The Global Change Institute, a new self-sustaining building that is set to produce more energy than it consumes, has opened in Brisbane at the University of Queensland’s (UQ) St Lucia campus.

Internationally renowned architectural firm HASSELL was commissioned for the design of the “living” project, which has the potential to achieve a 6-star Green Star rating and is also seeking recognition by the Living Building Challenge™, the world’s most rigorous measure for sustainability in the built environment.

The project came to fruition thanks to a $15 million donation from UQ alumnus and philanthropist Graeme Wood and will be Australia’s first educational carbon neutral building, with the structure’s sustainable expectations to align with the institute’s research on climate change, population change and technical innovation.

“The building is designed to work with the natural environment and it will operate as a net zero-energy and carbon neutral workplace,” said Global Change Institute director, professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. “It will be naturally ventilated for most of the year whilst a super low energy comfort conditioning mode ensures occupant comfort in even the hottest and most humid Brisbane days.”

“The building generates and stores all its own power on-site through renewable solar energy sources that are pollution-free. All excess power will be delivered back to the national grid.”

Gren Wall Carbon Neutral Design

Gren Wall Carbon Neutral Design

Designed to imitate the processes seen in nature, the building features an operable sun shading system that tracks the sun and protects the glass louvres which will naturally ventilate the building during 88 per cent of the year.

Air flow is managed through a central atrium and “discharged” through the building’s thermal chimney while the thermal mass of the building will be flushed through 11 metres of precast floor panels.

The floor panels are constructed from Wagners’ Earth Friendly Concrete, a product made from the chemical activation of two industrial wastes – blast furnace slag (waste from iron production) and fly ash (waste from coal fired power generation).

According to HASSELL, it will be the first time a building in Australia has used the structural Geopolymer concrete, which is considered a low carbon product which creates significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional concrete.

The building, which covers 3,865 square metres, also features a translucent ETFE atrium roof which serves as a natural light source while also insulating from the sun’s heat.

LED lighting offers additional brightness, while a 60,000-litre storage tank for rainwater services the hydronic cooling system, kitchen and shower.

Operable Sun Shading System

Operable Sun Shading System

In terms of vegetation, a green wall, bush tucker garden and bio retention basin have been installed, while walking or cycling is encouraged through pedestrian links throughout the campus.

“The end product is aesthetically beautiful and challenges the GCI team to work in new ways and change their workplace behaviour,” Hoegh-Guldberg said.

HASSELL principal Mark Roehrs, who led the project design team, said the GCI is attuned to its place and climate and is at the forefront of sustainable design innovation.

“The building moves away from a framework of consumption of the world’s resources to one that contributes to the restoration and regeneration of the environment,” he said.

While a high Green Star rating looks likely for the site, in order to achieve Living Building Challenge™ credentials, the building’s performance will be measured over a full year to demonstrate that the building is indeed self-sustaining.