The vision of the on-campus Incubator at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, is to serve the world through innovation. The building for this innovation centre needed to reflect the values of the Incubator: sustainability, innovation, speed and flexibility.

Arup’s engineers were brought in to work with a variety of partners and deliver solutions around sustainability and timber design, lighting, acoustics and more. 

Arup worked with partners Architectus to design a timber building with many pre-fabricated sections such as the roof and floor cassettes, which made construction quick and cost-efficient. Sustainability was considered throughout the project, including PV panels and assisted natural ventilation, offsetting 60% of energy use. The building is integrated into the landscape, reducing the need for earthworks and a natural rainwater capture.

The Incubator earned awards from across the architectural design community. This included four from the Australian Timber Design Awards, plus the Good Design Australia award for Architectural Design; International Good Green Design Award for Research & Technology; Association for Learning Environments Award for Excellence in Educational Design; and the Association of Consulting Structural Engineers Award for Excellence in Structural Engineering in a Medium Building Project. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Using innovative tools to deliver prompt solutions

A team of acousticians used our 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.