2012 Melbourne Design Awards

Key Dates

Swinburne University of Technology Advanced Technologies Centre [DRAFT]

Photo Credit : Trevor Mein / Mein Photo

Project Overview

The Swinburne University Advanced Technologies Centre (SUT ATC) is a cutting edge Engineering focused facility for education and research, designed to be practical and flexible for future changes in education, while enriching and invigorating its occupants and the university.

Precast concrete facades differentiate the building from the high rise glass boxes associated with commercial buildings and acknowledge the building’s non-commercial nature.

The circular patternation and circular glazing of the facade, strengthen the buildings appearance and reference the contemporary preference for non-rectilinear geometries, currently researched by the engineering community occupying the building.

Project Commissioner

Swinburne University

Project Creator

H2o architects


H2o architects:
Tim Hurburgh, Mark O’Dwyer, Alison Binks, Cameron Clifford, Vieri Nembrini, Ross Weeks, Justin Shu, Kate Butler, Davin Smith & the Smith Lebbos Team, James Murray & Tim Hill & the Tandem Team, Anne-Claire Devile, Susannah Lempriere, Dean Hole

Waterman AHW Consulting Engineers - Engineers
Rush Wright - Landscape Consultant
Willsmore Nelson - Building Surveyor
Marshall Day Acoustics - Acoustic Consultant
Advanced Precast - Precast Contractor
Lake Young + Associates - Fire Engineer
Kane Constructions - Head Contractor
Wilde + Woollard - Quantity Surveyors

Project Brief

The SUT ATC project reinvents the public face of Swinburne University’s Hawthorn Campus.

It combines 19,000 square metres for state-of-the-art research and learning centres within a single facility that is configured as twin separated ten level towers behind twin three level structures addressing Burwood Road. The public ground level is activated by cruciform three level atrium laneways, that reference urban Melbourne laneways, providing ease of navigation and moments of intimacy.

In contrast to the upper levels, the ground levels are highly glazed, including the world’s first fully glazed circular retractable seating auditorium, to allow the public domain to have visual connection with the important research and learning operations on the lower level of the building.

The building reverses its representation to the public domain over the day to night cycle.

The towers of the building are articulated by usage, with a ‘smart’ tower which is highly engineered for service intensive research uses, and the other tower as ‘dumb’ but flexible for simple office and learning accommodation uses.

Glazed bridges provide dynamic moments along the internal journey through the building and activate the southern and northern facades with occupant movement patterns.

Passive solar design creates shaded circulation balconies to the north and minimised exposure to east or west solar loads.

The siting of the building creates an external space north of the building that is shaded from severe winds and captures the sun, creating a student heart and soul for the campus.

Project Innovation / Need

Three main features of innovation within the design of the SUT ATC project are the circular grid skin, the designs circulation configuration, and the street level interfaces.

The grid of circular windows, openings and projected bumps creates a unique tactile skin from either close or distant viewpoints. These innovative precast concrete façade panels were collaboratively designed and developed with the manufacturer by researching international construction technologies and testing prototypes.

The user’s movement through the building is designed to be a special experience. The vertical circulation core is located at the intersection of the laneway ‘galleries’ and incorporates low energy usage escalators and an open access staircase. The escalator circulation model is generated through studying shopping centres and train stations, as the beginning and end of a lecture period causes traffic levels similar to the arrival and departure of a train. Open staircases encourage usage for short climbs/descents between floors. The circulation around the floorplates includes travel through glazed bridges and balcony corridors.

The interface of the building with the street level is activated through the use of glazing and unexpected relationships. The Burwood Road frontage displays the largest Strong Structures Laboratory in the southern hemisphere, with a three way fixing and testing facility for deforming and destructive testing of products. The circular ground level auditorium is almost completely glazed also, creating a dynamic and high profile facility.

Design Challenge

In addition to the ambitious design goals previously mentioned, the project had a high quality benchmark within a tightly controlled timeframe. The project was delivered on time, on budget, with superior finish quality with the Architect as Principal Consultant and a traditional building procurement method.

The completed facility is amongst the most cost effective highly serviced tertiary educational facilities in Australia, by providing 19,000sqm of accommodation for a cost effective $75m construction cost.

The planning of the building also focussed on increased space utilization, allowing future flexibility and low energy reconfiguration.

The design engages extensively with Facility Management concerns. Of note, the materials used throughout the facility, particularly in the public circulation areas, are robust and self-finished with public domain hardiness – as a reference to village paths for this village in the sky.


The SUT ATC is the first project to be awarded Five Stars by design, using the Australian Green Star Education v.1 tool of AGBR.

The building is designed to be a practical and affordable low energy facility with an accent on natural venting, day lighting, material reuse and low energy materials.

The operation of the project is targeting to produce a 25% reduction of energy consumption in relation to comparable facilities and will be monitored for performance over the life of the building.

The design of the building uses the high thermal mass, particularly from the concrete elements, to stabilise internal temperature fluctuations for conditioned and non-conditioned space. Facades with high thermal mass from precast concrete and masonry are balanced with low but sufficient glazing areas, designed to reduce thermal loss and gain, while still having sufficient glazing for adequate day lighting and glare balance. This approach also levels the internal temperature fluctuations. The thermal mass is also topped up with coolth from night purging through the mechanical system.

The project is also assisted by passive design from appropriate building design responses for orientations and shading from trafficable balconies.

Circulation spaces are designed to avoid using air conditioning and create an entry sequence that delivers joy and engagement from the changing environmental characteristics from passage through the building.

The internals optimise the usage of low energy materials, including steel door framing, recycled and recyclable materials.

This award recognises the design process and product of planning, designing and constructing form, space and ambience that reflect functional, technical, social, and aesthetic considerations. Consideration given for material selection, technology, light and shadow. The project must be constructed.
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