The University of Melbourne Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity is, like its namesake, esteemed Nobel Prize Laureate Peter Doherty AC, expanding the horizons of medical research.

Achieving a 5 Star Green Star – Education Design v1 certification in October 2012, ‘the Doherty’, as it is known, will be one of the world’s most advanced infectious disease research facilities, housing the University of Melbourne’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, Life Sciences Computation Initiative, the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, and more.

Medical research facilities are traditionally among the most resource-intensive buildings, both during construction and in operation. The Doherty breaks new ground for research facility design however, with state-of-the-art laboratories, teaching and collaboration spaces that are not only energy- and water-efficient, but which prioritise the health and wellbeing of the students and researchers that will use them.

Chris White, the University of Melbourne’s Executive Director of Property and Campus Services, explains that the Doherty’s Green Star certification is a practical demonstration of the University’s commitment to the provision of advanced learning environments and carbon-neutrality within 20 years.

“In 2007, the University committed to reducing its energy use by 50 per cent within three years and achieving a minimum 5 Star Green Star rating on all new major buildings and a 4 Star Green Star rating on all major building upgrades. Further ambitious targets were established for 2011–2015 to reduce energy and water usage, net emissions and waste to landfill, with an aspiration to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.”

“As an education and research community, the University of Melbourne is strongly committed to principles of sustainability in on-campus building development, day-to-day teaching and learning practices, and all our professional work. The Doherty is an exciting opportunity for us to put these principles into practice,” says Professor Glyn Davis, The University of Melbourne’s Vice Chancellor.

What the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity achieved

Energy-intensity no barrier to efficiency

An early adopter of Green Star, the University of Melbourne achieved amazing energy-reduction results for its first Green Star certified building, The Spot, which used 46 per cent less energy than comparable buildings across the rest of the university in its first year of operation. With operational cost savings of around $180,000 a year, Green Star success at The Spot has encouraged the University to push the boundaries of sustainability at The Doherty.

Bio-laboratories are traditionally heavy users of electricity and water due to their physical containment and biological safety protocols, the ongoing operation of refrigeration and laboratory equipment, the need to maintain stable internal temperatures and to prevent the re-circulation of laboratory air to non-laboratory workspaces.

“A sustainable laboratory may seem at odds with the principles of safe laboratory practices, especially in energy reduction, where use can be 5-10 times higher than office buildings,” explains White. Despite the usually energy-intensive end use, “the Doherty will require less grid-supplied energy by capturing and using waste heat, minimising heat loss and gain through an interstitial façade system and through co-generation technology.”

In fact, energy modelling completed for the Doherty suggests that the building will require 20 per cent less electricity than a comparable standard practice facility and produce 50 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions. These savings are the result of a combination of active and passive design features, including a co-generation plant with capacity to generate up to 357kW, high-performance glazing and the incorporation of a timber interstitial curtain wall system on the north façade - an Australian first.

“This double-glazed curtain wall system creates a warm appearance and filtered natural light in the office areas, while eliminating glare and direct sun in the laboratories. The east and west façades flare out with precast panels that provide protection against the low morning and afternoon sun, while opening up views and light towards the north and city to the south,” explains Adrian Curtis of Grimshaw Architects.

Green and greywater
The Doherty scored a Green Star ‘Innovation’ point for one of the building’s water-saving features – a green roof installation that also works to treat greywater. While greywater systems and green roofs are not new, the combination of the two in a single system is a first for the Australian market and will deliver multiple benefits for the Institute.

“Traditionally, laboratories consume large volumes of water to meet process and cooling needs, and so we were presented with a significant opportunity to reduce water use by incorporating sustainable principles from the outset of design. The green roof greywater system is considered a first in Australia and combines the benefits of a recycled water treatment system with those of a green roof installation. The combination of these two technologies required significant design modifications of both systems, including layout configuration, hydraulic function, plant selection, and the selection of construction materials,” explains White.

The green roof greywater treatment system is expected to produce up to 1.45 million litres of recycled water each year which will equate to around 60 per cent of the water required for toilet-flushing across the building. The vegetated roof will provide extra insulation which is estimated to reduce the energy required for heating and cooling by up to 10 per cent and will also enhance the ecological value of the site via native plants that will help to purify the air.

An elemental approach
Building layout, passive design and the selection of sustainable materials were key aspects of the design brief for the Doherty’s designers, Grimshaw Architects.

“Through passive design strategies we were able to capitalise on synergies between the building’s intended uses and the opportunities offered up by the Institute’s positioning and orientation. For example, by positioning office areas to the north, we were able to maximise the potential for natural light and minimise reliance on artificial lighting,” explains Curtis. The benefits of this simple yet considered approach extends far beyond the advantage of lower energy costs, also delivering a better indoor environment for the students, researchers, medical professionals and administrative staff who’ll use the building.

“In line with the University’s sustainability commitments and aspirations for The Doherty, it was important that the use of materials with high embodied energy (such as aluminium) was minimised as much as possible,” says Curtis. As a result, sustainable timber is featured prominently throughout the building, including on the building’s exterior façade.

“The use of timber met many objectives of the design brief, both in terms of aesthetic appeal and sustainability. Product sourcing is so important in achieving good environmental outcomes, so all specified timber is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified,” Curtis adds.

The Doherty: for community health and wellbeing

The Doherty’s design has community health in mind in more ways than one. Not only will it play an important role in the global fight against infectious disease, it will also play an important role in the health and wellbeing of the people that work and study there.

“Much like commercial offices, education and research buildings can have a huge impact on their occupants. We know from our experience in delivering other high-performance educational buildings that bright, airy and flexible spaces, can inspire students and teachers and create optimum learning environments,” says Lauren Haas, Australasian Sustainability Manager at Brookfield Multiplex, the Doherty’s main building contractor.

“The Doherty brings together seven organisations as well as students and teachers - so there was a huge opportunity to create a high-performance building that not only housed these different groups, but also facilitated collaboration and innovation between them. We worked closely with the University of Melbourne and Grimshaw Architects to realise this opportunity and to translate their aspirations into practical building solutions,” Haas concludes.

“The University of Melbourne is a Gold Sponsor of the GBCA’s Green Star - Communities rating tool and the Parkville campus has been accepted as one of the first PILOT projects. The Green Star - Communities framework will guide the review of the University Master Plan in 2013 and will ensure that all aspects of sustainability are considered when updating the plan, including social and economic sustainability,” says White.

“The University of Melbourne is committed to using Green Star as its preferred independent verification tool. Using Green Star ensures our buildings’ environmental credentials can be credibly quantified and this helps to demonstrate our commitment to embedding sustainability across our operations and campuses.”