MUCEB front view c Arup; MUCEB front view c Arup;

Macquarie University Ainsworth Building, Sydney

Taking Macquarie’s timber structures to the next level

One of Australia’s youngest, yet most innovative medical faculties – Macquarie University’s Medicine and Health Sciences Faculty – has deepened its links between learning, training, research and medical practice with its new four-storey timber Ainsworth Building alongside the Macquarie University Hospital.

The Ainsworth Building is a sequel to the award-winning Macquarie University Incubator. Our multidisciplinary team, comprising more than 15 disciplines, worked alongside architecture and design practice Architectus to ensure exemplar sustainability and structural outcomes and to realise the rapid construction programme.

In keeping with Macquarie University’s Campus Master Plan which emphasises sustainable buildings, cutting-edge facilities and industry collaboration, the innovative timber construction houses multiple Harvard Case Study theatres, a contemporary lecture theatre and team-based learning spaces. Its eye-catching glass façade lets in maximum light on the narrow site, creating a visible link from learning spaces to the Hospital – reaffirming the vital connection between education, discovery and health.

Responding to its surroundings, the new facility connects pedestrians from Innovation Road to the campus’ main walkway, ‘Wally’s Walk’ via landscaped and greenery-lined paths. The building is designed so that passers-by are also encouraged to look in at the learning in action.

The Ainsworth Building provides students and staff an exceptional, dynamic and flexible place to work and study – setting the stage for future health innovations and medical breakthroughs.



Project Summary

3325m2 gross building area of teach spaces

5.5m x 2.8mfacade modules with louvres and blinds

28kW array offsets approximately 10% annual energy use

Rapidly realising the future of medical education and training

Achieving the vision for the multi-storey timber structure and enabling a rapid construction programme required a high level of multidisciplinary collaboration, coordination and detailed design from day one. Working within a BIM environment, we produced a detailed model which was imported by the contractor in the fabrication software allowing timber to be factory pre-cut for swift assembly on site – minimising construction impact on Macquarie’s campus environment.

With cross laminated timber (CLT) walls, and CLT floors supported by a 2.4m by 15m grid of glued laminated timber (glulam) columns and beams, there were multiple structural considerations at play. Our structural engineers used CLT floors and walls for lateral stability and designed connections for strength, durability, appearance and ease of assembly – and importantly ensured the final pre-cut pieces from Austria were of a length that could be easily transported to the site in Sydney.

To showcase the internal timber surfaces and maintain the floor plate’s open aesthetic, our design enclosed the building services within the structure. This required a precise multidisciplinary coordination of penetrations in the glulam beams and where possible, reducing and grouping services to maximise the strength of the structure. The thermal, fire and acoustic treatments were simultaneously considered to optimise safety and acoustic qualities without detracting from the architectural intent.

A defining ‘W’ shaped Victorian Ash hardwood glulam column formation at the entry to the building is an important feature supporting the southern cantilevered floor and column-free façade above Level 1. The ‘W’ form enables unobstructed views from inside and out and creates a spacious, welcoming foyer as well as supplementing the lateral stability provided by the CLT core.

Macquarie University’s strength of commitment to sustainability, innovation and its staff and students saw our multidisciplinary team work alongside Architectus to push design boundaries – creating a new timber home for the future of clinical education. ”

Mike King headshot Mike King Project Director

An efficient, sustainable and user-experience focused building

From the project’s outset, our design team worked closely with Architectus to embed sustainability in the design and to develop strategies to improve energy efficiency of the precinct. With an approximate 700 tonnes of timber structure, it is calculated that the building will save the carbon emission equivalent of five to six years of energy consumption during operation. Further, its high efficiency services will reduce energy consumption and running costs for Macquarie University.

The high-performance building envelope maximises views and daylight, reducing the need for lighting during the day, and uses automated blinds to provide solar protection and glare control. Designed with careful consideration of available daylight, the building will curb its already low energy consumption with a 28kWp photovoltaic system. Based on typical consumption and weather data, it is estimated that 10-20 per cent of the building’s demand will be produced by solar energy.

A low temperature variable air volume system maximises cooling and modulates according to the building occupancy, while the natural and mixed mode ventilation designed for the informal spaces on entry levels provide a natural connection to the outdoor environment. This gradual transition into the airconditioned spaces will allow Macquarie to relax the temperature control – being better for occupant wellbeing and improving energy efficiency. The natural ventilation louvres at the bottom and the top of the atrium will also be used to night purge any heat built up in the building mass during the day.

To develop the four-storey timber design and enable the rapid construction programme, our multidisciplinary team worked on the coordination in a BIM environment from the concept phase – ensuring exceptional indoor quality for occupants while maintaining the open, flexible space envisioned by Architectus. ”

Enrico Cara headshot Enrico Zara Project Manager

Controlling sound transmission in a largely timber building

CLT provides limited airborne and impact sound insulation and limited control of reverberation, so in what is to be an active, collaborative space, our acoustic specialists were engaged for early advice.

A multi-level solution was developed to reduce impact sound from footfall, using the floor build-up and space between beams in the ceiling cavity to layer carefully considered plasterboard and insulation materials that would double as fire protection and not impact service notches in the prefabricated structure.

Vibration isolators were placed in the junctions between CLT walls and floor panels of the building’s core and teaching spaces to control sound travelling from the core of the building to adjacent teaching spaces. A perforated, visible ceiling surface was used to control reverberance and ensure clarity of speech and audio in the learning spaces. 

Award wins

Australian Timber Design Awards – People's Choice Award 2020