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Sustainable buildings at Universities – 10-years later, are they living up to the promise?

How are the highly sustainable buildings and special features first trialled at a range of universities around the country faring 10 years later? This leading article from our major special report on universities and education in our new micro site asks the experts what they think.

Bond University’s Mirvac School of Sustainable Development building was the first in Australia to be awarded a 6 Star Green Star Education PILOT rating when it was opened in August 2008 by then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

The Vice Chancellor at the time, Trevor C Rowe, said the building reflected the university’s goal to have a “living laboratory” for sustainable building approaches and technologies.

But things change, including governments and vice chancellors, and not always in ways that benefit a building or the wider sustainability mission.

Ned Wales, Senior Teaching Fellow in Sustainable Environments and Planning at Bond, says that when the building first opened, it gave the university “considerable green credibility” and drew both national and international attention from students and academics interested in sustainability.

It also won a slew of awards across architecture, construction and sustainability categories.

Among the noteworthy features were passive solar design, mixed-mode ventilation, zoned HVAC and sensor-controlled lighting, solar PV, 50kW wind turbine, rainwater harvesting and re-use, on-site grey water treatment, landscaping according to water sensitive urban design principles, low VOC fixtures and finishes and the use of recycled materials. Even the carpets are leased, to reduce the lifecycle impact.

The building was also designed for disassembly, with the aim of at least 45 per cent of building materials being recyclable, Wales says.

As academics and other staff settled into the building, some issues emerged in terms of the difference between the expectations that informed design and operational experiences.

Wales says the centralised and automated controls for lighting proved occasionally problematic, either not delivering enough illumination to supplement natural light on overcast days or in the evenings in areas such as lecture theatres and learning spaces, or spaces being too well-lit during extremely bright days.\

Read the whole story at the TFE Special Reports

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