A series of green wall installations surround Monash University’s refurbished Civil Engineering Hydraulics Laboratory—a visual manifestation of the activities that take place within the facility.
Designed by ASPECT Studios in collaboration with DesignInc and Irwinconsult, the reinvented lab showcases the university’s research into water harvesting and recycling innovations, and demonstrates its commitment to transforming grey urban areas into green, liveable and productive spaces.
“The ‘Living Lab’ is a flexible platform for testing technologies required to create a water sensitive city,” ASPECT Studios explain. The green installations are the cherry on top, making it a “true living laboratory”.
At the heart of these living installations is a scaffold that was introduced to the curtilage of the existing structure. This façade is complemented by a number of green walls and vertical gardens, which have been integrated within the building envelope, and allow for the collection and sampling of irrigation discharge.
Acting as a public-facing design element, these green walls can also be modified to suit the university’s research agenda in the future.
According to Monash, the walls are fed using rainwater collected from the roof of the Living Lab facilities, which is then stored in a large underground tank located underneath the premises.
“The watering system is fully automated but also allows for manual settings,” Monash explains.
Meanwhile, the green roofs are each equipped with a cabinet where monitoring equipment can be installed for further experiments.
“All walls can be independently tested using various water quality and water sources, as well as watering regimes,” the university adds.
Also included in the project are a number of ground level rain gardens that demonstrate the water sensitive urban design (WSUD) objectives the lab is encouraging the city to adopt. This is coupled with permeable pavements that showcase the usefulness, look and performance of these WSUD elements in public spaces.
Taking home the 2018 Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture (AILA) Award for Research, Policy and Communications, the living lab has been lauded for its ability to combine building and landscape as one adaptive, expandable research platform.
“Monash Living Lab makes a remarkable contribution to sustainable, relational and productive design, with great benefits for practitioners and industry. Using green wall infrastructure to promote and showcase research into planting, biofiltration and water quality improvements, the design is thoughtful and encourages participation with systems that are often hidden,” the AILA jury praised.
“Its activation of the demonstrative qualities of sustainable design will lead to further public investigation into this innovative and necessary landscape type for built environments within Australia.”