RMIT will begin a new phase for the Design Hub with a project to incorporate the latest breakthroughs in solar technologies into its iconic façade.
Pro Vice-Chancellor Design and Social Context, Professor Paul Gough, said the initiative marked the first step in delivering on the building’s original proposition for a “smart-skin” façade, which can evolve together with advances in solar technology over the coming decades.
“The solar project will also support RMIT research and teaching in sustainable energy, realising the original vision of the building becoming a true ‘living laboratory’,” Gough said.
“The entire façade will be fitted with high performance interlayer toughened laminated glass, an initiative that will also improve the façade’s performance in terms of health and safety by addressing the issue of a small number of discs breaking since the building’s completion.
“While the original façade is fully certified and meets relevant building codes, health and safety is RMIT’s highest priority and we have been methodical and detailed throughout this process to ensure a quality outcome.”
Under the new phase, sections of the façade will incorporate Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), with the integration to be developed in collaboration with RMIT solar researchers. BIPVs are also manufactured using the same high performing interlayer.
“As well as generating power for the building, the BIPV will act as an applied learning and teaching showcase and a research test bed, advancing practical solar research,” Gough said.
“This approach to incorporate new solar technologies will continue and expand into the future across the building, as further innovation in this strategically important area of research becomes available.”
While its technological performance will advance, the appearance of the iconic façade will not change, maintaining design integrity.
Entering its fifth year of use, the Design Hub is one of Melbourne’s most recognisable – and awarded – new buildings.
It has brought a renewed focus on the critical role of design as a catalyst for innovation and growth, encouraging collaboration across disciplines and engaging thousands of people through its exciting public programs.
“The Design Hub was always intended to be beacon of what is possible in design and sustainability,” Gough said.
“This latest initiative will enhance the building’s already strong ESD credentials as well as taking advantage of breakthrough innovations in BIPV – the futuristic cousin of traditional rooftop solar panels – and in power storage.
“Technology has now caught up with the original vision for the Design Hub and we are excited to begin this next phase of the life of this landmark building.”
As a significant investment in sustainability, the upgrade aligns with RMIT’s $98 million plan to cut its energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions – the Sustainable Urban Precincts Program.
The eight-year program will reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30,000 tonnes and water use by 68 million litres, by implementing energy and water saving initiatives across RMIT’s three Melbourne campuses.
The program builds on a state government initiative to cut power and water use in public facilities.
The Design Hub façade project is expected to be completed by February 2017. The building will operate normally throughout this period.
Story: Gosia Kaszubska