RMIT University invested more than $200M to transform its city campus, refurbishing five floors across seven older buildings into a revitalised student hub. First constructed in the 1970s, the ‘New Academic Street’ (NAS) project has integrated a new major entry point for the University, as well as a variety of arcades and laneways to open-up large sections of the existing façade. In keeping with Melbourne’s laneway culture, these arteries provide clear way-finding and urban experiences and enable greater connectivity to the rest of the campus and with Melbourne’s CBD including public transport links.
Sustainability is a core goal for RMIT and as such the NAS project was designed to ensure that our campus is vibrant, resource efficient, accessible and innovative. RMIT is committed to developing buildings and facilities that are designed to meet high standards of energy and water efficiency, whilst reducing our carbon emissions and encouraging responsible behaviours.
Green Star provided a robust framework to guide the sustainability outcomes of this complex project - reducing the impact of our portfolio and demonstrating leadership to our environmentally aware community. NAS was an opportunity to develop ‘precinct scale’ sustainability initiatives closely integrated with the design teams architectural and urban design strategies.
The built environment created through NAS utilises both natural and mechanical ventilation schemes so that more favourable outdoor weather conditions can permeate the building. Many of the student learning spaces are designed as ‘mixed mode’ allowing natural ventilation for much of the year through the use of openings to balconies and a network of new laneways. The laneways themselves are all weather spaces, and fully naturally ventilated, lending the project circulation spaces a characteristic Melbourne flavour.
The materiality of the interiors was developed through minimal interventions into the existing buildings structural fabric, and with sustainable materials used throughout, including for all joinery. Embracing the concept of adaptive reuse, the lower levels of the existing concrete-encased steel buildings have been stripped back, with floor plates repurposed to meet the needs of current and future students. Large dark two-storey lecture theatres are now innovative, light and comfortable tiered student study spaces. Once impermeable façades, have now been opened-up resulting in a blurring of the outdoor and indoor environments.
A brand new, four-storey garden building and terrace has been integrated into the campus, creating additional social spaces for staff and students. Built using lower impact cross- laminate timber, the building is characterised by the widespread use of greenery and open garden space to enhance the urban environment. Other sustainability initiatives include thermal heat recovery, stormwater management and a creation of linked open-air terraces on level seven of the buildings creating easy access to open air roof spaces for students and staff on an urban campus.
The project was undertaken in parallel with the University’s Sustainable Urban Precinct Program (SUPP) a $128M infrastructure project which reconfigured all of the campuses central energy systems, vastly reducing our carbon intensity (at the end of 2018 RMIT had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% based on a 2007 baseline).