A dynamic glass façade on the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) headquarters in Geelong has achieved 6-star Green Star and 5-star NABERS ratings thanks to its environmentally conscious design. Also known as ‘The Carlton Project’ as it’s located on the original 1930s Carlton Hotel site, this 15,000-square-metre construction designed by Woods Bagot is the first government building of this scale to relocate to the area, dramatically boosting local employment.

An impressive 3,000-square-metre façade of Suntuitive ‘dynamic’ Insulating Glass Units (IGUs) manufactured by Glassworks Australia and installed by Minesco, has contributed significantly to the NDIS HQ’s green credentials.

Suntuitive is a Solar Responsive Thermochromic interlayer, laminated in glass and made into an IGU. It is the only dynamic glass of its kind in Australia that can self-tint based solely on the intensity and position of the sun. When the sun is at its strongest, the glass darkens to limit the heat and glare entering the building; in the absence of direct sunlight, it returns to its minimally tinted state to optimise heat gain and natural light at all times.

How the Suntuitive IGU glazing solution benefited the NDIS project:

Dynamic performance benefits

Suntuitive adjusts the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) and Visible Light Transmittance (VLT) to the changing needs of the building during the course of the day or between seasons. The Crystal Grey version specified for the NDIS building has a variable SHGC of 0.11-0.24 and a VLT of 5-36%. By comparison, even the highest performing low-E IGUs or permanent dark tints would offer fixed performance, thereby compromising thermal control or visibility.

Energy saving benefits

The building is better able to be naturally temperature controlled – an aspect that has been factored into the build phase with a smaller HVAC system, resulting in ongoing power savings as well as significant advantages for occupant comfort.

Natural lighting benefits

In the absence of direct sunlight, the window is at its minimally tinted state to preserve the view and allow natural light to enter the interior space. However, in full sun when the window is at its darkest tint, there is sufficient natural light entering the building, minus the glare.

Aesthetic benefits

Dynamic glazing allows for the design freedom to eliminate fixed overhangs or mechanical louvres to achieve the desired energy saving effect. The façade is also easier on the eye than a permanent dark tint and allows the transparency sought in the design.

The Suntuitive façade

Unique to the façade is a large distinctive white Ceramic Frit design around the podium, reminiscent of Edward Giles Stones’ famous Barwon Aqueduct structure that put Geelong on the map for its unique structural design. This podium feature is made up of a series of individually designed and glazed panels coming together to form a bold and eye-catching pattern. Flawless coordination between the manufacturer Glassworks, builder Kane Construction and fabricator Minesco was required to ensure a seamless pattern that accurately captured the architectural intent.

The new NDIS HQ has prioritised inclusion and comfort for their employees in the building’s design. Woods Bagot utilised the sector-specific expertise of accessibility consultants Architecture and Access with over 20 years’ experience in removing barriers to participation and preventing disability discrimination in the built form. According to Woods Bagot, the use of solar responsive glazing allows visibility and openness in the office, without ‘hiding’ the building using sun shading devices. Since some of the employees are visually impaired, the prevention of unwanted glare by Suntuitive presented a significant bonus.

Glassworks general manager Michael Gleeson celebrates this landmark project as one that will encourage the adoption of dynamic glazing in future commercial projects. “Some clients are perturbed by the initial investment as it is a premium product. However, this is offset by eliminating blinds and the energy savings it provides over time, not to mention occupant comfort, which you can’t put a price on,” concludes Gleeson.