Sustainable buildings

Sustainable buildings

RMIT aims to create sustainable and inclusive spaces that enhance the experience and wellbeing of our people and have a positive impact on our surrounding environment and society.

Sustainable spaces

Take a virtual tour through RMIT's spaces to learn about the sustainability features implemented into the design and operations of our spaces.

RMIT sustainable spaces

Sustainable Design Principles

The RMIT Sustainable Design Principles provide specific guidance for designers and consultants in capital projects to ensure industry best practice sustainable outcomes are achieved throughout the lifecycle of RMIT's new and existing spaces. RMIT aims to achieve sustainable outcomes in capital projects by encouraging design and operation practices that promote: - passive design to reduce building energy consumption - materials selection that prioritise low toxicity, supply chain transparency and low environmental impacts. - the principles of a circular economy - active and sustainable transport - the health and wellbeing of all occupants. All of these outcomes are embedded in our project management processes and the RMIT Design Standards.

Green Star

As a founding member of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), RMIT has a longstanding commitment to the Green Star rating tool. RMIT currently has seven buildings with a Green Star rating and is targeting an eighth. RMIT's Green Star rated buildings include:

Integrated Management Systems

As part of the Operations Portfolio, Property Services is responsible for operating, maintaining and enhancing all RMIT's built environment. Property Services, home to the Sustainability Team, is focused on providing quality and sustainable built environments to support all of RMIT University’s activities.

In 2019, Property Services received certification for its integrated management system which formally brought together environmental management (ISO 14001), occupational health and safety (ISO 45001), quality (ISO 9001), asset management (ISO 55001) and facilities management (ISO 41001).

The ISO 14001 accreditation allows RMIT to comprehensively manage immediate and long-term environmental impacts of its building portfolio. The integrated management system provides greater assurance of service delivery outcomes for our stakeholders and reflects RMIT’s commitment towards continuous improvement in operations.

Feature projects

Our Place

OurPlace is located at 222 Lonsdale Street across levels 5, 6 & centralising over 1,000 RMIT Operations Portfolio staff members into one collaborative workspace. At over 10,000 m2, the large floor plate is divided into neighbourhoods with various phrases, names and stories.

Indigenous Reconciliation was a key objective of OurPlace and was a fundamental part of the architect's design work. Throughout the design process, the OurPlace designers worked closely and often with Boon Wurrung elder Carolyn Briggs and Professor Mark McMillan the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Indigenous Education and Engagement. The materials and colours in the spaces represent the six Boon Wurrung seasons.

Embedding environmentally sustainable design and operational features were a priority for OurPlace and the fitout has achieved a 5 Star Green Star v1.2 Interiors rating. Achieving the 5 Star Green Star Interiors v1.2 rating has demonstrated that the design, construction and operations of OurPlace has met 'Australian excellence' sustainability standards.

Notable sustainability initiatives at OurPlace include:

  • 100% of OurPlace electricity comes from renewable energy supplied from the newly built Crowlands windfarm in regional Victoria.
  • Enhanced building automation to ensure that energy and water consumption is minimised. This includes; temperature and lighting control, and IT & AV equipment shut down after hours.
  • The lighting control has been designed to maximise natural daylight in the space. - Particulate and toxins from paints, sealants, carpets, furniture and cleaning products have been minimised. 
  • Indoor plants have been evenly distributed throughout OurPlace to ensure that people still feel connected to nature when they are inside the building.
Indoor plants in Our Place building

New Academic Street (NAS)

RMIT transformed the City campus in 2017, refurbishing ‘brownfield’ buildings within a live environment. Re-imagining 32,000 square metres of new and refurbished space inside four 1960s-designed buildings on Swanston Street.

The ‘New Academic Street’ (NAS) project has integrated a new major entry point for the university, as well as a variety of arcades and laneways to open up large sections of the existing façade. In keeping with Melbourne’s laneway culture, these arteries provide clear way-finding and urban experiences and enable greater connectivity to the rest of the campus and with Melbourne’s CBD including public transport links.

An additional 4,600 seats were created throughout the campus precinct for study and relaxation, resulting in a vibrant hub that provides a strong student experience. The university library was expanded by 44% and incorporates a mixture of spaces for informal learning, quiet reflection and collaboration.

The application of environmentally sustainable design strategies ensures a comfortable internal environment to support formal and informal learning, using both natural and mechanical ventilation schemes so that more favourable outdoor weather conditions can permeate the building. Occupant comfort is monitored using sensors and actuators and is enhanced in winter and summer using ceiling fans and gas heaters.

Embracing the concept of ‘Adaptive Re-use,’ the lower levels of the existing concrete-encased steel buildings were stripped back, with floor levels demolished and reinforced structural steel installed enabling the buildings to withstand the changing loads and use created by new adjoining structures, stairways, laneways, glass-covered arcades, balconies and terraces.

Image of NAS garden building Image credit: Tess Kelly

 The floor plates were fully repurposed to meet the needs of current and future students. Large dark two-storey lecture theatres are now innovative, light and comfortable tiered student study spaces. Once impermeable façades, they are now opened up resulting in a blurring of the outdoor and indoor environments. The new four-storey Garden Building and Terrace has been integrated into the campus, creating additional social spaces for staff and students. Built using lower impact cross- laminate timber, the building is characterised by the widespread use of greenery and open garden space to enhance the urban environment. Other sustainability initiatives include thermal heat recovery, water-sensitive urban design and a creation of linked open-air terraces on level 7 of the buildings creating easy access to open air, planted green rooftop spaces for students and staff. The sustainability principles upon which the project is based complete the picture, with the project rated 5-star under the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Interiors (pilot) tool.

The multi-award-winning Swanston Academic Building (SAB) provides a world-class facility, comprising some 35,000m2 of floor space over 12 levels and home to 850 academic and administration staff and 6,000 students. A key objective for the SAB project was to demonstrate leadership excellence in sustainable design and innovation. Ensuring that the provision and utilisation of physical space delivered low resource consumption – aligning with the University’s carbon emissions reduction target.

The key sustainability features of the 5* Green Star design rated building include:

  • Demand-based Control Ventilation (DCV) - technology which improves air quality while saving energy.
  • A ‘virtual’ chiller connected to the RMIT precinct - central plant provides 15% greater efficiency than standard.
Fans and lights on wall Inside SAB building
  • The Building Management System (BMS) is connected to the timetabling system to provide HVAC, lighting and shading based on outside conditions, room bookings and occupancy levels.
  • Rainwater and greywater systems capture water for irrigation and toilet flushing, reducing potable water demand by 90% for landscaping and 60% overall.
  • Student portals are naturally ventilated, using a mix-mode system that operates with external weather conditions and student control.
  • Student portals and circulation spaces provide a ‘breathing building’ infrastructure for ventilation and give access to light and orientation to within the deep floor plate.
  • The building has been designed to promote the use of low energy modes of vertical transport – with stairs and escalators located centrally in building under the light filled atrium rather than the lifts which are offset to the side. - Solar panels are used to preheat the water for the building
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. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer