Global Change Institute building; Global Change Institute building;
Global Change Institute , Brisbane

Australia’s first carbon neutral building.

The University of Queensland Global Change Institute has been designed to meet the world’s most advanced levels of sustainability, serving as an exemplar for the ecological transformation of a university campus.

We worked closely with HASSELL, Bligh Tanner, and Medland Metropolis to design a paperless and open-plan building; it provides a Carbon Neutral, Zero Energy, Zero Water and Zero Waste working and learning environment. It is one of the first buildings to be registered for The Living Building Challenge, which will consume 30 per cent the energy of the Green Building Council of Australia benchmark education project.

The building is a showcase of what can be achieved when architects and the whole engineering team integrate their services to deliver cutting-edge design and sustainability outcomes.

Sustainable design innovation

The building features an operable sun-shading and louvered façade to control light and air flow, a cooling green wall which also acts as an air filter, a bush tucker garden and bio-retention basin, onsite greywater system, power exclusively generated by solar energy, and a thermal chimney that draws warm air out of the building. Rainwater storage of 60,000 litres serves the Global Change Institute and Steele building and is used for the hydronic cooling system, kitchen, amenities and showers.

It also features a translucent ETFE roof (similar to the roof used on National Aquatics Centre in Beijing), a central atrium that acts as the building’s lungs, individual comfort control at desks, precast hydronic floor panels that are flushed with chilled water to cool the building and also features recycled blackbutt timber throughout. Optimal natural lighting is supported by environmentally friendly LED lighting.

Clever acoustics and fire engineering

Arup’s acoustic design resolved conflicting requirements for free cross flow of air through the building and significant exposed thermal mass required for sustainable design. This was achieved by designing bespoke acoustic air transfer paths to maintain sound insulation / privacy for enclosed spaces and provision of reverberation reduction using acoustic banners, non-thermal elements such as undersides of stair risers and floating acoustic panels. Suspended acoustic ‘clouds’ also absorb sound without affecting thermal or daylight performance.

Clever fire engineering has assisted the development to achieve a number of sustainability outcomes. Reduction of fire resistance levels through fire engineering calculations assisted the project team to support the use of a geopolymer precast concrete for parts of the structure. An innovative solution developed in collaboration with the structural fire engineer led to the interconnection of two adjacent buildings and a further innovation was the use of open stairwells connecting multiple building levels to encourage the use of internal stairs rather than lifts.

The Global Change Institute demonstrates the University of Queensland’s commitment to sustainability and will be a leading centre for discovery, learning, and public engagement.

Beyond simply providing the most innovative sustainable building to house the Global Change Institute, the building provides an educational tool which demonstrates the benefits of each of the numerous sustainable building technologies and incorporates many key monitoring technologies which allow whole of building environmental and physical study and understanding.

The building is targeting 6 star Green Star Education Design and As-Built ratings and will consume less than half of the energy of the Green Building Council of Australia benchmark education project. With renewable energy, including solar energy storage in onsite batteries, the building has been designed to be energy positive.

It is the first building to include structural use cement-free geopolymer precast concrete, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of its construction and achieving innovation points from the Green Building Council.