Universities continue to rake in property awards

Innovative approaches and leading use of technology can support new ways of teaching and learning

University of Queensland

Universities are continuing to rake in new awards for buildings and infrastructure, with both the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and the University of Queensland having recently been commended for best public building and a prestigious green ratings respectively.

Last month, RMIT University's Swanston Academic Building (SAB) was named Best Public Building in the 2014 Property Council of Australia awards, officially known as the Woods Bagot Award for Best Public Building in the Property Council of Australia/Rider Levett Bucknall Innovation and Excellence Awards.

The project was also a finalist for Best Sustainable Development and represented Victoria in the "National Development of the Year" category.

"The awards showcase the contribution our industry makes not only to Australia's built environment, but to the nation's economy, well-being and quality of life," said the Property Council.

SAB was one of 14 finalists for the Best Public Building award, ranging from education developments to arts, sporting, legal and health projects.

Designed by Lyons Architects – led by RMIT architecture alumnus Carey Lyon – and constructed by Brookfield Multiplex, the SAB also has a Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) 5-star Green Star Education Rating.

"It is wonderful to see the Swanston Academic Building continue to gain national recognition for its innovative approach and leading use of technology to support new ways of teaching and learning," said RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO.

"The SAB is a practical demonstration of RMIT's focus on sustainability, technology and design, and it is exciting to see how this landmark building has been embraced by our students and staff, as well as the wider public."

Meanwhile UQ in Brisbane saw one of its buildings also awarded prestigious green rating by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) also last month.

The Global Change Institute (GCI) building is one of three sustainable educational facilities in Queensland to receive the '6 Star Green Star' – Education Design v1 rating, signifying ‘World Leadership’.

The ‘Living Building’ was a net zero-energy carbon-neutral workplace with natural ventilation, on-site solar panels and rainwater storage to service amenities.

“Many of the building’s features are unique but, equally, there are attributes that could be easily implemented into any new structure,” said GCI Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

“The use of rainwater in the building is a practical example of how we are having a positive impact on the environment and moving from a focus on consumption to contribution.”

The building design and delivery has been a collaborative process involving the University’s Property and Facilities Division, the Global Change Institute and HASSELL architects.

HASSELL design team leader Mark Roehrs said the building presented the opportunity to push boundaries and combine innovative technologies with simple design techniques. He said the world-first structural use of low-carbon concrete and the net zero-energy operation of the building using renewable solar energy collected onsite were great examples of this.

“What we have learned from the design, construction and operation of this building is informing future sustainability projects,” he said.

This is the second accolade for the GCI building in the last month, after it was ranked 34th in a list of the world’s 50 most impressive environmentally friendly university buildings.