New Monash University student apartments by Multiplex a sustainability dream

SOURCE: Multiplex
An aerial view of Multiplex's new eco-friendly student accommodation precinct for Monash University at the Peninsula campus in Frankston, Australia.

By Clara Chooi 

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Going green is in. “Sustainability” has become a buzzword that has hit university campuses everywhere, spurred on by the climate change debate and alarming changes in weather conditions around the world.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Monash University, one of Australia’s top ranking universities and arguably the most sustainability-driven. In 2016, the institution made headlines as the world’s first university to issue a certified climate bond, raising over AU$218 million to fund sustainable development in tertiary education.

In 2017, it became the first university in Australia to commit to an energy reduction target. Working in collaboration with ClimateWorks Australia, the university launched its Net Zero Initiative in October that year with a stated aim of achieving net zero carbon emissions from its built environment by 2030.

Since then, Monash has rolled out a number of measures, from LED lighting upgrades to solar panel installations and completing a successful pilot for its market-leading microgrid, which will control how and when energy is used across campus and demonstrate how a 100 percent renewable electricity system can operate reliably.

More recently, the university moved a step closer to its net zero target when it welcomed a brand new eco-friendly student accommodation precinct to its Peninsula campus in Frankston, its third largest metropolitan campus. Developed by top-tier contractor Multiplex and designed by high-profile architects Jackson Clements Burrows, the sustainable complex was built in line with the university’s net zero carbon emissions strategy.

It comprises 150 single occupancy units set over six levels and provides students with a range of modern, high-quality and eco-friendly residential spaces. It includes communal kitchens, games rooms and principle apartments with a total floor space of 6,000 square metres.

“We are thrilled to deliver this innovative student accommodation and continue our collaboration with Monash University. Student accommodation combines our skills in delivering quality residential developments with our experience in working in busy, live education environments,” said Multiplex Victoria Regional Managing Director Graham Cottam at the March unveiling.

“Environmental sustainability was at the forefront of this project and we are proud to provide students of Monash University with this progressive accommodation.”

According to Multiplex, the project was its first foray into cross-laminated timber (CLT) construction and turned out to be a resounding success. Dubbed the low-carbon building material of the future, the use of CLT substantially reduces the carbon footprint of new buildings by replacing structural concrete.

Despite facing challenges in designing and procuring CLT from Italy within a tight schedule, the firm managed to deliver the apartments on schedule.

With environmentally-sustainable design (ESD) at its core, the building is set to receive a Passivhaus certification. Passivhaus or “Passive House” is a rigorous, voluntary standard for energy efficiency in a building. Passivhaus buildings are performance-based buildings where ultra-low energy use for heating and cooling ultimately reduce energy costs and the building’s ecological footprint.

Combined with the building’s rooftop solar panels, the design reduces carbon emissions, which is perfectly in line with Monash’s net-zero initiative.

The accommodation has also been outfitted with a rainwater harvesting tank and features a landscaped dry-creek bed that provides additional opportunities for recreation, manages stormwater flows during high rain events and connects into the natural waterways of the campus.

“We are thrilled with the innovative building and architectural technologies that are being applied to the student Halls of Residence at the Peninsula campus.

“The design and build processes have been accompanied by a determination to get every detail correct for the Peninsula Campus to have a landmark architectural initiative with unparalleled sustainability goals,” said Monash University Pro Vice Chancellor Professor David Copolov.

Work on the building began in March last year and was completed on-schedule this month. According to Multiplex, 760 people worked on-site during construction.

Multiplex has extensive experience working with the higher education sector, with Monash University being one of its long-time clients. In April 2016, it delivered the institute’s AU$145 million student accommodation precinct comprising four new residential buildings and providing a total of more than 1,000 studio apartments, associated retail and student informal learning spaces.

It also recently completed the new AU$206 million Learning and Teaching Building, a multi-storey 30,000 square feet facility, and the AU$81 million Biomedical Learning and Teaching Building at Monash’s Clayton campus in Victoria

The firm has also worked with several other Australian universities including RMIT, the University of New South Wales and Melbourne University, whilst its international clients include Glasgow University and the University Partnerships Programme, the UK’s leading on-campus residential provider.