A render of the Melbourne School of Design

19 June 2014 — The University of Melbourne’s new architecture building has been awarded a 6 Star Green Star Education Design rating, and has become the only building to be awarded all 10 innovation points under Green Star, including the recently added credits for life cycle assessment.

The $129 million, 15,700 square metre Melbourne School of Design – the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning’s new home scheduled to open in December – has been designed by John Wardle Architects in collaboration with Boston-based practice NADAAA. It is currently being constructed by Brookfield Multiplex with Umow Lai as ESD consultant and Aurecon as building services engineer and project manager.

“The 6 star certified rating was largely achieved through the high degree of design integration and innovation incorporated through the design process,” Umow Lai principal sustainability consultant Shane Ensmore said.

The school has been created as a demonstration building for sustainable design, with innovation a key design objective for the project, drawing upon a wide range of research initiatives from within the university itself.

Umow Lai used Perth-based software company eTool’s life cycle assessment software to gain five of the 10 innovation credits for undertaking a whole building, whole of life cycle assessment compliant with the recently released European EN 15978 standard.

“It was great to be able to put together the full life cycle model of the design and get a detailed understanding of the embodied and operational environmental impacts across a range of metrics,” Umow Lai sustainability consultant Richard Stokes said. “Using eToolLCD made what would have been a very complex process manageable and added valuable information to the project.”

The other five credits were obtained by:

  • performing cross laminated timber concrete composite slab research and testing – 1 credit
  • performing marketing intelligence including a pre-occupancy study of the building occupants – 1 credit
  • eliminating all car parking on the project site – 2 credits
  • preserving and integrating the National Trust-listed Joseph Reed façade to retain cultural heritage – 1 credit
The LVL roof

The roof of the school is composed of laminated veneer lumber arranged in striking geometric shapes, with beams spanning around 22 metres, that has then been topped with glazing.

“The idea was that we would use a naturally renewable resource to create the structure of the building, and it’s good from an ecological point of view but it’s also an innovative use of wood,” NADAA principal Nader Tehrani said.

The building also features a mixed-mode HVAC system, with the possibility of natural ventilation; rainwater collection and water recycling; and a rooftop Japanese garden.

As is becoming customary in sustainably designed university buildings, the facility also monitors energy consumption through sensors tracking input and consumption, and informs users of its environmental performance.

One of the standout features of the building is its large central atrium, providing large amounts of daylighting, transparency and engagement for staff and students. Falling from the roof into the atrium space is a stunning suspended plywood-clad studio that hangs just metres from the ground.

“Our 6 Star Green Star Education Design rating is testament to the quality of the design and construction,” dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning Professor Tom Kvan said. “We are especially proud that this is the university’s first 6 Star Green Star rated building, an exemplar of sustainable architectural design on campus.”

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  1. The economics of sustainability need to be questioned in my view.
    The Melbourne University School of Design featured above is being built at a rate of approx. $8,200 / square metre.

    At the same time our firm is constructing a Medical Teaching Facility for combined partners- Northern Health, The University of Melbourne and Latrobe University in Epping Victoria for approx $ 4,000 / square metre. The building to be known as the Northern Centre for Health Education and Research is a 3 storey building with central atrium and total floor area of 6,000 square metres.
    It targets 4 star standard under the Greenstar rating system.

    My point is that is seems that sustainability comes at a substantial cost only able to be met by a limited number of large public institutions and beyond the reach of the private sector.

    Can we have some examples where this is not the case?