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  • Writer's pictureWorld Half Full

Timber building gets six green stars


The University of Newcastle’s new Q Building has been certified with the first, and highest possible, Six Green Star rating in regional New South Wales. The A$25 million building at the new Honeysuckle City Campus — which houses the School of Humanities, Creative Industries and Social Sciences and the Integrated Innovation Network uses 100% renewable energy, energy and water efficient fittings, and tinted windows that automatically adjust as outside conditions change. As the first multi-storey timber building in Newcastle, the internal structure was built using sustainably sourced, cross-laminated timber, which helps the airconditioning system moderate humidity inside.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) launched the green star ratings scheme in 2003 to encourage greener buildings and places. There are now more than 3000 green-star-certified projects across Australia.

One of the challenges for the building’s designers was to maintain an open feel to the building while ensuring comfort and protection from heat and weather, the GBCA explains. To overcome this, the three sides of the building most exposed to the sun — east, north and west — were glazed with an electrochromic smart-glass called Sage Glass, which automatically changes its tint to respond to heat and glare.

The council’s Chief Executive Officer, Davina Rooney, says the new building is testimony to the University's commitment to sustainability. “With innovation at its core from the outset, it certainly sets the benchmark for future developments of this kind. [It] is a brilliant, world-leading example of how Green Star can be applied within the education sector.”

As a six-star-rated building, the GBCA has recognised its positive contribution to the community and environment. University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky says the new status has set the bar for future buildings. “From here on, all new university buildings will be designed and built for Six Star ‘Design and As Built’ rating, which is a significant step on the road toward the university being carbon-neutral by 2025.”

In a nutshell

  • 104 solar panels

  • 20,000L rainwater capture volume

  • 344 Sage Glass thermal panels, the largest installation in the southern hemisphere

  • Energy and water efficient fittings: all LED lights and 4-Star rated Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards water fittings

  • Building “tuning” so aircon and other systems are running as efficiently as possible

  • 100% renewable electricity via Red Energy contract

  • 96% recycling rate during construction

  • Transport plan, includes bike hub with end-of-trip facilities and hybrid shuttle-bus route

TOP The Q Building, University’s new Honeysuckle City Campus exterior and BOTTOM foyer showing extensive use of timber


ABOVE Mjøstårnet in Brumunddal — a small municipality on the northeastern shore of Lake Mjøsa in Norway — is the tallest all-timber building in the world. Mjøstårnet, which means “Tower of Mjøsa”, stands at 85 metres and consists of 18 floors, combining office space, residential units, and a 72-room hotel. It has become a destination for visitors curious about the future of sustainable architecture and of novel achievements in structural engineering. It’s the third-tallest tower in Norway, a country whose buildings rarely extend above ten floors.

PHOTO Paul S. Amundsen for The New Yorker

UPDATED April 20, 2022

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