A new state-of-the-art research centre in Adelaide is expected to become the nation's first LEED Gold rated laboratory.

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), which officially opened last week, is the first stage or a larger medical precinct for the city that will also be home to the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The building was opened by a group of government representatives that included the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill.

Articulated Facade

Articulated facade

Architecture firm Woods Bagot worked with Research Facilities Design (RFD) to design the $200 million federally funded building, which offers 25,000 square metres of space. The firm also commissioned designers from their studios in Adelaide, London, New York and San Francisco for the project.

The institute aimed to bring the state’s researchers under one roof, a strategy that is unique to Australia according to SAHMRI. The new building is designed to foster collaboration and help South Australia attract and retain leading scientists and researchers.

“We need environments that encourage creativity, the right temperature, right lighting and right systems to ensure researchers are at their best, most creative and productive,” SAHMRI executive director Steve Wesselingh said in the design brief.

With this brief – and LEED specifications – in mind, Woods Bagot ensured the architecture responded to a collaborative approach by incorporating two atria, bridges and a visual connection between floors thanks in large part to an interconnecting spiral staircase.

Visual Connectivity

Visual connectivity

With the ability to house up to 675 researchers, the structure is elevated upon six “flower columns” floating above landscaped areas and a public plaza. The facility’s flexible floor space also features nine research modules, educational and technology areas, a café and retail spaces.

The visually striking façade, which responds to climate conditions, has also become a signature for the diamond-shaped building.

The “articulated” facade drew design input from Aurecon and has been designed to optimise the building’s solar performance by controlling the level of light and providing protection from the heat for a “healthy internal environment.”

“Inspired by the skin of a pine cone, the building’s unique triangulated dia-grid façade responds to its environment like a living organism, acting as an articulated sunshade,” Woods Bagot explained in a project release.

Striking Spiral Staircase

Striking spiral staircase

The firm also conducted an intensive environmental analysis with consultants Atelier 10 and utilised “parametric modelling tools to integrate environmental, programmatic, and formal requirements into the façade.”

The building also features an energy efficient building management system (EcoStruxure) by Schneider Electric which places a strong focus on power management, process automation, building management, IT management and security.

The EcoStruxure system and remarkable façade of SAHMRI will be key factors in the institute’s bid to obtain a LEED Gold rating. According to the US Green Building Council, there are currently 25 projects in Australia that have been awarded LEED certification but only five that are Gold Rated – three of which are for commercial interiors.

Concrete Lattice Facade

Concrete lattice facade

The Medical Science 2 Building in Hobart also features an articulated façade. Completed last year, the building uses concrete lattice instead of glass to create solar shading.

This façade, which draws upon themes from Hobart’s mountains, waterways and elements of biomedical research, was awarded a 5 Star Green Star Rating.

As architects explore the environmental possibilities inherent in building façades, particularly when combined with more conventional green credentials, it will be interesting to see how SAHMRI measures up to its goal of performing 10 per cent better than current code standards.