A sustainable building inspired by the town's wheat production heritage
When Hindmarsh Shire Council in Nhill, north-west Victoria in Australia required new Council facilities incorporating public services, council chambers and corporate offices, they turned to Melbourne-based architecture firm, k20 Architecture, to deliver a sustainable building unparalleled in the region.
With ecologically sustainable development principles at the core of the building's design intent, k20 Architecture utilised a number of innovations to deliver an outcome that would not only minimise embodied energy and energy loadings within the building, but also reduce carbon output for the life of the project.
Conscious of the building's location in a region which is exposed to extreme temperature conditions, k20 Architecture paid much attention to the building's thermal performance.
By constructing a series of thermal chambers underground via earth tubes and under-floor ventilation plenums, fresh air is drawn in from the exterior and cooled (or warmed) naturally by the earth before being redistributed back throughout the building via air displacement plenums.
Studies indicate that increased exposure to fresh air supply is a major contributor to enhancing internal work environments and increasing productivity. On the contrary, buildings with low levels of fresh air supply are often labelled as having ‘sick building syndrome' which is associated with poor health among occupants exposed to Volatile Organic Compounds.
An under-floor air distribution (UFAD) air conditioning system was then designed to provide an excellent level of control for occupants via a series of operable floor grilles.
Placing the grilles on the floor of the building levels, rather than along the ceiling as is customary with traditional air conditioning systems, ensures the freshest air supply is delivered closest to the occupied space, thus delivering the highest level of health benefits.
Over 80% of the existing building's materials were recycled before the existing infrastructure was demolished, while one of the three original buildings was retained and repurposed in order to minimise the embodied energy within the building's design.
Very little steel was used in the building's design; instead k20 Architecture custom-designed and manufactured a laminated timber product from local sustainably sourced Vic Ash timber to replace steel for structural purposes without the associated environmental consequences.
The building also consumes less energy via passive solar design, cross-flow ventilation principles and zoned motion-detecting lighting, and has a number of vertical green walls aim to enhance the indoor air quality which collectively promote a sustainable lifestyle informing the culture of the Organisation.
An electronic control and monitoring system has also been installed to test the effectiveness of the measures taken to minimise energy consumption, so that the positive impact of the building's systems can be measured and documented over time.
Inspired by the town's unique identity as a hub of wheat production with steel storage silos and agricultural sheds dotting the landscape, k20 Architecture designed the building with subtle references to the craftsmanship of the folded metal inherent in the silos in the form of locally sourced steel finishes along the building's exterior.
k20 Architecture Director, Theo Kerlidis said sustainability and design is at the core of every k20 Architecture project, however with this project in particular it was important to create a building that was not only environmentally sound but also acceptable within the local community.
"The challenge was delivering a modern building incorporating leading-edge design principles while still serving our responsibility to the community to deliver a building that they will accept as their own.
Stage One of the new Hindmarsh Shire Council Corporate Centre is now complete with Stage Two earmarked for completion in September this year.