Design element critical for uni projects

04/06/2009 - 00:00


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PERTH universities have embarked on major capital works programs, developing award-winning, world-class research and learning facilities without sacrificing design aesthetics.

PERTH universities have embarked on major capital works programs, developing award-winning, world-class research and learning facilities without sacrificing design aesthetics.

Hames Sharley principal James Edwards said the design of university buildings had evolved during the past decade, becoming more flexible and adjusting to different spatial needs.

In some instances, for example research facilities, the importance of incorporating the needs of different disciplines, or be able to switch from, say, a laboratory to an office setting, was a critical design element.

"In terms of straight building, the concept of the solid stone building is being replaced by the need to have a flexible building. They still require buildings to be low maintenance and high quality, but they also need to adapt to different uses," Mr Edwards said.

"The emphasis is on encouraging interaction. Virtually all buildings, whatever they're for, there's an emphasis on breakout spaces and supporting interaction between students and staff.

"The idea of heavy rigid spaces is not appropriate. And the big challenge for designers is how to cope with that."

Earlier this month, the University of Western Australia opened its new $50 million business school, which provides a major contribution to the southern entrance of the Crawley campus.

The 10,000 square metre building allows the university to consolidate various facilities in a single location.

Unique elements of the facility, designed by architects Woods Bagot, include coloured sections representing the key economic regions of WA - the Goldfields, Pilbara, Wheatbelt and Kimberley.

Another of UWA's recently constructed buildings, a new biomedical research facility designed by Hames Sharley, was earlier this year awarded the 2009 Basset Award for sustainable development at the Property Council of Australia state chapter awards.

Murdoch University has also embarked on a major capital works program, recently completing a $35 million health research building, designed by Hames Sharley architect Neil Murray.

The project is a finalist in the Master Builders Association BankWest Excellence in Construction awards this year.

Murdoch vice-chancellor John Yovich said the university maintained its own commercial team, which assisted project architects to design the research buildings according to specific requirements, such as safety, temperature control and sustainability.

"We have key commercial project managers on our staff, which provides over time a far better understanding of our infrastructure needs ... as an in-house capability," he said.

At Curtin University of Technology, a new $100 million chemistry and resources precinct - a collaboration between BHP, the Chemistry Centre (WA) and Curtin - will be completed by mid year.

The 15,000sqm precinct is spread over two wings and four floors and will house the relocated Chemistry Centre (WA) and Curtin's Department of Applied Chemistry in purpose-built facilities.

The facility was designed by Woods Bagot and will contain the largest laboratory complex built in Perth in more than a decade.

The university is also progressing with plans for new $32.5 million engineering pavilion. Comprised of multiple integrated buildings, the complex will be built to a five-star green rating, and will feature photovoltaic solar panels and two wind turbines.

The pavilion is designed by architects Currie and Brown, with completion scheduled for late 2011.

Curtin will also open its new $27 million sports stadium, designed by James Christou and Partners Architects, next month.

Edith Cowan University completed two new buildings in 2008 - a new business and law building at the Mt Lawley campus and a new health and wellness building at the Joondalup campus - as part of its campus consolidation strategy.

ECU director facilities and services Brian Yearwood said the current priority for ECU was the development of a new computing, engineering and technology building, designed by West Perth-based Ferguson Architects.

"This $46 million building will be a 8,000sqm facility that will comprise dedicated lecture rooms together with specifically designed wet and dry laboratories," Mr Yearwood said.

"Construction is planned to commence at the start of 2010 and the building will be fully operational at the start of 2012."

The building is subject to planning approval by the City of Joondalup and the Western Australian Planning Commission.


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