Artist illustration of community space at a university; Artist illustration of community space at a university;

University of Tasmania Forestry Building, Hobart

Setting a benchmark for circular economy design at University of Tasmania

Our collaboration on the design and restoration of the disused Forestry Building, in Hobart’s CBD, sets a benchmark for reusing existing materials and features, purposefully designed for the University of Tasmania’s new teaching and learning hub.

The new structure will feature a publicly accessible thoroughfare that cuts across the campus, connecting students, staff as well as the wider community of Hobart. The 100-year-old site consists of a heritage warehouse and office, straddled by an iconic 22-metre-wide glass dome. Working closely with Woods Bagot, the restoration of this unique piece of architecture was always a key focus in creating this new space for the University.

The University’s design brief prioritised the reuse of elements from the original building. This not only maintains heritage and preserved history, but also minimises the environmental impacts of construction. Adaptive reuse of material from the structure was an innovative aspect of the design process, with existing timber joists reused and cross-laminated timber (CLT) embedded in the new structural roof to reduce carbon emissions. The team also conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA), which measures the embodied carbon output from the first day of construction through to the eventual removal at the conclusion of the building’s life.

The complex and intricate nature of this design required a multidisciplinary approach with experts from a range of fields. Through teamwork and collaboration, the extended project team created an integrated design that values sustainable outcomes and provides benefits to the wider community.

Project Summary

22m wide glass dome

44%reduction in embodied carbon

Designing buildings through a circular economy lens

Working towards the ideal of a circular economy, together with Woods Bagot, we considered the adaptive reuse of existing material in the original building in various aspects of the design, including facades. Where possible, de-materialisation  – the approach of eliminating non-essential materials  – was a priority of the design team, who would evaluate whether a material needed to be used in the first place. Considering the impacts of design choices decades away, the use of adhesives and applied finishes were reduced, which enables elements to be re-used or recycled at the end of the building’s lifespan.

With sustainability a focal aspect of this multi-layered project, an LCA was conducted. This assessment, which quantifies the whole-life environmental impacts of a project, measured embodied carbon from procurement and transportation through to construction and eventual removal at the end of the building’s life. The University’s Green Bond Framework committed the project to meet a minimum 20 per cent reduction in embodied carbon compared to similar reference buildings, which we have exceeded with a 44 per cent reduction.

Our project with the University of Tasmania is a great example of reuse, retaining 40 per cent of the existing architecture, weaving together old and new to bring a new lease of life into the historical site. It’s a better outcome for sustainability and it’s a richer outcome for the surrounding community. ” Phoebe Settle Associate, Woods Bagot

Artist illustration of community space under a massive glass dome roof Artist illustration of community space under a massive glass dome roof

Providing new life while retaining heritage-listed features

Maintaining the historical urban fabric of the existing 26-year-old glass dome, while also designing a sector-leading pedagogy environment, required complex architectural integration. As part of the restoration, the Forestry Building is set to house a native rainforest with local flora intentionally selected from plantations in the Tasmanian Florentine Valley. For the space to nurture this local vegetation, our engineers collaborated with the project team to develop drainage systems and hydraulics within the dome. The ESD team were also consulted and worked to ensure an ideal temperature is maintained throughout the entire year for the benefit of the plants and visitors to the dome. 

The precinct is home to two heritage buildings, with the project team managing to conserve a significant portion of the original structures. The retention of these buildings is not only key to preserving this historic architecture but also considerably minimises the campus’ environmental impact.

A combination of our global expertise, collaborator JMG’s local knowledge, and adaptive reuse practices will result in the precinct becoming a benchmark university facility.

Some notable upgrades to the original building include a new mass timber roof which will be positioned in the central atrium. The ingenuity of service integration in the complex roof design enabled the acoustics panelling, lighting details and sprinklers to be minimal. Lighting design was an integral upgrade after very low natural light infiltrated the original structure. The implementation of new skylights and clerestory windows will enhance the brightness and overall user experience of the space. 

Collaboration with the extended project team

Effective teamwork, cooperation and communication are crucial to achieving success in complex, multidisciplinary projects such as the University of Tasmania Forestry Building. The integrated design of this space was a joint effort by the entire extended project team. The mutual respect and strong working relationships resulted in an innovative precinct design which values the restoration of historical architecture and pushes the boundaries of sustainability benchmarks within campus design.

Although we benefit greatly in terms of embodied carbon from reusing existing materials and timber structure in the project, the accumulative benefits of the smaller initiatives such as timber studwork, recycled content carpets, bio-based wall linings, etc., really added up and went a long way to the project’s carbon goals. I think this shows us that the attention to detail, when integrated well by a driven team of designers, can really make an impact. ” Prue Edmunds Sustainability Consultant