University of Queensland Law School Upgrade, Australia

Improving the energy efficiency of a heritage building

Founded more than 80 years ago, the University of Queensland Law School (TC Beirne School of Law) is ranked highly in the World University Rankings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). The law building has seen the education and graduation of many lawyers and, in that regard, is a public icon.

The university is committed to modern university education for its students, and so the law school needed a building upgrade to provide fresh and modern facilities for the faculty.

Incorporating the new in a heritage building

Aurecon was engaged as the building services engineer and was very mindful of the building’s heritage listing. Working closely with architects, BVN, and the university, Aurecon has upgraded the building to reflect the historical aspect while also incorporating modern facilities.

The result is a building that has retained its charm of high ceilings and sandstone construction, while also incorporating emerging technologies in ventilation and air-conditioning systems, LED lighting and a new syphonic stormwater system.

Aurecon designed the installation of high-quality building services that included the air-conditioning and ventilation system, power reticulation, lighting, fire and hydraulic services. This involved demolishing internal sections of the building to remove aged and redundant plant, cabling, controls and supporting building services.

Overcoming challenges

Ceiling spaces in buildings are usually where building services are housed, out of view, however it was the client’s preference to retain the high ceilings of the existing building so the amount of ceiling space was minimal. In addition, the building was long and narrow which meant there wasn’t an abundance of floor space available for services.

Aurecon designed localised plant rooms and used motorised Variable Air Volume (VAV) diffusers in each of the enclosed office spaces within each building zone to provide comfort cooling. The in-ceiling duct depth was reduced so that only a small amount of ceiling space was used for the system.

The localised plant rooms also simplify plant maintenance for the university as it now has a dedicated space to access and maintain all plant items including air handling units, electrical duct heaters, outside air fans and services switchboards.

Aurecon’s lighting strategy was developed with BVN to highlight the architectural elements of the building. New electrical switchboards were installed to zone the reticulation, and two new communications equipment rooms were designed along with WIFI throughout the main wing of the building.

Fire sprinklers were discreetly fitted to allow the atrium to extend three levels up from the ground floor for a feeling of openness, and to capture the natural light.

The existing building roof was removed and replaced with a new roof to maximise the height of the top floor. The university being located in a sub-tropical region, prone to heavy rain falls at regular intervals during the summer season. Therefore, Aurecon designed a syphonic water drainage system that quickly discharges water from the roof and provides an overflow to minimise the risk of water leaks or flooding.

Improving energy efficiency

Aurecon identified the opportunity to save pump energy by adding a bypass to the law school’s replacement chilled-water pumps from the campus’ existing chilled water ring main. This will utilise the chilled water mains pressure and only require pump operation at the law school building during peak usage periods.

Additionally, Aurecon designed the central atrium of the building to be cooled via mechanical ventilation only – utilising relief air from the adjacent air-conditioned spaces. This removed the need to use energy to cool the atrium space directly.

The atrium has become a hub for the building as students and academics collaborate, learn and socialise in the space, in a comfortable temperature and humidity.

Aurecon designed energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the building as a replacement for archaic and inefficient lighting. The new lighting layout was modelled to provide reasonable lighting lux levels while minimising the energy demand. The use of task lighting and sensors for lighting control added to the energy improvements.

The collaboration between Aurecon, BVN and the university to achieve a high-quality finish and an environment that supports modern learning, while respecting the historic character of the building, contributed to the success of the upgrade.

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