Bendigo has a new police headquarters and it’s certain to put some spring into the step of the local constabulary.

A lightweight construction, the building combines steel, glass and pre-finished cement sheet with pre-cast concrete panels. A horizontal waistline on the south-west elevation is repeated on the north-west main road (High Street) elevation and sculpts a concave envelope with a glazed overhang.

The idea of sustainability appears as a wholly integrated idea and in this respect the use of glazing to absorb light yet be resistant to heat is a central tenet of the design.

In plan and elevations the building provides vital clues about its performance from the delta-shaped multi-dimensional glass ‘facades’, operable clerestory roof to the variation in clear and translucent glazing on the western staff entry.

Landscaped courtyards fragment the usual zone between ‘us’ and ‘them’ on the main High Street public access elevation. It is a building without fences other than for police vehicle parking to the rear.

This intersection of glazed delta shape glass blades as double facades powerfully addresses its two primary street elevations with the most prominent feature being the visually distinguished, inclined glass.

This cavity between the dual glazed ‘facades’ is planted with climbers supported on vertical wires to create a terrarium effect. Relief air for the supply of the double façade is supplied from the main atrium via the office spaces, or from low-level vents.

Project principal Greg Anson of FMSA Architects notes that a culture of openness and transparency was noticeable throughout the design process. Such an extensive use of glazing had other benefits including its active ESD response.

“The glass eyelids are an environmental device designed to reduce energy consumption by seasonal shading of the western and northern inner facades. This creates a controllable, thermal buffer where windows can be opened to access cleaner, cooler or warmer air (depending on the season) without the potential traffic noise and security issues," Anson says.

“We were encouraged to project an image of visibility and presence. We had to juggle those delicate roles of transparency and security. A decade ago this sort of expansion could have easily resulted in an inflated box with a deep floor-plate and none of the ESD or amenity issues you see today,” Anson observes of the free-wheeling version that, “challenges expectations.”

A central void and clerestory draws light and assists with ventilation. Accessible by perimeter corridor, footbridges and stairs, Anson points to the success of such circulation zones as a way of encouraging informal and unplanned meetings.

Even with its sizeable floor-plate, orientation is that much simpler as is the general awareness of the external environment. Primary surfaces are pre-cast concrete walls ‘decorated’ with an appropriately golden acoustic panelled motif that has a playful ambiguity - a slash of sunlight or very rich vein of gold. While pleased with the design progress made Anson says “It’s not quite perfect.

There are still too many small rooms and offices. From a cultural point of view we’re trying to further break down and overcome that traditional hierarchy of divided offices and work areas.”

It’s a fair point, while most rooms link effortlessly to the trees and light, some of the operational areas appear to retreat into their former corporate ways. Projects such as the Bendigo Police Station demonstrate how buildings are effectively shedding mass to become thinner, lighter and ultimately ‘Greener’.

Thermal mass is used where it is needed at its base. Bulk is on the way out in favour of lighter, light-filled buildings with a luminous amenity. Being highly automated and integrated with manual overrides the facility operates as a smart working environment.

When windows are open, the air conditioning system shuts down and other building components respond accordingly. Automated windows, lighting controls, blinds, ceiling fans, façade venting and other mechanical systems are all controlled by the building management systems. Rainwater is collected for landscape irrigation and car washing.