Located in the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane, the University of Queensland (UQ) is committed to embedding sustainability into all aspects of campus life. The 5-storey Global Change Institute (GCI) is a unique collaborative hub drawing together resources from across The University of Queensland to find solutions to the global challenges increasingly facing us all. Collaborative research to address the impacts of climate change, technological innovation and population are at GCI’s core. Social scientists, economists and lawyers work side-by-side with marine biologists, physicists and medical practitioners to advance research across food systems, healthy oceans, sustainable water and clean energy.
The 3,865 square metre GCI building is the first educational Living Building Challenge project in Queensland and its Living Building is a flagship sustainability project that shifts the way office design is considered in a changing world. A pilot for innovative sustainable solutions, it is a living example of how buildings can consume fewer resources and contribute more to the regeneration of environment and society. GCI was awarded the Green Building Council of Australia’s 6 Star Green Star rating and ranked 34th in the world’s 50 most impressive environmentally friendly university buildings.
With its roof-mounted 138 kWp photovoltaic system, GCI generates more energy than it consumes. “To achieve net zero energy operation, the building harvests pollution-free renewable solar energy on-site. There are 479 (240Watt) multi-crystalline silicon PV cells covering an area of 948 square metres, providing a total annual yield of 175,274kWh/year. Unconsumed power is given to the national grid. An evacuated solar tube system provides 90-degrees Celsius hot water, stored in a 20,000-litre tank for use in the energy air-handling system,” (FUTURARC, 2014).
The naturally ventilated building also features a sophisticated sun shading system that tracks the sun and protects the glass louvres which create natural ventilation. The air flows across occupied office spaces to the central atrium which acts as the building’s lungs, discharging warm air through its thermal chimney. The translucent atrium roof optimises natural light to the interior and is also heat-resistant. The building is cooled with chilled water flushed through exposed sculptural precast floor panels. Rainwater storage of 60,000 litres services the hydronic cooling system, kitchen and shower and optimal natural lighting is supported by environmentally-friendly LED lighting. A bush tucker garden, bio-retention basin, and greenwalls enhance the building’s green ethos. (A bush tucker garden contains Australian native plants – tree crops, understorey rainforest shrubs, and groundcovers – used as food, spices, and medicinals, staples used originally by aboriginal people, but which are increasingly more commercially common. The plantings adjacent to the GCI reflect SE Queensland bush tucker plants.)
Mark Paul, owner and founder of The Greenwall Company headed the recent greenwall project built within the Global Change Institute. With over 30 years greenwall and greenroof experience, Mark installed a 70m2-paneled greenwall over the indoor air-conditioning vents. The walls were specially designed to draw and expel air through the plants in order to maximize dust and VOC reduction giving a biological treatment to air in the building as well as giving amenity. The greenwalls were also strategically installed in a way that will eventually allow them to be self-sustained within the building, needing only minimal maintenance. This will assist in moving away from the usual framework of consumption of resources to one that contributes to the restoration and regeneration of the environment.