Old Quadrangle Redevelopment Project, Australia


Old Quadrangle Redevelopment Project, Australia

The oldest building to have first Australian application of Passive House

  • Aurecon services: Project management and superintendent, overseeing Passive House EnerPHit Design
  • Client: University of Melbourne
  • Project team: Lovell Chen, Kane Constructions

Restored to its former glory, Old Quad re-emerges as the heart of the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus and the first Australian application of Passive House EnerPhit design criteria to a heritage building.

With its iconic archways and bold architectural presence, the Old Quadrangle (Old Quad) is the oldest building on the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus and endures as the strongest connection to the university’s fledgling years.

Originally built in classic Tudor style as a teaching space for students and a home for professors, the building has supported and sustained the university’s growth for more than 165 years.

Today, Old Quad has embarked on a new chapter, preserving the heritage features while adhering to the university’s aspirations to implement a forward-thinking sustainability approach as part of its overall commitment to lead, and act on, the challenges of global sustainability and climate change.

The extensive restoration project largely returned the north areas of the east wing to their original layout, reaffirming Old Quad’s place as the cultural, civic, engagement and ceremonial heart of the university.

This video is made available courtesy of The University of Melbourne

Aurecon was the project manager and superintendent for the restoration works, also overseeing the management of the Passive House EnerPHit Design criteria application and stakeholder engagement process. This project represents a significant shift in thinking around what is possible with regards to alternative sustainability approaches.

Navigating the complex redevelopment

Old Quad was an example of a complex redevelopment project with many competing challenges faced by the project team including:

  • First application in Australia of the adaptive re-use model Passive House EnerPHit to a building of state and national heritage significance
  • The ageing conditions of the building’s original features
  • The building being listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and all works, both internal and external, subject to permit approval from Heritage Victoria
  • Cost pressures of refurbishing a heritage building
  • Accessibility to the site

The first heritage-listed Passive House building in Australia

Old Quad is the first application in Australia of the adaptive re-use model Passive House EnerPHit to a building of state and national heritage significance. Passive House is a voluntary, internationally recognised, building design criteria to achieve high-quality, low-energy indoor environments, and is starting to gain traction in Australia with engineers, designers and architects.

Its foundation is that a building can be used in the traditional way of opening doors and windows when required, with the indoor environment built to a high standard that continues to sustainably manage occupant health and comfort. Aurecon has experience applying Passive House principles to a number of projects, including the Woodside Building for Technology and Design, the largest educational building in the world to achieve Passive House certification.

Key to a Passive House application is building operation that requires only minimal supplementary heating or cooling, achieved with:

  • Unbroken super insulation
  • Thermal bridge-free construction
  • Triple-glazed windows
  • Airtight building envelope
  • Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery

Many challenges were faced in the application of these guidelines on Old Quad, requiring the blending of new technologies into the heritage structure and facade.

The building now has a passive heating and cooling strategy that allows for more controlled temperature, reducing the reliance on the building services. These works were prototyped on-site to establish the exact detailing, ensuring the existing heritage elements and building fabric would not be adversely impacted by the installation of such systems.

Through the adoption of Passive House energy requirements, heating and cooling has significantly reduced by up to 70 per cent each year, when compared to other buildings of similar size. This reduces the rate at which equipment experiences ’wear and tear’, meaning components last longer and require less replacement, or change-over, resulting in a longer lifespan of the plant and equipment overall.

The Australian Institute of Architects recognised the project with the 2020 Victorian Award for Sustainable Architecture, noting:

“As 90 per cent of all building stock is pre-existing, the act of improving the environmental performance of existing buildings is of vital importance in improving our cities, especially when so many old buildings have incredibly poor environmental performance. The Old Quad refurbishment is an exemplary demonstration of what is possible, given sufficient skill.”

The refurbished building has created flexible exhibition and event spaces and will enable greater use of the facility while achieving the conservation of the original details. It is open to the public to preserve history for future generations and share the university’s story in how it developed and evolved over the years.

Advocating for clear communication

With an analytical and client-focused approach, Aurecon strove to achieve a best-for-client outcome that involved multiple stakeholders in the decision-making process of the refurbishment of Old Quad.

Open and regular reporting throughout the course of the project meant that issues were resolved promptly. With detailed project analysis and control, expectations around completion were effectively managed, and took into consideration the latent conditions and buildability challenges of this historic building.

Aurecon was able to draw on its previous projects, such as the Melbourne School of Design, to advocate for the university’s intent for sustainable buildings with lower operating costs and improved user comfort as well as fewer carbon emissions.

Managing accessibility on a complex site

More than 50 000 pedestrians move through the heart of the Parkville campus each day and, for the project, it was the only access point to reach the Old Quad. This meant the refurbishment required a clear focus on safety to manage pedestrian and vehicle movements daily. Site challenges were overcome by a strong team presence on-site to lead the learning, understanding, construction and issue resolution aspects of the project.

Making safety the forefront of the project, Aurecon ensured clear communication with stakeholders to bring and remove materials and equipment from the site in a safe manner.

The Old Quad refurbishment uncovered the history upon which the University of Melbourne is built. It is providing a vibrant and welcoming refreshed building to the campus and the community, and is a leading example of a highly sustainable project that has been intertwined into a heritage building.


The project has won the following awards:

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