load throughout the proposed floorplan, maintaining the original configuration. For the buildings services team, the events and dining spaces proved particularly challenging, with the ornate ceilings ensuring that any ducts, vents and diffusers required to condition the air would be recessed into the floor slab, and the continuous curvature of the façade ensuring that any solution would be a tailored one.

In response, Arup optimised a structural system that comprised steel beams and reinforced concrete to support the edifice over the larger-span function spaces without compromising the design. This included a cantilevered extension of the top three levels, a design feature protruding 7 metres beyond its ground-level perimeter. More discreet, the swirl diffusers ultimately deployed in the function spaces, rather than standard linear or square diffusers, ensured those ceiling details remained pristine. The easy comfort afforded to guests in the space is owing to the intricate, detailed 3D modelling work that dispersed evenly the single-supply, large volume of air emitted by the powerful swirl mechanism.

The software solution

During the project, 157 Arup problem-solvers applied their individual expertise to the engineering challenges. Initially, Arup senior designers worked closely with Wood Marsh to formulate strategies and solutions that would lead to an integrated building system. A subset of the larger team worked cohesively to model Wood Marsh’s plan in 3D from its initial 2D rendering.

These models, created in Revit, were invaluable for interpreting and resolving the design intent from the architectural drawings. They allowed us to unravel the geometric complexities and to extract answers to broad design questions that would ultimately lead to buildable solutions.

Because of the multiple challenges at hand, Arup’s review, using Solibri’s automated rule-based analysis, was vital in identifying “collisions”, or incompatible design features that defied the structure or the space that it occupied.

Collectively, our parametric toolkit assisted with key elements of the Cape Schanck project, from spatial coordination and design congruence, right through to quality assurance and building code compliance. This allowed Arup to minimise costly design changes, identify design clashes and mitigate risks with remarkable efficiency. Using sophisticated building information modelling (BIM) software, our engineers gained additional clarity and direction to inform the complex construction process, undertaken by Kane Construction.

Sustainability elements integrated seamlessly

Considerable efforts were made to incorporate sustainable and efficient design elements to minimise the resort’s footprint on the local ecology and reduce energy consumption overall. The roof, for example, free from the building services equipment carefully concealed on the lower levels, collects rainwater via a siphonic system using positive and negative pressure to feed it into an enormous 100,000 litre tank. The rainwater is then repurposed for irrigation and waste water systems within the resort.

Similarly, the efforts to minimise heat loss are evident in the thermal wheel system, a clever technology that uses a matrix of rotating, heat-absorbent material to retain and transfer the heat back into the air-handling system, leaving behind the moisture that would otherwise collect on the inside of the windows during cold snaps. Conversely, the double-glazed, tinted glass that envelopes the exterior is balanced to limit the penetration of outside heat without conceding the spectacular evening views that a dark tint would obscure.

Other sustainable features can be found throughout the building’s structure and surrounds, from the façade perforation that meets stringent fire safety codes, to the salt-resistant materials that have enduring longevity in a seaside location, right down to the fan coil units with their extra-efficient piping system.

RACV Cape Schanck Resort © Peter Bennetts RACV Cape Schanck Resort © Peter Bennetts

Local residents share in utility solution

Notwithstanding its enviable vantage point over Cape Schanck, the remote location presented inherent challenges. In addition to proving geologically tricky, the site was not connected to a gas supply - the nearest pipe was several kilometres away.

Arup conducted a cost/benefit analysis and feasibility study of the viable options. This produced a clear case in favour of connecting to the nearest gas conduit, requiring 8kms of extended gas pipeline. The new utility link had benefits beyond the site’s perimeter, however; RACV expanded its own infrastructure planning so that nearby residents, who had not previously had direct access to an external gas supply, could also be connected for the first time.

The art of the build

The building’s fluid form, lacking in right-angles and symmetry, mirrors the cape's rolling dunes and grooved shoreline; an oversized sculpture of curved, reinforced concrete and steel.

The RACV Resort at Cape Schanck offers guests contemporary luxury accommodation, fine dining and a range of guest facilities that include a 25-metre swimming pool, a day spa, conference and event spaces and an 18-hole championship golf course.

And if there's time to enjoy the outlook, it won't be forgotten - visitors are treated to unmatched panoramic views from all three of the resort’s lobed wings, from a rugged stretch of Bass Strait coastline to the resort’s golf course and beyond.

It is always satisfying to see the culmination of many years of effort in the form of a completed building – particularly one as striking as RACV Cape Schanck. The fluid, curving silhouette expertly captures the essence of this premium coastal site. Our team worked symbiotically with Wood Marsh to explore and optimise the building design from its inception. Using sophisticated digital processes, we enabled its development and delivery and we’re extremely proud of the outcome. ” Joseph Correnza Joseph Correnza Principal