Image: Darren Bradley

The University of Technology Sydney’s $1 billion redevelopment plan continues to bear fruit with a 6 Star Green Star health and science building officially opened this week.

The $154 million, 14,000 square-metre building is the third major contribution to UTS’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan, following the opening of the Frank Gehry-designed Dr Chau Chak Wing Building and the Engineering and IT Building.

The university has set itself a 2020 reduction target of 30 per cent based on 2007 levels. Deputy vice chancellor for resources Patrick Woods told The Fifth Estate the emissions reduction goal was ambitious because the university would be twice its size in floor space by 2020.

Professor Woods said science buildings were known as “energy hogs” because of their reliance on multiple refrigeration units and ventilators for experiments, so achieving a 6 Star Green Star Design rating for the Faculty of Science and Graduate School of Health Building was “very unusual”.

The electricity-guzzling features were not enough to trump the building’s energy efficiencies, making overall emissions low.

Image: Anthony Browell
Image: Anthony Browell

The green features include:

  • a green roof (animals and plants on the roof)
  • solar hot water
  • rainwater capture, treatment and reuse
  • natural daylighting
  • LED & T5 lighting, zoning and controls
  • water efficient fixtures
  • energy and water sub-meters connected to the campus-wide energy management system
  • real-time sustainability performance data linked to digital screens in public areas
  • furniture, flooring and paints with low level of volatile organic compounds
  • timber re-used, recycled or from certified sustainable sources
  • steel sourced from environmentally responsible manufacturers
  • concrete substituted with fly ash where possible
  • no use of materials containing ozone
  • high-performance glazing – insulated double glazing with low emissivity coating to reduce heat transfer
  • building cladding made from over 75 per cent recycled glass
  • automatic blinds
  • a robotic library stacker, which stores books in a large underground basement
  • thermal labyrinth in the underground library used to cool the building
  • 98 per cent of construction waste recycled
  • PVC products avoided where possible

Professor Woods conceded the building did not use solar photovoltaics and relied fully on coal-powered electricity.

“We have a commitment to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions from an environmental perspective and like any other organisation we’re trying to minimise expense such as gas and electricity,” he said.

Professor Woods said the cost of construction came at a premium but it was less than the university expected and that the money would be made back from savings in energy expenditure in five to 10 years.

Image: Anthony Browell
Image: Anthony Browell

Finances aside, he said the university believed a series of “soft” reasons made the building a wise investment.

“We simply believe in it – it’s the right thing to do for our staff, students and the environment,” he said.

“When you have a building that is sustainable with fresh air and sunlight, you end up with a more productive workforce, less sick days.

“The asset will be more intensely used than it otherwise would be, so you’re getting payback when you’re building buildings with a sustainable ethos.”

Professor Woods said UTS expected the building to be so pleasant, students and academic staff would be compelled to use it intensely, thus boosting academic productivity. This concept of intense utilisation is itself part of the sustainable ethos.

“If we didn’t have the buildings more intensely utilised we’d have to build more buildings,” he said.

Professor Woods said UTS was aiming to become a “smart campus”, where all buildings would manage themselves with automatic airconditioning and lighting.

The campus won’t achieve zero emissions, he said, but it would become “as efficient as possible”.

There are a few more green buildings to come as part of the university’s $1 billion City Campus Master Plan.

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  1. A beautiful, well thought out and environmentally intelligent addition to our city scape. Well done!