Students at the University of Queensland’s (UQ) Advanced Engineering Building (AEB) will be able to enjoy an innovative, interactive study space when their new facility opens in July.
A collaboration between Richard Kirk Architect and HASSELL, with engineering by Aurecon and WSP, the new $135 million building will allow students to monitor, measure and interpret every facet of their environment and use the data for further research.
“The study of engineering is very much a hands-on experience, so we needed to create an environment that supports this physical approach,” HASSELL principal Mark Loughnan said. “We wanted to put all the engineering in the building on display.”
Strain, movement and temperature gauges have been embedded throughout the building’s floors, walls and support columns, allowing structural experimentation and the measurement of mechanical performance under various conditions.
Examples include strain gauges under the auditorium seating area to measure crowd loads and an accelerometer embedded on a cantilever pivot point to measure footfall vibration.
AEB has a ‘stripped back’ interior that showcases its structure and materials so students can observe how the roof struts, supporting columns, cantilevers and other structural elements have been constructed.
This includes glass fronted “regenerative” elevators which reclaim energy produced by the elevator brakes. Not only are the mechanics of the elevators on display, panels inside and outside the lift allow students to see its energy consumption, speed and passenger weight.
A stately auditorium, meanwhile, features a 220-tonne roof made of exposed (and recycled) timber trusses. Acoustic reflectors are incorporated into the saw-tooth roof structure, and two sides of the three-storey auditorium feature glass walls.
Loughnan said this approach will encourage students to constantly engage with research and practical learning. Even the research labs, which have traditionally been hidden from view, are on display to passersby, so everyone can glimpse the exciting work taking place.
Interactive touch screens throughout the public areas will allow students and visitors to view live information on the building’s operational performance, such as its energy use and savings, its ventilation mode, water use, humidity and temperature, people flows and live weight loads. Students can also access the live building information online.
UQ’s professor of Materials Processing and Manufacturing, David St John, said the university had been determined to create a building that embodied the most advanced teaching methods for the engineers of tomorrow.
“We wanted to give students the most practical and realistic education we could offer, and knew that started with their learning environment,” he said.
Lectures will also be conducted in the laboratories. This co-location of teaching and research spaces across engineering and materials science disciplines has been done with the aim of breaking down the boundaries between teaching, learning and research.
The building has been designed to both combat the unique Queensland climate and incorporate the latest green technology. This has resulted in a 5 Star Green Star Education Design v1 Certified Rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.
“Students will be able to learn from the latest in sustainability technology in this building, which is designed to achieve a 40 per cent reduction in annual energy performance and can be naturally ventilated for 183 days of the year,” said Richard Kirk.
“AEB provides students with best practice models in action, such as a visible labyrinth tunnel which efficiently cools the building’s air. The system can be viewed from a window in the basement and students can observe how the phase change materials influence the air temperature.”