The University of Wollongong’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre

7 August 2014 — The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre at NSW’s University of Wollongong, which is targeting Australia’s first Living Building Challenge certification, has been officially opened.

The SBRC, designed by Cox Architecture, was officially opened on Thursday by Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings. The facility is a sustainable building with a sustainability agenda – created as a research hub for the task of retrofitting Australia’s building stock using lab-based academic inquiry and also by using the building fabric itself for research.

“SBRC has been carefully designed to accommodate the prototyping and testing of a range of sustainable building technologies, designs and materials,” Cox Architecture director and SBRC design director Joe Agius said. “As importantly, we’ve included a range of integrated research components into the fabric of the building so that it can research itself.”

The building incorporates a “plug and play” system that allows experimental technologies to be plugged into the building’s power, water and waste distribution and treatment systems so researchers can modify the building’s services and then analyse occupants’ responses.

The building has registered for a 6 Star Green Star Education Design rating, a first for Wollongong, and is on track to achieve the stringent Living Building Challenge certification, which would be an Australian-first.

University of Wollongong project manager Lance Jeffery said the Living Building Challenge rating would complement the 6 Star Green Star rating of the building by “driving us to aim even higher by providing an over-arching philosophy for the building and its surrounds”.

Cox said the building aimed to be “energy, water and carbon neutral, healthy and non-toxic, socially responsible and equitable, while also being beautiful, inspiring and educational”.

The concept of “bricolage” – “tinkering together an object from a diverse range of found things” – guided the sustainability approach to materials, with reused bridge timbers, steel railway tracks, abandoned telegraph poles and four generations of brick and local timbers used in the building.

Fifty staff, students and collaborators will be housed in the 2600 square metre mixed-use facility.

Like many of Australia’s high-performing education buildings, the project was part-funded by the former Labor government’s Education Investment Fund.

The Fifth Estate will published a detailed case study in the near future.

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