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DPI Marine and Freshwater Resources Institute, Victoria

The building responds to the seasons to create a comfortable internal environment.

Built on a former landfill site adjacent to a Ramsar-protected wetland, the DPI Queenscliff Centre is an environmentally 'intelligent' research, development and education centre that sets benchmarks for sustainable building design and reclamation of contaminated land.

The building responds to the seasons to create a comfortable internal environment. In a sense, it has been designed inside out – the concrete structure is exposed on the inside, absorbing heat in summer and naturally warming the interiors in winter, while timber cladding insulates from the outside.

The centre’s inclined walls operate as solar controllers. In winter (when the sun is low) the sunlight streams in, warming the building. In summer (when the sun is higher in the sky) the building is protected from overheating.

Operable windows allow warm air to escape in the evening and cool night air to circulate within the building. The concrete roof slab is covered in soil, grass and crushed rock, which also helps to insulate interior spaces.

Sustainable building materials were used where possible, including radially sawn timber for the façade.

Contaminated material from the landfill site has been contained and capped with clay to limit the infiltration of stormwater runoff. Dynamic compaction of the site meant that a raft footing could be used rather than piling through and disturbing the contaminated material.

After construction, Arup undertook regular monitoring of the facility to fine tune building systems and ensure that the occupants understood the fundamentals of the design.

Water strategies

The centre uses water wisely. Precious rainwater is captured from the office roof areas, northern laboratories and courtyard areas and stored in tanks. The water is reused to irrigate the grass roof of the building, as well as for more critical tasks, such as fire supply.

Stormwater run-off flows into wetland ponds before returning to Swan Bay. The two treatment ponds protect the environment, as well as creating a haven for local wildlife.

The first pond is lined with clay and acts as a buffer zone to provide extra protection to the unique ecology of Swan Bay in the event of an on-site spill. The second wetland pond is unique in design. Rather than having a direct outlet to the bay, the passively treated run-off soaks into the ground and the sand filters and removes sediments before the water gradually diffuses into the bay. This natural diffusion is gentler on the Swan Bay environment.

Arup prepared a detailed site management plan, including groundwater monitoring, before, during and after construction to monitor the impact on Swan Bay. Two 1650m pipelines, which bring ocean-quality seawater to the facility, were bored beneath the sand dunes to minimise disturbance of the seagrass on the floor of Lonsdale Bight.