The Science Place, designed by HASSELL, is transforming scientific research, undergraduate education and postgraduate training at James Cook University’s Townsville campus in tropical northern Australia.

As the instantly recognisable ‘home of science’ on campus, the building links current and future scientists – previously dispersed around the campus in a variety of disconnected facilities – in one concentrated, central hub that’s bursting with activity and primed for growth.

Bringing together the university’s chemistry, bio-chemistry and biology research cohorts for the first time, the building combines research-led learning on the lower two levels with dedicated scientific research on the upper two floors – all linked by stacked atrium spaces and a central open stair accessible to all.

The building forms a key node on the central academic green activated with a cluster of cafés and a lecture theatre, connected to the building’s extensive informal learning hub on the lower levels. The hub – which gives students a place to call their own – connects problem-based learning studios and the super labs above.

HASSELL Principal Mark Roehrs says the consolidation of science disciplines under one roof is pivotal not only for learning but also overall student experience.

“We’ve seen a surge in the desire to house STEM activities under the one roof as a way to increase cross-disciplinary education and knowledge sharing, and The Science Place is a prime example of achieving this goal. This not only makes sense from a building and asset point of view, but also for student experience as it increases interaction,” says Roehrs.

The building’s infrastructure includes two 150-seat ‘super labs’ for chemistry and biology – able to accommodate varying simultaneous class sizes and subjects, dramatically increasing space utilisation. Flexible research labs, which are physically and visually connected to lab support areas and open offices, give the university spaces that can be adapted to meeting changing needs over time.

According to HASSELL, the Science Place is setting the standard for sustainable design, having earned Australia’s first LEED Gold rating for an education building.

The building has received LEED Gold certification for a range of environmentally sustainable design and construction features.

This included energy efficiency initiatives appropriate to the tropical environment, solar PV, optimised façade, use of low-emitting materials, ensuring Certified Wood use and including the recovery and recycling of 93.5 per cent of all demolition and construction materials, a new record for a large development in Townsville.