RMIT New Academic Street is a world leading example of adaptive re-use of an existing structure. A once disjointed, dark, confined and scattered campus has been transformed into an interconnected, open, light and lively collection of buildings, which re-established a long-lost connection between the University and Melbourne’s CBD.
A complex project with five architects and a timeline of over five years, Arup’s team helped RMIT realise its goal – of creating a future-looking campus with an unprecedented focus on students and community – through clever design and creative engineering. We made the most of existing facilities, repurposing them into a vibrant and dynamic, environmentally sustainable and functionally flexible new student hub, which has raised the standard for student spaces across the city.
Our structural knowledge was fundamental in opening the campus to the surrounding streetscape, creating light-filled laneways, glass-roofed arcades, rooftop urban spaces, outdoor terraces, light wells, efficient walkways between floors and new learning spaces including an acoustically isolated new media lab.
5 separate architects – all alumnae of RMIT architecture course
$220moverall project value
5star 'interiors' rating target
We had to be certain of the existing structures’ limitations, know how far we could push the limits, and understand which slabs, beams and columns we could remove. That knowledge was of paramount importance in informing the architects plan for the facility. ”Hamish Banks Senior Engineer
Through early stage engineering involvement in the scheme design, we analysed the strength of existing structures and identified opportunities for their modification. Our design supported the desire for the adaptive reuse of the existing structures, and enabled spaces to be opened up by removing beams, slabs and columns, and providing localised strengthening to the modified structures where required. Our approach maximised the value in the existing structures, giving them a new lease of life.
The early challenge
An early challenge for Arup’s team was working with incomplete sets of drawings for buildings constructed in the 1960s and 70s, which were designed using analysis methods that are no longer valid.
Using in-house Arup software GSA (General Structural Analysis), our non-linear analysis of the existing buildings enabled a detailed understanding of their performance under wind, earthquake and live loads. By developing 3D computer models of the existing structures, we could rapidly investigate the effects of building modifications and advise the architectural team which beams and columns could be removed help create new, open and airy spaces.
Complex construction in a tight site
We were able to significantly reduce the amount of temporary works and crane time on site for the Casey building by developing a design which enabled fabrication of large sections of steel, and enabled those large sections of the leaning steel structure to be lifted simultaneously.
It was critical that operations at the University could continue throughout the 2-year construction of the new facilities. Our staged approach to design and construction, allowed for the progressive handover of key areas, minimising disruption to students and researchers, enabling them to enjoy the benefits of the new environment as soon as possible, and ensure business continuity.
Arup workshopped staging methodologies with the architect and multiple contractors, which involved complex and considered isolation of structural components between the new and existing structures. The project was fully documented in Revit and steel shop drawings were reviewed in 3D to speed up the delivery of works on site.