Global Change Institute

The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute proves the future-leading potential of Net Zero design thinking.

Completed in 2013, the Global Change Institute (GCI) is a focal point for The University of Queensland’s (UQ) collaborative research initiatives on sustainable technologies being developed to address pressing global challenges. With a design that puts theory into practice, the building is an incubator for pioneering innovation, disseminating information and engaging the wider community. It’s conference centre attracts local and international visitors interested in sustainable building solutions. 

GCI is a vibrant, healthy working environment that generates more energy than it consumes. Designed to be Net Zero energy in operation through a combination of low energy design strategies and roof mounted solar panels, the building shares surplus renewable energy with other buildings across the campus. 

Our design team took a passive-first approach. An operable sun shading system tracks the sun and protects the glass louvers that also optimise natural ventilation. Fresh air flows through occupied spaces to the central atrium, which acts as the building’s lungs, discharging warm air through its thermal chimney. Even on a still day, with the façade open, there is constant airflow.

Since its completion, this flagship award-winning sustainable project has encouraged a complete rethink of office design for a low-carbon world.


The challenge in this building was bringing lots of sustainable initiatives together into an integrated whole,” says Principal Mark Roehrs. 

The building was designed as an ecosystem so that all the elements act together in combination to optimise comfort, minimise energy use, reduce carbon emissions, and advance construction technologies.

In an Australian first, GCI pioneered the use of geo-polymer concrete as pre-cast slab elements in a multi-storey building. Geopolymer concrete uses a chemical binder in place of traditional cement, eliminating cement related carbon emissions. 

GCI also collects and stores 60,000 litres of rainwater for reuse and irrigation of the biofiltration wall and nearby Bush Tucker Garden. This garden draws on deep knowledge of First Nations traditional landowners to inform urban food production. 

The building has also catalysed broader campus initiatives such as improving the pedestrian realm and connections including developing a campus wide sustainability walk.


The University of Queensland


Yuggera and Turrbal Country
Brisbane, Australia





Sustainability Ratings

6 Star Green Star Rating Zero energy, carbon neutral workplace


3,865 sqm / 41,603 sqft


Arup, Bligh Tanner

Design team

Mark Roehrs, Rob Keen, BP Loh, Matthew Larme, Michael Copeland, Troy King, Catherine van der Heide, Nguyen Luu


Peter Bennetts

The building design provides a test case for a range of design solutions and new technologies in a passive sense, but functions as a research incubator, promoting collaborative research, learning, engagement and advocacy in major global change issues.”

— 2014 Sustainability Awards Jury

The Global Change Institute contributes magnificently to the campus. Its expression and identity provides a distinctive front door to the Institute whilst paying respect to the established sandstone heritage of the St Lucia Campus.”

— W. Boyd-Law, Manager General Construction

According to the jury of the 2014 BPN Sustainability Award, UQ’s Global Change Institute — which took out the Sustainability Award for Public Building & Urban Design — was selected as winner for its large range of sustainability features and initiatives, many of which go beyond industry measures. The centre is recognised for successfully shifting industry thinking about buildings as consumers of resources, to being contributors to environmental and social sustainability.

The building will operate as a zero energy and zero carbon work place, achieved via a range of sustainability measures that generally go beyond industry measures, including the Geopolymer floor beams that won an Innovation award at the BPN Sustainability Awards in 2013. The impressive cross section of technical solutions has been incorporated seamlessly into the building design rather than existing as symbols’ of an applied idea of sustainability.

This combination of industry leading, seamlessly integrated technology and design, spatial solutions that foster collaboration and a program designed specifically for interdisciplinary work on climate change issues resulted in a completeness that we recognised in awarding this the Public Building and Urban Design Award for 2014.”

— 2014 Sustainability Awards Jury

GCI is designed to be a living laboratory’ that runs on feedback and generates knowledge, with a Building Management System that provides real time monitoring and adjustment of its systems. This optimises energy performance and allows ongoing engagement with occupants to help them make sustainable choices to maximise their comfort using mixed-mode systems.

Natural ventilation is achieved up to 88% of the year through the building’s climate-responsive design approach and intelligent systems that actively encourage occupants to make adaptive thermal responses. A low energy displacement system conditions the building for the remainder of the year.

Sharing findings from the long-term operation of the building helps ensure GCI fulfils its ambition of driving sustainable transformation and meeting the challenges of our changing world.

2016 Property Council of Australia Innovation and Excellence Awards

  • Award for Best Sustainable Development – New Buildings

2015 Consult Australia Awards for Excellence

  • Sustainability in Design Gold Award

2015 AIA National Awards

  • David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture
  • Award for Interior Architecture

2015 AIA Qld Chapter Awards

  • Harry Marks Award for Sustainable Architecture
  • RG Suter Award for Educational Architecture
  • GHM Addison Award for Interior Architecture

2015 AIA Qld – Brisbane Regional Awards

  • Commendation for Educational Architecture

2014 Australian Steel Institute Awards

  • Winner for Steel Excellence in Buildings - Large Projects

2014 BPN Sustainability Awards

  • Winner – Public Building & Urban Design

2013 BPN Sustainability Awards

  • Best of the Best Award
  • Innovation of the Year Award

2013 IES Awards

  • Commendation for Lighting Design

2012 AIRAH Awards

  • Innovative Use of Solar Energy in HVAC and Refrigeration

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