Living labs

Living Labs


In line with RMIT’s objective to provide real-world experiences, drive industry connections and encourage sustainability engagement outside the classroom, the Sustainability Team support a range of 'Living Lab' projects which leverage the campus as a learning tool.

Tiny House Exhibition

The Tiny House Exhibition was the first curation in the new Sustainability Space, which commenced with a Tiny House Warming to recognise all the hard work that made this project come to life, followed by a successful month-long exhibition which attracted great interest. The Tiny House Warming was an opportunity to showcase the final product that resulted from a living lab collaboration with the School Vocational Design and Social Context and the RMIT Sustainability Team.

Students’ work focused on what could be found inside a Tiny House ranging from modular, multi-functional furniture to sustainable fibres and prints made into soft furnishings. The focus of the project was to predominantly use upcycled and repurposed materials in new and interesting ways, as well as integrating sustainability into every aspect of product design.

Tables and chairs inside the Tiny House

Textile Design students were asked to research global and domestic trends in sustainable interior textile products, highlighting any design or material innovations in technology or manufacturing. The research phase was critical in the development of their collections as they became aware of current trends in interior sustainability and it highlighted some very exciting designers and innovative material use. They then set out to develop two textile collections; one for printed textiles and one for constructed textiles. The emphasis was on incorporating sustainable design strategies and think about circularity and repurposing.

Furniture Design Students’ brief investigated the growing demand from customers who are choosing to live in small living spaces because of lifestyle, economic or environmental benefits. Students were required to demonstrate how their design affects the physical, social and cultural environments into which it will be implemented. This brief was also about making sustainability central to problem-solving within new furniture designs and developments to minimise the footprint and impact on natural resources. Part of designer-ethics is to understand your impact on current and future generations. Graphic Design students focused on designing a suite of brand assets to accompany the Tiny House display. All groups were supported by industry experts and benefited from working as cross-disciplinary teams to produce the final products to a high standard.

Watch the below video and go behind the scenes of the Tiny House project

Students carrying wall frame for tiny house

Tiny House video

Each year the Sustainability Team support student learning by providing guest lectures, giving campus tours and supporting projects. Many of the projects supported came from the Greenhouse and Sustainability Program, which connects RMIT students with industry to implement sustainability projects. It aims to provide students from across the University with meaningful opportunities to apply their learning to real-world sustainability challenges.

Projects previously supported by the Sustainability Team include:


Climate Resilience Projects

Students from Masters of Environmental Science & Technology were asked to explore the relationship between extreme climate change events and student health, safety & wellbeing. The RMIT Climate Change Adaptation plan identified an opportunity to better understand the impacts of severe climate change events on the RMIT student population. The project made recommendations on how RMIT could assist students in becoming more resilient. Key focus areas included transport options, student accommodation, on-campus comfort, support available to students and education programs.

Final year engineering students undertake a Capstone Project with industry that provides an authentic, challenging, yet achievable problem-solving engineering experience. All engineering Capstone Projects are presented at EnGenius, a major industry showcase held in October. students from Civil engineering were engaged on a Project with the Sustainability Team to assess campus vulnerability to serve weather and climate change and make suggestions for new specification in the Design Standards for landscaping features that would help shape more resilient campuses. the Design Standards is a set of specifications that set out the minimum requirements for the Design and construction of All RMIT facilities, with the students proposing elements such as green facades and water sensitive urban Design solutions.


Green Travel Planning

Students from the Master of Business Information Technology undertook a Green Travel Plan Project, which aimed to inform the way staff, students and visitors travel to and from the Bundoora Campus at RMIT. The project had a broad scope which studied various issues around the subject of staff and student travel, including policy context, current situation and future projections, existing and future road/transport networks, modes of transport and a communication plan for behaviour change. They were then tasked with recommending a business IT solution that supports green, sustainable travel to campus.

Students from the Computer Science & Software Engineering program built upon the findings of the Business Information Technology student work to design a Sustainable Transport android mobile app. The app used gamification and incentive-based rewards to encourage students and staff of RMIT Bundoora campus to use more sustainable methods of travel to and from the University. In the demonstration version of the app, students and staff could be rewarded for using sustainable methods of travel by receiving points that could be used to obtain prizes or discounts on-campus, with a leader board designed to encourage uptake and competitiveness.

The Sustainability Committee and Property Services have supported a number of public art-based projects and exhibitions which engage the community on sustainability issues.

Examples include:


David Greybeard

A large-scale public artwork of iconic chimpanzee David Greybeard, made famous by scientist Dr Jane Goodall, is set to bring wildlife conservation to the fore in Melbourne (on hold due to COVID-19). Created by artist and RMIT alumnus Lisa Roet, the nine by twelve metre inflatable sculpture of the chimpanzee, David Greybeard, was handmade in Melbourne during lockdown, the work is supported by RMIT, Creative Victoria and the Jane Goodall Institute Australia, and commemorates the 60th anniversary of Goodall’s first research expedition.

