The Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs has been awarded both the Award for Sustainable Architecture and Public Building commendation by the Royal Australian Institute of Architects .

The design process involved lengthy collaboration between the traditional owners and custodians, the Arrente Aboriginal Community and the various users including Flinders University, SA and the Northern Territory University and the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal and Tropical Health.

Australian architectural firm Woodhead International in association with local architect Brendan Meney incorporated the site's proximity to sacred sites with the use of organic materials like rammed earth and timber combined with urban elements of corrugated iron, masonry and metal.

"The sacred sites had a major influence in the overall design of the facility and its integration into the surrounding landscape," said Woodhead International Principal, David King-Jones."The result stands as a testament to the progress that has been made between the various communities here in Central Australia."

Unlike most tertiary facilities, the complex intentionally moves away from the usual institutional appearance. Instead of a grand, main entrance there are a number of smaller entry points, adding a user-friendly atmosphere. Even the landscaping has been incorporated into the design with the inclusion of a bush medicine/traditional health garden.

Brendan Meney said particular attention was given to ventilation and cooling given the extreme climate of the region. The east and west walls have venting skins. Lightweight vent blade walls have been attached to sand filled concrete block walls to counter summer solar gain. The main walls absorb the solar gain, then exhaust it through the vents, rather than transfer the heat to the interior of the building. Cross ventilation is provided to all central areas.

In conjunction with the under floor air system the ceiling space is being utilised as a solar chimney to assist in drawing air through the internal spaces and exhausting via thermo statically controlled, motorised roof vents on the west side of the complex.

The project team comprised:

Architects: Woodhead International in association with Brendan Meney

Engineers: GHD

Quantity Surveyors: Currie and Brown

Project Manager: Flinders University

Contractor: Probuild (NT) Pty Ltd

Owner: Flinders University of South Australia/Northern Territory University.