RMIT University will replace more than 16,000 glass disks on its $80 million Carlton-based Design Hub, following safety concerns caused by nine disks falling off the facade in October 2014, with many to incorporate building-integrated photovoltaic panels.

The Design Hub, completed in 2012, was created as a “beacon of what is possible in design and sustainability”, according to pro vice-chancellor design and social context Professor Paul Gough, featuring the second skin, grey water treatment, rainwater harvesting, low-VOC paints, efficient HVAC and a 5 Star Green Star Education rating.

Now, in collaboration with RMIT solar researchers, sections of the facade will be replaced with BIPV. According to Professor Gough, the move will allow the university to realise “the original vision of the building becoming a true ‘living laboratory’”.

“As well as generating power for the building, the BIPV will act as an applied learning and teaching showcase and a research test bed, advancing practical solar research,” he said.

The news, however, has been labelled as “spin” by Crikey’s Alan Davies.

“The fact is all 16,000 discs are being replaced because some have fallen onto the footpath. That’s why there’s been scaffolding around the building for the last 18 months – to protect pedestrians against the possibility of falling glass,” Mr Davies wrote.

Professor Gough said, however, the original facade was “fully certified” and met “relevant building codes”. Still, the entire facade is being fitted with high performance interlayer toughened laminated glass, which will “improve the façade’s performance in terms of health and safety by addressing the issue of a small number of discs breaking since the building’s completion”.

“This latest initiative will enhance the building’s already strong ESD credentials as well as taking advantage of breakthrough innovations in BIPV – the futuristic cousin of traditional rooftop solar panels – and in power storage,” Professor Gough said.

“Technology has now caught up with the original vision for the Design Hub and we are excited to begin this next phase of the life of this landmark building.”

The façade project is being conducted with original architect Sean Godsell, and is expected to be completed by February 2017.

5 replies on “RMIT turns to building-integrated solar following facade fiasco”

  1. Facades & all building elements are subject to change via repair, renewal or adoption of new technologies. Whatever the history of this building, it can be a ‘work in progress’ to promote ‘Beacon’ status. Beacons or buildings are also subject to renewal and adaptation to retain status. Plan for change at design intent stage and realize sustainability is a concept, as this project proves.

  2. Once more it appears ego was more important than practicality. Sooner rather than later we are going to have to get architects (and the universities that teach them) to understand that functionality (which includes sustainability) comes first.

  3. What a debacle.
    As for “breakthrough” facade integrated PV technology, the Alan Gilbert Building at the University of Melbourne has more of them than this building can possibly accommodate, they’re inclined towards the sun and were installed and operational 15 years ago!
    Come on RMIT, stop spinning this for what it’s not.
    Environmental….? No.
    Pretty? Yes.

  4. What is RMIT going to do with all the disks that are being removed? Hope they care being reused or recycled or can be bought by the public. Throwing them out is not sustainable!

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