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Macquarie University Incubator | Sydney, Australia | 2016-2017
  • Macquarie University Incubator | Sydney, Australia | 2016-2017
  • Macquarie University Incubator | Sydney, Australia | 2016-2017
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Macquarie University Incubator | Sydney, Australia | 2016-2017

Architects: Architectus
Client: Macquarie University
Town Planners: Ethos Urban
General Contractor: Lipman Pty. Ltd.
Project Manager: Root Partnership
Structural Engineer: TTW
Façade: TTW
Civil Engineer: ARUP
Landscape Architect: Aspect Studios
Photographers: Brett Boardman, Courtesy of Architectus

The ultimate aim of the Macquarie University Incubator is to physically manifest Macquarie University’s renowned innovation in place and space. Innovation hubs are social communities, mainly in the form of a physical work space or research centres, and providing subject related expertise, knowledge, and funding with the purpose to enable innovation.

The business model actively encourages fluid collaboration between entrepreneurs, business, industry and academia.

The Incubator is an exciting, stimulating and accessible day or night environment to inspire and attract entrepreneurs, commercial businesses, investors, academics to create an enthusiastic and social community.

Collaboration and communication, two of the keys to a successful Innovation hub, and often friendly competition between start-ups, is encouraged by establishing “accidental” meeting points, flexible layouts for a transient workforce to work as an individual or teams, and the seamless integration of teams from external companies. How best then to give architectural expression to these ambitions while supporting the very real operational requirements of a space that will require regular churn and optimal flexibility?

Multiple geometries for the external envelope and roof profile to the Incubator were analysed and tested by our design team for their clarity of expression, buildability, structurally innovative qualities and capacity to accommodate a diversity of internal workplace micro-environments and the regular churn that they will have to enable.

In order not to pre-bias the interior spatial qualities of the Incubator, and therefore constrain its future internal micro-planning, it was concluded that a consistent clear ceiling height was a necessary and advantageous design principle. A minimally-pitched / flat roof profile was preferred for its capacity to achieve this internal spatial consistency.

The structural system to support this roof plane presents an opportunity to explore an innovative approach to design, fabrication and installation. With guidance provided by the expertise of ARUP Structure (Sydney) it was determined that a ceiling diaphragm of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), large span Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) beams and Glulam V columns.

This system would be ideal for achieving efficiencies in structural spanning, innovation in fabrication and installation, the potential for 100% re-use, and that it would introduce visual dynamism across a uniform structural system.

It is proposed that the roof plane support Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) technology in its sky-facing surface. The vertical envelope is composed of panels of plywood, CNC-cut to optimise material use from standard sheet sizes and arranged to generate a distinctive visual identity for the Macquarie University Incubator. Sustainability is at the heart of the services strategy for the Incubator.

The mechanical solution is designed to benefit from external conditions, providing assisted natural ventilation to the spaces for more than 60% of the year as required, and tempering incoming air in peak seasons to maintain a comfortable environment.

This is aided by the building’s form with the overhanging roof and solid façade elements minimising external solar and heat gains.

Photovoltaic panels offset 60% of energy use and rainwater run-off is captured to use for landscape irrigation. The roof is constructed with timber glulam beams, glulam columns and CLT diaphragms. The timber roof cassettes and floor cassettes system increase productivity, reduce site construction times and improve operating safety during the construction process.

Steel was used in place of concrete for the foundations, as the superstructure is relatively light. Timber floor beams are directly connected to steel screw piles to form the foundation structure. As steel can easily be reused, this is environmentally friendly and benefits cost and construction time.

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