The Global Change Institute. Photography: Angus Martin

29 August 2013 — The University of Queensland’s zero energy, carbon neutral Global Change Institute has officially opened.

UQ president and vice-chancellor Professor Peter Høj said the $32 million, 3865 square metre building was an example of the university’s commitment to sustainability.

“The Global Change Institute has created a hub where new ideas about sustainability and global climate change are expressed, debated, investigated and reported,” Professor Høj said.

“This building is the ideal home for the Institute’s game-changing research into clean energy, healthy oceans, food security and climate change.

“It is designed to work with the natural environment and it will operate as a zero-energy and zero-carbon workplace.”

Global Change Institute director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

The building will be naturally ventilated 88 per cent of the year. In closed ventilation mode, air will be pre-cooled through a labyrinth before being further cooled and dehumidified by a “free-energy” comfort conditioning system that uses a heat recovery sensible wheel and a desiccant thermal wheel.

The building will generate and store its own power through a 1.2 megawatt on-site solar PV system, with excess power delivered back to the grid.

Other sustainability features include:

  • An operable sun shading system that tracks the sun and protects the building’s glass louvres to maximise natural ventilation
  • A translucent ETFE atrium that optimises natural light to the interior, is heat-resistant and acts to discharge warm air through its thermal chimney
  • Chilled water flushed through exposed sculptural precast floor panels for cooling
  • Rainwater storage of 60,000 litres to service the hydronic cooling system, kitchen and shower
  • Optimal natural lighting supported by LEDs
  • A green wall, bush tucker garden and bio-retention basin
  • Pedestrian links to provide easy access by foot or bike

The Hassell-designed GCI building is also the first Australian building to incorporate low-carbon structural Geopolymer concrete.

Hassell principal Mark Roehrs said the GCI was at the forefront of design innovation.

“The building moves away from a framework of consumption of the world’s resources to one that contributes to the restoration and regeneration of the environment,” Mr Roehrs said.

“It is able to act as a live research site, with the building systems and occupants used to assess optimal comfort conditions in low-energy buildings for the sub-tropics.”

The building isn’t just a passive display of sustainability, but compels sustainable behavioural change, too.

“The end-product is both aesthetically beautiful and challenging,” Global Change Institute director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said. “The GCI team must learn to work in new ways and change their workplace behaviour.”

The project was a group effort, bringing together some of the industry’s biggest names, including:

  • Hassell – architecture, interiors and landscaping
  • Arup – sustainability, acoustics and fire services
  • Medland Metropolis – mechanical and electrical services
  • Bligh Tanner – structural, civil and façade engineering
  • SPP Group – hydraulics
  • Riddel Architecture – heritage
  • Rider Levett Bucknall – quantity surveyors
  • Umow Lai – commissioning agent
  • McNab – builder

The building was made possible by a $15 million donation from UQ alumnus and philanthropist Graeme Wood.

The GCI is hosting several seminars and events to celebrate the opening.