New uni building encourages engagement

The advanced engineering building at the University of Queensland in Brisbane has opened its doors to students

The advanced engineering building (AEB) at the University of Queensland is the result of a design collaboration between Richard Kirk Architect and Hassell, and is a technologically sophisticated and environmentally sustainable building which provides students and staff with flexible teaching and learning spaces. By integrating research and training into the same facility, the AEB is set to become a hub for innovation and learning by showcasing high-quality engineering.

The building incorporates a diverse mix of learning, workplace and social areas in addition large-scale manufacturing and civil engineering laboratories. Occupying a prime site overlooking the university’s lakes, the building creates a flexible learning environment.

The 22,000 sqm AEB also offers hands-on experience for engineering students through the building itself, making it an interactive educational environment. It demonstrates an ergonomic and efficient design, including sustainable features and building management technology. Designed as a green living and learning building, it includes real-time monitoring of its structural and climatic performance.

“The study of engineering is very much a hands-on experience, so we needed to create an environment that supports this physical approach,” says Hassell’s principal Mark Loughnan. “The building’s design encourages students to engage constantly with research and practical learning – and even the research labs, which have traditionally been hidden from view – are on display to passers-by.”

“We wanted to give students the most practical and realistic education we could offer,” adds the university’s professor of materials processing and manufacture, David St John. “And we knew that started with their learning environment.”

The facility offers open, flexible spaces that promote interaction. A sequence of connected spaces introduces visual interaction between internal and external areas as well as the social and private, while the building’s atriums act as transition zones.

Design and form follow core sustainability principles in order to minimise the building’s impact on the environment. The AEB responds to the sub-tropical Queensland climate by incorporating passive sustainability principles in order to reduce energy consumption, largely through simple systems such as solar shading, natural cross-ventilation via the atrium using operable louvres, ceiling fans and controlled daylighting.

“Students will be able to learn from the latest in sustainability technology in the building,” says Richard Kirk of Richard Kirk Architect. “This is designed to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in annual energy performance and can be naturally ventilated for 183 days of the year.”

Materials were selected based on their capacity to educate students about their use in different applications. From the oldest materials used in construction through to the most modern, the main concept was to present a series of layers of building technology.

The AEB features different types of facade systems which respond to the various local climatic needs while also creating a versatile aesthetic effect, both internally and externally. Timber, steel and terracotta-framed facades control daylight in different parts of the building. In the auditorium there is a timber-framed system facade and in the laboratory on the south side a high-tech array of service ducts. On the sunny northern side, the glazed facade is screened by a wall of terracotta tiles providing optimal shading.

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