BRIT Demonstration Centre

PMA’s design for the Demonstration Centre for a Technical and Further Education client in Victoria’s regional north-west is a flexible ‘Centre of Excellence’ space that engages with industry. Flexibility will be evidenced in the crossover of trades within the building and the evolving displays that will occur within.

The main access onto the site and campus will be via car. Other visitors will arrive by foot, bike, bus, train or tram. The building is oriented to maximize exposure to traffic along the main road and utilize the corner site. A glazed elevation, shaded by a wide overhanging eave, showcases sustainable building industry elements to public view, and signals the purpose of the Centre. The approach behind this siting owes as much to car showrooms as TAFE facility design.

PMA and GHD have workshopped the design of a Demonstration Centre building that showcases sustainable elements to students and the community and builds in the required design elements for a 6 Star Green Star building and site. The visitor will notice on-site water retention in the form of bioswales in the car parking area. A bike shed is located near the entry. Visitors will be encouraged to take an ‘eco-tour’ around the site before entering the building. The tour takes in: a black water treatment plant; a wetland hydrozoned for plants that features permaculture, aquaculture, drought tolerant plants and sustainable irrigation; overflow linked to the existing wetland and an ever changing garden display featuring organic mulches and a produce area.

Once at the east entry of the Centre visitors are encouraged to take stairs or the lift to the roof, where they can view the ‘permanent and temporary’ collection of sustainable building technologies. These elements are both part of the permanent energy production/ daylighting aspects of the building, as well as an ever changing suite of objects on display. These elements include: grid connected solar PV panels and tiles for hot water heating (which can be viewed from inside the Centre through the roof lights) , exhaust fans for purging warm air at night and assisting in ventilation as required; roof lights to increase daylighting internally, therefore minimizing artificial lighting costs and energy expenditure; automated sun shading louvres; CHAPS (Combined Heat And Power Solar) system; and the use of sustainable materials, or materials with low embodied energy such as Ecoply and Colorbond. Wind turbines on the roof are orientated to the prevailing winds.

Once inside the Centre visitors will view on a plasma screen in the entry the energy consumption and energy savings that the building achieves. Visitors will orient themselves via an adjacent Reception, and can attend forums, industry nights, trade demonstrations, conferences and lectures in the seminar room.

Visitors access the viewing platform from the foyer, where the intention of the Demonstration Centre becomes apparent. The Demonstration Space is a double height showroom, circumscribed by a ramp down which visitors descend and overlooked by display modules and platforms. Green building industry elements are on a continually changing display in the modules and platforms, on the walls of the Demonstration Space and on the floor. The ‘display modules’ of the building are of two types: fixed and movable. The movable modules are on hydraulic arms. This has two effects: firstly a module may need to be longer than usual for a particularly large piece of equipment; secondly the spatial configuration will be different each time a visitor returns to the Centre, therefore keeping the experience fresh. They are constructed of modular knock-down panels, which are assessed on a total life cycle basis: they are demounted and freighted to another site at the end of their effective life span at BRIT.

The space frame structural system offers two advantages: large free spanning column-free space and the ability to utilize the space frame itself as an exhibition display framework. Visitors descend the ramp and can view changing displays on the Demonstration Space floor, viewing both the sustainable elements of the building and the objects on display. PMA’s design harnesses the dramatic potential of arriving high up in a large volume and travelling down through the space.

The building envelope incorporates a ‘fat wall’ for air delivery. It provides thermal advantages, capacity for plumbing and is ‘future proofed’. The wall has slots at a low level: it’s a building that breathes. The concrete slab will utilize fly ash; other elements include recycled plastic bottles and wool for insulation.

Project status: did not proceed