Award-winning revamp puts Sydney TAFE on sustainability map

by FM Media
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Northern Sydney Institute is a stellar example of recycling a building and retrofitting it with the latest in innovative and sustainable technologies.

The Northern Sydney Institute has transformed an unused five-storey 1960s Brutalist-style science block on its St Leonards Campus into a world-class centre for learning and innovation. The refurbished building, now known as the Cameraygal Building, was designed by the New South Wales Government Architect’s Office. Before its refurbishment, the building was a science laboratory.

The project was short-listed from a field of more than 170 entries across the state for the prestigious NSW Architecture Awards held by the Australian Institute of Architects. At the 2015 Awards, the Cameraygal Building scooped the pool, winning awards in the Educational Architecture and the Sustainable Architecture categories and receiving a commendation in the Heritage (Creative Adaptive) section. The award wins now see the Cameraygal Building eligible for the National Architecture Awards, which will be announced in November.

The project highlights the architectural and environmental potential of recycling a structure that no longer meets current needs and retrofitting it with the latest, innovative, sustainable technologies. The Cameraygal Building showcases the Institute’s commitment to sustainable business and educational practices through reducing waste, by reusing building materials and using sustainable design principles.

The Cameraygal Building is embedded with a number of sustainable features that increase the building’s energy efficiency, including the installation of solar panels on the roof and northern façade of the building, timed air-conditioned cycles during the day and light sensitive bathrooms and amenities, which switch off automatically when not being used.

The fitout of the building features recycled and recyclable materials, low emissions finishes and sustainably sourced construction materials and natural products in paints, carpets, linoleum, vitrified tiles, eco blinds, PET pin boards, forest timbers and eco-wool fabrics.

The state-of-the-art Building Management System (BMS) monitors the performance of the building’s solar panels and air-conditioning system energy usage, helping to identify energy efficiencies. The real time display of the BMS encourages staff and students to think critically about energy usage.

The awards highlight the impact that an organisation’s innovative thinking can have on traditional structures. In Cameraygal’s case, the designers reinvented the building as a centre for learning and innovation.

The re-imagined building is fitted with the latest technology, and incorporates learning and study spaces, such as lecture and conference rooms, as well as open learning areas and breakout spaces. There are multiple connections between the learning spaces, creating a hub for the learning community. The world-class facilities are also becoming an important nerve centre at which industry partners can connect with the education industry. This combination of spaces caters for groups and individuals, and meets the varied learning needs of students from certificate level to degree qualifications, making it a valuable venue for training tomorrow’s workforce.

The green features with which the building is now endowed serve as a ‘living laboratory’ to aid teaching and learning in sustainability across the Institute. The high tech facilities are integrated into training for plumbing, electrical, horticulture and landscape construction students. Campuses collect and analyse data to improve sustainability, streamline business processes, save money and improve student satisfaction. The building is an example of best practice in action, both through environmental management and ongoing efforts to continually improve the campus landscapes, functionality and efficient resource use.

The Cameraygal Building redesign is the latest development in Northern Sydney Institute’s efforts to become a leader in environmental sustainability, and features a number of energy-saving measures. The Northern Sydney Institute has invested in both the study and practice of sustainability.

The building reflects the Institute’s long-term focus on environmental sustainability and commitment to sustainable practices. Its leading edge technology and environmental credentials set it apart from other structures.

Reducing the Institute’s carbon footprint has been a key priority for the past four years. The Institute has made great progress during this time, having undertaken a broad-scoped carbon inventory of all campuses, and seen quantifiable differences as a result.

Despite continually expanding the scope of carbon inventory reports every year, the Northern Sydney Institute has reduced its overall carbon footprint year-on-year. The Institute is preparing to expand the scope of carbon inventory items to include taxi use, staff vehicles and public transport used by staff and students to gain a greater understanding of its environmental impact.

In 2012, the Northern Sydney Institute became the first NSW public sector organisation, and one of just seven Australian organisations, to be recognised as a gold partner by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s Sustainability Advantage Program.

While the awards that the Cameraygal building’s redevelopment has received lend additional prestige to the Northern Sydney Institute’s St Leonards Campus, it is important to remember that the ultimate goal of the project was to use innovative technology and design to establish a leading educational facility, while also reducing the Institute’s overall environmental footprint. In this endeavour, all parties involved in the project have met with unequivocal success.

The author Alison Wood, is director of the Northern Sydney Institute which is part of TAFE NSW.


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