29 March 2012

The environmentally sustainable design of The University of Queensland’s new engineering facility has been given the national green star tick of approval.

Having met an extensive list of requirements, the Advanced Engineering Building - with a “live building” design that allows monitoring of ongoing sustainability performance - was awarded a 5 Star Green Star – Education Design v1 Certified Rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.

The rating signifies Australian excellence in environmentally sustainable design and construction of buildings.

Director of Major Projects within the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology (EAIT) Professor David St John said environmental sustainability was an important goal in the design of the $133 million facility from day one.

“The future of engineering requires that engineers develop technologies that are much more sustainable with reduced carbon footprints, so it was a priority that as a training ground for the next generation of engineers, the AEB building exemplified this approach,” he said.

“The Green Star rating is an effective measure to ensure we achieve the outcomes we wanted for what is going to become an iconic building.”

Highlights of the sustainable design features of the UQ AEB building include:

• A mixed mode feature allowing the building to operate largely using natural ventilation to reduce the need for air conditioning
• This feature has a ‘passive cooling system’ consisting of a labyrinth and phase change materials to cool the air entering the building, coupled with natural ventilation
• Task Air that delivers cool air directly to the workstations of the occupants of the building
• Building-wide monitoring systems to track the building’s environmental performance
• Recycled materials such as wood, rubber and fibres incorporated into timber facades, flooring and structures of the building.

The Advanced Engineering Building will be a feature of a new engineering precinct at UQ's St Lucia campus that provides innovative spaces and blended learning laboratories for 3600 students.

The new building will also bring together staff and students from the materials engineering disciplines, currently based across four sites on campus.

Because it has been designed as a “live building”, with operational data made available, students will eventually be able to monitor its environmental performance as part of the curriculum, for example they can assess elevator, air conditioning and the building’s structural performance over time. Students in the Information Technology and Electrical Engineering will be invited to develop apps to observe and analyse such data in real time.

Achieving the rating has been a long and collaborative approach by Richard Kirk Architect and Hassell architects in association with Watpac and the faculty working closely together to submit all required information.

UQ Deputy Director Property and Facilities Geoff Dennis says sustainable building design is a focus of UQ’s Carbon Reduction Strategy, which aims to reduce the university’s carbon footprint 25% on the 2008/2009 levels.

“The Green Star certification means we now know what is required to reach these standards and will use this process as a baseline to develop our design guidelines for future building projects to ensure they align with the same green star principals”,” he said.

The Global Change Institute building, also under construction at UQ, will be aiming to achieve the highest international green-star rating of six.

“The University of Queensland is focused on embedding sustainability on all of its campuses and sites and across all areas of learning, discovery and engagement and operations,” said Mr Dennis.

UQ is currently developing a Climate Action Plan that sets out proposed actions to reduce emissions by 2020. This plan will incorporate a strategy to reduce emissions associated with land use and the built environment. A key element of this will be to embed sustainability and Green Star principles into the university’s design guidelines for future infrastructure projects.

The $133 million building has been made possible with contributions of $50m of Federal Government funding, $15m State Government funding, $25m from engineering company GHD and UQ funds.

Media: Janelle Kirkland at UQ Communications (07 3346 60561 or j.kirkland@uq.edu.au).