News / April 2019
Wednesday 28 August 2013
Zero energy, carbon neutral Global Change Institute officially opens

The Global Change Institute, a $32 million building designed by HASSELL which meets the world's most advanced levels of sustainability, was officially opened by The University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane today.

The bold, new GCI Building at UQ's St Lucia campus was made possible by a $15 million donation from UQ alumnus and philanthropist Graeme Wood.

Global Change Institute Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said it was the latest example of UQ's commitment to improving sustainability outcomes across the world.

"It's the ideal home for the Institute's game-changing research, ideas and evidence-based advice for addressing the challenges of global change," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

"The building is designed to work with the natural environment and it will operate as a net zero-energy and carbon neutral workplace.

"It will be naturally ventilated for most of the year whilst a super low energy comfort conditioning mode ensures occupant comfort in even the hottest and most humid Brisbane days. The building generates and stores all its own power on-site through renewable solar energy sources that are pollution-free. All excess power will be delivered back to the national grid."

The GCI Building also represents the first Australian use of structural Geopolymer concrete, a low-carbon product produced with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional concrete.

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said his team wanted to push the boundaries and create a building that symbolised the Global Change Institute's work.

"We wanted to 'walk the talk' of operating more sustainably," he said. "The building had to be functional, as well as help our researchers better understand how to maximise a space in a sub-tropical environment.

"The end-product is aesthetically beautiful and challenges the GCI team to work in new ways and change their workplace behaviour," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

HASSELL Principal Mark Roehrs, who led the project design team, said the GCI is attuned to its place and climate and is at the forefront of sustainable design innovation.

"The building moves away from a framework of consumption of the world's resources to one that contributes to the restoration and regeneration of the environment. The building will produce more pollution-free energy than it consumes and be carbon neutral in operation," said Mark.

"It is able to act as a live research site, with the building systems and occupants used to assess comfort conditions in low-energy buildings for the sub-tropics."

The building features an operable sun shading system that tracks the sun and protects the glass louvres which optimise natural ventilation for 88% of the year. The air flows across occupied spaces to the central atrium which acts as the building's lungs, discharging warm air through its thermal chimney. The thermal mass of the building is cooled with chilled water flushed through the exposed sculptural Geopolymer precast floor panels to optimise its performance in open and closed ventilation modes.

In closed ventilation mode air is pre-cooled through a labrinyth before an innovative 'free-energy' comfort conditioning system cools and dehumidifies the air using a heat recovery sensible wheel and dessicant thermal wheel. Moisture is expelled from the air via a phase change material heated from 90C hot water generated in an evacuated solar tube water heating system.

The translucent ETFE atrium roof allows natural light into the interior while insulating from the sun's heat. Optimal natural lighting is supported by environmentally-friendly LED lighting. Rainwater storage of 60,000 litres services the hydronic cooling system, kitchen and shower.

A green wall, bush tucker garden and bio-retention basin breathe life into the building's green ethos, and UQ's St Lucia campus pedestrian links provide easy access by foot or bike.

The Global Change Institute is hosting several seminars and events to celebrate the opening of the building. Click here for more information about the project and for Channel Ten news coverage of the opening.

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