Creating a sustainable and technologically advanced learning environment for the teachers and students of Box Hill Institute, Victoria was the rudimentary brief for Spowers architects, but combining these provisions created challenges. 

“The building brief was to create quality working and teaching environments that are sustainable, innovative, flexible, technologically advanced, workable, affordable, enjoyable, integrated and productive,” said the architects.

“The challenge was creating ’learning by doing’ spaces within a very confined footprint. Put simply the program was much larger than the space available.”

The new four-level building, ‘Building 7’, sits adjacent to a previous Spowers project (Building 8) and is connected via a pedestrian bridge. The architects explain that their intention was to continue the architectural discourse of its predecessor in form, scale and materiality all the while reinforcing the Elgar Road frontage. 

The double height ground floor workshop forms the heart of the facility and its exposed HVCA pipes, steel beams, concrete and block work begin the industrial theme of the building.

Building 7 will facilitate students from the building services and electro-mechanical technologies industries and Spowers endeavoured to create an industry-focussed and activated workspace over a variety of levels.

“The solution came as a series of self-contained curriculum “packages” that could be stacked, deployed and reshuffled much like containers dependant on the timetable,” said Spowers.

“Taking full advantage of its exposure to Elgar Road, the facility showcases a multivalent and innovative approach to contemporary vocational education that is highly aligned to industry requirements. 

“This approach provided a very dense, rich, activated workshop space, one which is all about transparency to the busy Elgar Rd frontage, creating a 24/7 public billboard.”

Not forgetting the client provision for sustainability measures, Spowers have delivered a design that has achieved a 5 star Green Star accreditation under GBCA’s Education Rating Tool V.2 (Design).

Beginning outside, it’s hard to miss the building’s composite aluminium façade that climbs towards the insulated skillion in two pieces before falling to the perforated shade screens below.

The centralised glass atria has a sophisticated low e IGU glazing solution that facilitates a low shading coefficient (SC) and high visible light transmittance (VLT) to the workspace.

The building’s interior climate is controlled by gas and electric multi-split (VRV) systems which are linked and digitally monitored by central building management system (BMS). 

That BMS also controls the automatic blinds which are linked to perimeter façade sensors, with time clock / temperature and occupant override controls.

Rounding out the sustainability features are the building’s T5 lighting, domestic solar hot water system and storage facilities and rainwater tank system. 

The project was an initiative of the Australian Government, conducted as part of the Education Investment Fund.

It was a recent entrant in the 2014 Victorian Architecture Awards.

Images: Dianna Snape.