UQ’s advanced engineering building a ‘living building’ showstopper

The University of Queensland’s advanced engineering building is an inspirational showcase of a ‘living building’.

Designed by Richard Kirk Architects in partnership with Hassell, the 5 Star Green Star rated building is an award winning demonstration of Australian excellence in environmental architecture. As cars, phones, computers and digital devices are getting smarter, so too should buildings. This was the Architects motivation.

The building is also home to the GHD Auditorium; an engineering masterpiece set to inspire those who learn within its walls for decades to come. The decision to construct the auditorium entirely out of timber was not only to achieve the aesthetic interaction between the natural environment, but also the structural functionality and environmental impact of the building. The auditorium’s 215-tonne roof is supported entirely by impressive timber members that span the entire 30-metre-wide space.
Hyne Timber’s prefabricated GLT components, all Responsible Wood certified, were grown, harvested, milled and engineered in Queensland. The hardwood beams were Hyne beam 21 which are unique to Hyne Timber.
Rob Mansell, Hyne Timber’s Commercial GLT Business Development Manager said this was a great example of working closely throughout the design phase,
“Where an average project might involve a few pages of drawings, this particular project involved over 2000 pages of drawings.
“Being involved with the detailing prior to fabrication allowed for early discovery and resolution of conflicts, and coordination with other building components and services.
“Our offsite prefabrication service also ensured accuracy and time efficiency with the onsite installation – cutting down the overall construction phase timeline considerably.
“The assembled trusses were so large that they had to be transported in the middle of the night but they could be assembled in place and when completed, lifted in a single day!” Mr Mansell concluded.

The project Architects won the Engineered Timber category in the Australian Timber Design Awards and later took out three categories in the National Architecture Awards for:

  • Public Architecture Awards – The Sir Zelman Cowan Award;
  • Interior Architecture – The Emil Sodersten Award; and
  • Sustainable Architecture – National Award.

In the latter, jury awards citations acknowledged the use of Queensland timber, the 5 Star Green Rating of the building and acknowledgement that this “spectacular use of timber makes the auditorium a delightful space to occupy – radiating geometry”. The jury went on to further acknowledge a softness more usually associated with residential architecture because of their use of timber.

The Advanced Engineering Building at the University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus was a collaborative project funded by the Australian Government, Queensland Government, and The University of Queensland, with philanthropic support from GHD.

The assembled trusses were so large that they had to be transported in the middle of the night but they could be assembled in place and when completed, lifted in a single day!

Sustainable Australian wood panels feature in Melbourne Recital Centre

The Melbourne Recital Centre is an acclaimed music destination combining architectural innovation and acoustic perfection within its two performance spaces to showcase the best music, artists and ensembles from around the world.

The centre’s interior is lined with striking plywood panels of hoop pine sourced from Responsible Wood-certified plantations in southeast Queensland.
The building won the Property Council’s National Award for Public Buildings – the country’s highest award for a public buildings. It also won the Victorian Architecture Medal, the William Wardell Award for Public Architecture and the Joseph Reed Award for Urban Design at the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Architecture Awards.
Developed by Lend Lease and designed by Aston Raggatt McDougal, the $75 million building is considered “acoustically perfect”, drawing fundamental influence from the traditional box shape of European concert halls.
The auditorium is lined with striking hoop pine panels, designed to resemble the back of a beautiful instrument, and provides greater acoustic intimacy across the 1000-seat auditorium.
The symmetrical routed plywood panelling has a 3D textured surface which optimises the acoustics in the same way as the lumpy gilded caryatides, friezes, dentils and coffers in halls of earlier eras.
Specifically chosen for its acoustic and aesthetic properties, the ‘A’ grade plywood used for the wall panels were supplied by Brisbane-based Austral Plywoods, manufacturer of premium grade plywood.
Austral Plywoods is committed to environmental sustainability and has Responsible Wood chain-of-custody certification – the Australian standard for sustainable wood and wood products.
The raw material that went into the plywood supplied for the Melbourne Recital Centre was 100% sourced from Responsible Wood-certified plantations run by HQ Plantations, and has a Super E0 rating.
Responsible Wood certified timber offers the widest choice of sustainably sourced, Australian timber available to architects, specifiers and designers in the country including, blackbutt, ironbark, spotted gum, blue gum, spotted gum, mountain ash, kauri and jarrah.

Routed ‘A’ grade hoop pine plywood panelling in the Elizabeth Murdoch Hall at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Photo: MRC Architecture
The Melbourne Recital Centre maintains the grandeur of old-world concert halls. Photo: MRC Architecture

Responsible Wood-certified cypress choice for $38m Hobart wharf project

Hobart architects Circa Morris-Nunn set high standards in their selection of wood for their award-winning structures – it must be robust and dense, blend aesthetically with other materials … and carry the highest credentials for certification and sustainability.

All this criteria is on vivid display in their design of the $38 million MAC01 hotel complex at Hobart’s Macquarie wharf re-development site, where Queensland white cypress is used in a magnificent three-dimensional faceted façade.
Sourced from the Hurford family’s Chinchilla sawmill on Queensland’s western downs, the cypress is certified to Responsible Wood’s standards for sustainable forest management (AS 4708) and chain-of-custody standards for forest products (AS 4707).
“This certification is very important to us,” David Johnston, an architect with Circa Morris-Nunn, said.
Company director Robert Morris-Nunn added: “It’s about responsibility, both ecological and social, which is often underestimated.
“We believe that responsible use of environmental resources is the responsibility of those who de¬sign and build.”’
More than 30,000 lineal metres of cypress produced from Responsible Wood certified sustainable forests in Queensland was used for the pitched roof, cladding – a mixture of 200x50m and 150x50m kiln-dried profile boards screw-fixed to external skins – and for hotel balconies and decks.
“The timber was specifically used for its sustainability, material specification to meet fire hazard codes and durability for the waterside location,” David Johnston said.
Small amounts of cvpress were used initially for walkways in the early stages of the project. The architects warmed to the species, using the “chosen timber” throughout the building. They had scoured timber merchants for supply and found Hurfords at Chinchilla was the only mill able to provide the amount of feedstock needed.
Hurford’s chain-of-custody certification was a bonus.
The pitched-roof structure, built to resemble a shipping shed, blends timber and glass to capture grand views over Sullivans Cove and Hunter Street’s 19th-century facades.
Tasmanian oak was used as a feature cladding timber in one wall of the building.
After demolition of the existing warehouse on the site the weight of the building was carefully designed and to create a modern building that retained the shape of the original warehouse. The ground floor is glazed to give a notion of the building ‘floating’ on the Hobart waterfront from both interior and exterior views.
MAC01 is all about stories; each of its rooms is named for an illustrious or infamous figure from Tasmania’s past – convicts, crooks, captains of industry and other colourful characters.
The MAC01 was a team effort – Circa Morris-Nunn Architects, Stanton Management Group and Vos Construction and Joinery Pty Ltd, who created the magnificent Henry Jones complex, Australia’s first dedicated art hotel built within Hobart’s oldest waterfront warehouses,.
Michael Vos, executive chairman of Vos Construction, a multiple winner in the Australian Timber Design Awards, said he was thrilled to be both the developer and builder of the MAC01 development.

Waterfront view of the MAC01 hotel complex at Hobart’s Macquarie wharf featuring Responsible Wood-certified cypress cladding.
Certified cypress from Queensland’s western downs features throughout this building centerpiece of Hobart’s Macquarie wharf re-development.