A sustainable timber structure to foster research and innovation at Macquarie University; A sustainable timber structure to foster research and innovation at Macquarie University;

Macquarie University Incubator, North Ryde

How do you connect a growing entrepreneurial community in a vibrant and sustainable space?

Macquarie University’s vision to serve the world through innovation is now alive in its first on-campus Incubator. The Incubator is the latest addition to the developing Macquarie Park Innovation District which is home to more than 180 large international and 200 small businesses. The district has become a globally recognised ecosystem which features unique and vibrant co-working spaces that support the creation of innovative ideas, products and solutions.

The Incubator was designed with innovation and sustainability front of mind. Constructed primarily out of timber, the building boasts a flexible layout across two connecting pavilions. This allows the building to easily adapt and attract the growing entrepreneurial community, SMEs and researchers, while also meeting the changing needs of the university’s students, staff and external visitors.

Arup delivered engineering solutions across eight disciplines, working closely with the University, Architectus, Lipman, TTW and other sub-contractors to produce an award winning and visually stunning Innovation Incubator.

Project Summary


1km + of LED strip lighting

$1Mgrant from the NSW Government's Boosting Business Innovation Program

953m2of internal floor space

An innovative, efficient, and relocatable structure

Developing a design for a relocatable timber building that could be constructed in a short timeframe brought our collaboration skills front and centre in a stunning display of innovation – fitting for an Innovation Incubator.

Flexible co-working spaces to foster collaboration and innovation Flexible co-working spaces to foster collaboration and innovation

Working closely with Architectus on structural and services components, we advised on timber design, including the cross-laminated timber (CLT) roof, large span glulam beams, and glulam V columns. Our design allowed for pre-fabrication of a large portion of components, which meant that construction was cost-efficient and could be completed in just five months.

 The timber roof and floor cassettes system meant quick assembly and increased operating safety during the construction process. In addition, the superstructure is light weight, with a steel foundation used as an alternative to concrete, allowing for the structure to be quickly and easily moved.

© Murrary Fredericks 2017

Lighting detail to accentuate uniqueness

With a goal to produce diffused, indirect lighting, the team integrated the detail of the lighting into the timber beams. This allowed for a clean, minimalist look, and a ceiling free of evident lighting services.

Designing with functional sustainability in mind

With very high standards for sustainability across the entire project, the outcome is a structure which is able to offset 60% of energy use. The roof is fitted with photovoltaic solar panels to make the most of external conditions, while an overhanging roof and solid façade elements, including double glazed windows, minimise heat gains.

Assisted natural ventilation contributes to a practically self-sustained temperature control system for more than 60% of the year. This is achieved by tempering of incoming air through openable windows in peak seasons, ensuring the environment is always comfortable.

© Murrary Fredericks 2017


The Innovation Hub is a standout example of what can be achieved when design is not necessarily bound by common practice, but is informed by asking how challenges can be overcome when working holistically. ”

Tom Bunn headshot Tom Bunn
Built into the landscape to allow for easy access from all sides of the structure Built into the landscape to allow for easy access from all sides of the structure

A structure that works with the natural environment

To minimise the requirement for earthworks and removal of high-value trees, the civil engineering design integrated the building into the surrounding landscape. Additionally, embankments were coordinated around the building to allow pedestrian access to the deck from most sides, and remove the need for hand railings.

The architectural design intended for there to be no downpipes or roof gutters on the structure. To support this aesthetic design, the team designed a storm water system that was integrated with the building’s hydraulic design so instead, rainwater run-off would be captured by the landscape for a natural irrigation process.

© Murrary Fredericks 2017

Using innovative tools to deliver prompt solutions

A team of acousticians used the Arup SoundLab as a tool to help the university select an acoustic design alongside the architect and contractor. Through the SoundLab we were able to audibly demonstrate acoustic design options and compare them with existing venues within the university. This supported the team to make decisions quickly and easily, and supported the tight construction program.

Two interconnected pavilions to allow for flexible use of spaces in the Incubator Two interconnected pavilions to allow for flexible use of spaces in the Incubator

Award wins

Australian Timber Design Awards for:

  • Innovative Structural Design

  • Engineered Timber Products

  • Timber Windows and Doors and

  • Timber Panels

Good Design Australia Award for Architectural Design

Association for Learning Environments Award for Excellence in Educational Design

International Good Green Design Award for Research & Technology

Association of Consulting Structural Engineers Award for Excellence in Structural Engineering in a Medium Building Project

© Murrary Fredericks 2017