Behind the Scenes at Strathcona: Property Manager Adrian Ammerlaan

A Year 12 student arrives for exams, sits down at a desk, takes a deep breath and picks up her pen.

A mother enters Featherstone Hall, settles into a seat, and smiles as her daughter walks out on stage.

A small group of girls splash up and down the pool as a coach calls out to correct their strokes.

On a cold Melbourne morning, teachers arrive early and head straight to warm classrooms to set up for the day.

Strathcona’s myriad activities and events run smoothly, but behind the scenes a lot of effort, a little frantic energy, and plenty of overtime go into ensuring the building is ready for learners. The man in charge of making sure it all works – without us even noticing – is Adrian Ammerlaan, Strathcona’s Property Manager. Adrian has been in the role for 10 years, and manages all elements of the buildings and landscape with support from his team of four and guidance from the School leadership. Adrian was headhunted from another school and loves the interesting, varied work at Strathcona.

How have you seen the role change over the last 10 years?

The technology has made the job more efficient; there’s a lot of items that I can control from my computer now, or even remotely. If I’m off-site, I can still control things at the main campus and on weekends I can log in remotely and give people access to air conditioning and alarms in different buildings.

What does an average week at Strathcona look like?

It depends on the phone [he taps his mobile, which rings every few minutes during the interview, and laughs] and who calls with what. No week is the same. There’s always something going on.

We have a lot of interaction with the Music and Drama departments because of all their events. We have three musicals a year and we assist with making sets and setting up the hall and staging.

We set up for exams, SACs and functions, and we make sure all the classrooms are in order each day.

On a Monday morning on a cold Winter’s day, the boiler is never on – it goes out over the weekend and has to be rebooted. It’s great having the computer systems now – you can see it’s off before people call about being freezing!

Thoughts on the new building

It’s a very nice building with all the new technology that’s in it. The air-conditioning system has been classified as ‘Rolls Royce’ standard by consultants. It’s gas fired rather than running on electricity, which makes it more environmentally friendly because we’re using natural gas emissions, not brown coal. We have eight units servicing the building, and each one runs a small four cylinder car motor (24hp), to run the compressors for the air conditioning units. This whole air conditioning system is also controlled by a Building Management System (computer) so we can alter the temperature in a room very quickly at a teacher’s request.

Tell us about the legendary Strathcona keys

When I first arrived teachers were walking around with handfuls of keys to get into rooms. One staff member had 30 keys on his keyring! He now carries one. The most anyone would carry is two. The school has better control now of where people access and people’s pockets are not so heavy!

What have been your achievements in your time at Strathcona?

The security system along with keys. We used to have seven separate alarms for seven different buildings and had to physically switch each one off. Now it’s all linked in as one.

Installing air-conditioning all around the school and having it computerised is another achievement. And installing underground and above ground water tanks to enable us to water the gardens using rainwater. We wanted to be more environmentally friendly and when we remodelled the oval we realised we could put a water saving plan in place with a storage water tank underground. We designed it to pump to the above ground tanks, which then irrigate the grounds.

What do you like most about the job?

I like assisting people and problem solving. It’s all common sense …. and problem solving!

Strathcona expresses its gratitude to Adrian and his team, who solve problems before we notice they are there and keep the building and grounds functioning efficiently, thereby ensuring staff and students can focus on the business of learning.