Education and research facilities exist on a vast spectrum and, as such, their sustainability profiles and the trends that are shaping their design can vary greatly. The design approach for a kindergarten classroom would vary substantially from that of a biotech laboratory, for example.

Nevertheless, this is a fascinating subset of architecture because it mandates an almost unique mixture of spaces that are meticulously crafted for a specific purpose, and flexible spaces that are designed to be used by all. When combined with the general prerogative for aesthetically appealing and effective use of space, we often come across some very interesting results.

When it comes to sustainability - as we said - the horizons are broad, but there are a few trends that are shaping the future landscape for this category.


Notwithstanding that Australia is home to the largest passivhaus building in the Southern Hemisphere in Monash University's Woodside Building for Technology and Design, this is a growing sustainability trend worldwide. The innovative use of renewable energy resources is combined with heat transfer technology to create functional spaces that are incredibly efficient while still prioritising comfort. Keeping people comfortable while using little energy is a core tenet of sustainable architecture - and a serious coup when it’s done to perfection.

Prefab classrooms

Anyone who’s been to school in Australia is familiar with the sight of a demountable classroom, to the point that they almost inspire a sense of nostalgic warmth when we see them. But the prefab classroom has come a long way. Many are now made using sustainably sourced wood to boost their sustainability profile, and increasingly they are being crafted to adhere to passivhaus standards as well - something that will be of great relief to any Australian who sat through 37 degree days in the traditional models.

Biophilic design

Across the education and research category, biophilic design is an omnipresent sustainability force. Whether it’s the carbon sequestration of responsibly sourced timber, the light and heating benefits of glass facades, or the reduced emissions of locally sourced stone, the effects (on both the environment and our perception) are profound.

There’s no doubt that from an architectural perspective, Australia’s educational and research facilities are among the most innovative and cutting-edge structures around - and we’re looking forward to seeing how that same spirit will be applied to improve their sustainability profiles in years to come.

To enter your education projects into the 2023 Sustainability Awards, click here.