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Grimshaw’s Woodside Building is a “machine for learning”

Grimshaw’s Woodside Building at Monash University is officially the largest structure in the Southern Hemisphere to receive Passive House certification.

Grimshaw’s Woodside Building is a “machine for learning”


August 30th, 2021

To pass the rigorous testing and certification processes of the International Passive House Association is no small feat. To do so, having successfully delivered a near net zero energy building to the scale of 19,000 square metres across 5 storeys, is downright applaudable. Which is exactly what Grimshaw has done with its Passive House certified Woodside Building for Technology and Design at Monash University. The award of the certificate heralds the creation of one of the largest nearly net zero energy buildings in Australia and the world.

Situated within Monash University’s Clayton Campus, in Melbourne, The Woodside Building for Technology and Design is a transdisciplinary facility for the Faculties of Engineering and Information Technology, initiating new models of learning alongside academic research clusters and administration, positioning them with industry related enterprise and simultaneously integrating precedent-establishing environmental innovation.

The building is a pilot of leadership in learning environments with immersive and interactive technology and additive and advanced manufacturing laboratory spaces for students and researchers to embrace innovation, design and cutting-edge technology for the development of new solutions in sustainable energy technology.

Acting as a ‘machine for learning’, those who spend time inside the Woodside Building for Technology and Design will intuitively learn from its physical design and services. In this sense the building will become a part of the educational pedagogy for formal and informal learning. Its performance data on structure and building services will also be available to students and researchers for research purposes.

Grimshaw’s approach to the architecture of The Woodside Building prioritised effectiveness over efficiency. The design is organised to service spaces in alignment to their use and climatic response – but avoids the ubiquitous approach of one single solution to achieve a performance goal. At the same time, the organisation of the building into adaptable and flexible modules within a frame will enable exceptional diversity and performance.

Spread across 5 storeys, the 19,000-square-metre building is conceived as a modular steel framed armature ordered into tartan geometry of three linear elements spanning 12 metres for the design build studios and co-lab spaces, a stretched 24 metres for the flat floor—tiered learning spaces below and the academic and research above—and 6 metres for informal collaboration.

The lower three levels accommodate 30 different modular learning spaces of varying dimensions into an engaging array of visually and spatially interconnected volumes that are orientated to sunlight and views and to activate the landscaped public realm of the campus. The academic and research levels above are arranged within linear clusters of offices within the 24-metre-wide trusses and two storey top lit atria for the open workplaces. The three linear bands are separated by circulation spines along the length and interspersed with informal spaces that situate stairs within interconnecting voids and break-out spaces looking into tree canopies.

The building’s address to the south occurs through four storey glazed atrium with a tiered open theatre that connects all levels of teaching while it looks back towards the campus across the iron bark eucalypts that line the alumni green. The 120-metre-long building is bisected by a five storey exhibition atria that aligns to the adjacent Alliance Lane and connects the Engineering Precinct to the new campus green within the Innovation and Industry Precinct.

The Woodside Building for Technology and Design is one of the most energy efficient and innovative teaching buildings of its type, using solar as one of its energy sources. The combination of active and passive environmental strategies defines the building’s expression and operations. 

Grimshaw’s design balances the need for airtightness, insulation and shading from solar gain, while embracing the illuminance of sunlight, and abundance of daylight, view prominence and ground level interoperability. It incorporates an arrangement of distributed services cores to minimise the reliance on energy to condition and reticulate air. It enables shaded top light to illuminate the interiors of the 48-metre-deep floorplate while minimising solar gain. 

Photography by Peter Bennetts

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