The link between humans and animals has been a central focus in Roet’s work for over 30 years, with Goodall’s research a regular feature. The work will allow people to explore habitat and species protection through large-scale public art, bring a new perspective to sustainability and act as a vehicle for change.

Read more in the news article Artist and alumnus Lisa Roet makes conservation larger than life.

The Campus as a Canvas

The city is an ever-changing and limitless realm of possibility. It’s a clustering of human activity which generates a propulsive and relentless energy. And while this can be a positive possibility, the city also encroaches, stifles and burdens those who inhabit it. That anxiety – and the need for reprieve – sits at the heart of BiodiverCity, a piece of work by RMIT architecture student Esther van Noppen.

This artwork was developed as part of the ‘Activating Construction Sites’ elective, hosted by RMIT’s School of Art and School of Architecture and Urban Design. In the elective, students explored the relationships between RMIT and the landscapes and communities the University is a part of. Unfolding over 17 metres of hoardings wrapped around the heritage restoration of the Francis Ormond Building (Building 1), BiodiverCity presents the flora and fauna of RMIT’s City campus, superimposed and expanded, over the backdrop of its built environment. Built from photos taken by van Noppen onsite and manipulated to create a distorted reality, the work highlights the role of the natural world within the hustle and bustle of the urban landscape. For van Noppen, producing such a public-facing work is a chance to create a moment of pause for the citizens of the CBD, instigating a moment of reflection and contemplation.

Read more in the DSC news article Activating construction sites.

Fielding Exhibition

A research project and public art installation, ‘Fielding’, was on display at the RMIT City campus. The exhibition spanned landscape architecture, science, art and sound design and featured an installation of native plants and a curated soundscape.

Curated by staff and students, the project brought nature to the city in non-traditional forms. This exhibition was part of the Designing Greening Spaces for Biodiversity and Human Wellbeing project.

Read more in the news article Urban greening installation improves wellbeing.

Empire of Dirt

Empire of Dirt art installation drew its form, content and context directly from a soil sample taken from the site of RMIT’s New Academic Street when it was under construction. The site-responsive research project was created in collaboration with Dist. Prof Andy Ball from the School of Science -Environmental Biotechnology Group, Dr Fiona Scholes Industrial Innovation Program CSIRO, renowned artist James Geurts, the School of Art and the NAS Project Team’s Urban Animators program. Under a microscope the sample revealed the ecology dynamics and the complex symbiosis of microorganisms in their process of dealing with introduced anomalies. Shaping the conversation between existing soil and the introduced elements such as micro-plastics, pollutants and metals informed the shape, dynamic and symbolism of this public sculpture.

Empire of Dirt sculptures engaged the public’s imagination of what is already present in the site, in the darkness and complexity of the living earth beneath our feet, and proposes how the biology may adapt to survive the current ecological tipping point of the Earth. It created a narrative of how future microbiological insects in the RMIT zone have evolved and transformed the soil fabric into giant complex living structures, similar to the great termite mounds of the Northern Territory. The soil fabric is imagined to be a hybrid of contemporary building materials, plastics, metals, polycarbonates, bioluminescent glass and other reformed earth materials.

Read more about Empire of Dirt.

The Sustainable Urban Precinct Program created a legacy of learning beyond the life of the project by investing $4.8M into Learning, Teaching, Research and student engagement projects. SUPP supported five learning and teaching projects, six interdisciplinary research projects and 10 PhD scholarships. SUPP allowed RMIT to accelerate skills development, enhance research capabilities and develop career pathways for students into related industries. Students and researchers have leveraged the project to develop new world-leading, innovative and collaborative multi-disciplinary sustainability initiatives supported by strong industry linkages.

The scholarship projects were as follows:

Buildings Engineered for Urban Sustainability

School of Property Construction and Project Management and the School of Computer Science and Information Technology

Inhabiting Buildings - Embedding Sustainability into RMIT Culture (two scholarships)

Digital Ethnography Research Centre, School of Media and Communication and the Centre for Urban Research, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies

Powering Future Cities - Information Systems for Shaping Energy Use Behaviour

School of Business IT and Logistics

Powering Future Cities - Information Management for Automated Energy Control in Green Buildings

School of Computer Science and Information Technology

Powering Future Cities - Smart Demand Side Management Support System

Platform Technologies Research Institute

Enhanced Microgrid with Sustainable Energy Storage for Peak Load Levelling

School of Engineering

iCO2mmunity - Designing Adaptive and Responsive Environments for Greener Behaviours

School of Computer Science and Information Technology

iCO2mmunity: Context Aware Activity, Monitoring and Analytics for a Greener Campus

School of Computer Science and Information Technology

Technical Evaluation of a Trigeneration and Cogeneration Systems

School of Engineering


Find out more about the Sustainable Urban Precincts Program.

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.