Monash Woodside building for technology and design

26 July 2022

David Rowlinson

Currently the largest education building in the world to achieve Passive House certification, the louvred facade of Monash University’s transdisciplinary facility reflects the surrounding ironbark trees and eucalyptus flowers, while internally, its exposed structure teaches students about the intricacies of engineering.

The Woodside Building for Technology and Design by Grimshaw in collaboration with Monash University is a landmark building for the university’s Clayton campus. Following the completion of the new Suburban Rail Loop, it will also become a gateway to the university. At first glance, the Woodside Building appears as a refined, shed-like structure set within a native bush landscape. Its rectangular form is clad in a filigree of louvres to echo the colours and light of the surrounding river red gums. While actively demonstrating a multitude of energy-efficient design strategies, the project also represents the latest thinking in educational design.

As a large-scale, net zero carbon emissions, all-electric building, it more than exceeds Monash University’s net zero initiative, which commits it to net zero emissions by 2030. It is currently the largest education building in the world to achieve Passive House certification. But the multi-award-winning building also boasts a multitude of other sustainable design features and generates solar energy.

The five-storey building takes its name from Woodside, Australia’s largest supplier of natural gas, with whom Monash has partnered to research alternative energy forms. It is a transdisciplinary facility for undergraduate and post-graduate students, researchers, academic staff and departmental administration/executive leadership. The principal faculties are electrical engineering and information technology. The building’s modular steel frame, on a linear 7.2-metre grid, incorporates an extensive range of interconnected teaching, design and technology studios and research workspaces. These differentiated special volumes are grouped in clusters of laboratories to the west, learning/workplace/research spaces to the centre and collaboration spaces to the east. With the largest program of informal learning on the campus, the building also includes exposition and presentation spaces dedicated to industry partners.

Monash University’s Clayton campus – like many university campuses around Australia – has undergone a significant transformation over the last decade. It is now sprinkled with many exuberant buildings designed by the likes of ARM Architecture, Lyons and Kosloff Architecture, all of which are contributing to the university’s net zero initiative. Grimshaw’s latest addition sits outside of these narrative-driven expressions. Instead, it opts for a functionalist approach as a “living laboratory.”

The Woodside Building’s great strength is that it is an exceptional example of energy-efficient design and proof that large-scale education buildings can achieve net zero emissions. Achieving Passive House certification for a building of this scale is no easy feat. To achieve certification, a building must be able to be completely sealed off from the surrounding environment. In accordance with Melbourne’s climate, the Woodside Building can be completely closed on hot days and opened on clement days.

Article first appeared in Architecture Australia

Photo of the author: David Rowlinson
David Rowlinson

David hails from Lancashire, England and has lived in Australia since 1994. He studied Architecture at Sheffield University and also has an MBA from Macquarie University and a Master of Marketing from UNSW. Prior to joining Planet Ark in 2016 David was Marketing Manager then CEO of a major Sydney-based manufacturer of modular carpets used in all commercial building applications. His proudest achievement was the development of an industry-leading environmental sustainability agenda, including the unique Earthplus product reuse program.

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