Gold standard

26 Feb 2010

Building A is the ‘foundation’ building for Southern Cross University’s Gold Coast Campus

Building A is the ‘foundation’ building for Southern Cross University’s Gold Coast Campus with a contract value of $18m (AUD). The new campus has been master-planned to sit within the Gold Coast Airport Development Park with the first stage ready to receive students in early 2010. Due to it’s visibility and the fact that it will be the first building constructed, Building A is treated as a ‘signature’ building, setting the standard for following buildings and establishing an iconic presence for Southern Cross University on the Gold Coast. The eventual built-form strategy will comprise of 7-8 buildings for the entire 4 ha. campus site with building heights from 4–10 storeys. The Building A floor area of approximately 4,800 m2 is spread over 4 levels and accommodates a range of general teaching spaces, library, IT labs, lecture theatre, academic offices and support facilities.

Fundamental to the Master Plan is the creation of a strong sense of arrival when travelling by vehicle, foot, cycle or light rail (future proposal) along the main approach from Tweed Heads Bypass. This is anticipated to be achieved through a gateway statement at the Grand Forecourt with the iconic architecture of Building A (foundation building) and the future Building B (landmark building). The planning of the Building A establishes the street presence of the Campus along the primary frontage of the site and the building is orientated to benefit from favourable coastal views, the rehabilitated watercourse and biodiversity corridor.

ESD principles are integrated into all aspects of the design, with the building being eligible for a minimum rating equivalent to GBCA 4-star Greenstar, although the client has elected not to proceed with full certification. The basic ‘U’ plan-form creates opportunities to maximise natural day-lighting cross ventilation of spaces and external views while the semi-covered atrium courtyard aids the cooling of the building envelope with induced convectional air movements through heat vents located in the soffit. Generous roof eaves shade the external walls from direct solar heat gain, in conjunction with various sun-shading devices incorporated into the design of the building envelope. Other sustainability initiatives include energy efficient building systems, transport design / planning, rainwater collection, xeriscape planting, utilisation of sustainable materials/ technologies, provision of cyclist and end-of-trip facilities.

In the early stages of design, Southern Cross University decided to forego the conventional 'sandstone' university image in preference for a pragmatic 'real-world' approach to campus design which has been translated into the design expression and choice of materials. Building materials were selected on their durability, ease of maintenance, performance characteristics, environmental impact and aesthetic qualities. The pre-dominant use of precast concrete in natural finish, expressed in the colonnade of blade columns, on the exterior imparts the necessary gravitas of an educational institution. In contrast, selective aluminium-clad features in strong geometric shapes, bold splashes of colour and graphics in the interior add an element of fun and vibrancy.

The university anticipates student enrolments at 750 EFTSU in 2010, rising to 2000 EFTSU by 2011/ 2012 and intends to offer initial course options in business, convention and event management, tourism management and legal studies on the new campus. Teaching spaces had to be versatile enough to accommodate a variety of teaching delivery modes, learning styles and information formats, including the extensive use of audio-visual and video-conferencing technologies. The overall plan arrangement had to allow for the flexibility to accommodate changing future needs within an economical structural framework, while providing a clearly legible spatial arrangement and maximising opportunities for student interaction and sharing of ideas.

Conceptually, the activities within the building have been grouped into teaching spaces and office spaces. These primary zones are vertically aligned and are separated by generous circulation areas accommodating secondary elements, such as stairs, lifts and amenities. The main staircase enclosed in full glass curtain-wall features prominently to announce the main building entry, creates a transparent, light-filled space promoting the use of stairs for inter-floor movement and its generous landing spaces provide informal areas for interaction. On the top floor, the library exploits the views to the north with an upper level terrace capturing sea views to Kirra Beach. The ‘U’ plan-form of the building encloses a central courtyard which acts as a semi-sheltered outdoor room, opening out towards views of the NSW border and large enough to host university functions. In order to encourage activities and interaction, the building is ‘permeable’ at ground level with co-location of a café, student interaction areas, student services hub and multi-purpose room. Strong visual and spatial connections are established to the Grand Forecourt, Pedestrian Spine and the future Building B.

The design of the foundation building was an outcome of diverse inputs from a range of stakeholders including academic staff, Teaching and Learning Centre, Learning Assistance, Information Technology and Technical Support, Library and Facilities Management. It aims to establish the main principles for future buildings that will collectively form an on-campus environment which actively engages students in the process of learning and exchange of information, through the creation of dynamic spaces and facilities that encourage open collaborative interaction.

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