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Green architecture – Surry Hills Library and Community Centre

By Damir Beciri
1 November 2010

surry-hills-library-and-community-centre-1The first Surry Hills library and community facility built in 1956, was a small and modest building. The new Surry Hills Library and Community Centre has been designed to achieve excellence in sustainable design and set new benchmarks in environmental performance for multi-purpose public buildings. Designed by FJMT architects, headed by Richard Francis-Jones, it’s an innovative hybrid building containing a new library, community centre and childcare facility.

The building has a unique air quality system which reduces the need for artificial cooling by almost 50%. Air is drawn in at the top of the atrium and it passes through special plants acting as ‘passive’ filters. Afterwards it flows under the building where its temperature is conditioned by a Thermal Labyrinth (a series of high thermal-mass rock baskets) which sends the filtered and cooled air flows throughout the different levels of the building.

The roof has natural grasses which reduce energy loss and 36 solar roof panels which provide supplementary power to the building, generating renewable energy for up to 6 hours a day. The building has abundance of natural lighting throughout the building and daylight controlled light fixtures. Computerised building management and control systems (BMS) automatically monitor and control the internal environmental conditions of the building, adjusting the ventilation and sunshade louvres throughout the day to control heat load, light and shade, and switching lights on and off when required. The BMS also monitors and records both electrical and hydraulic systems to maximize the environmental efficiency of the building and identify system faults.

Rainwater is collected, treated and re-used for the flushing of toilets and irrigation, watering the atrium plants and Collins Street Reserve lawn. This will save over 620,000 liters of water per year. All tap fixtures are touch sensitive and plant equipment will be air-cooled not water-cooled.

Building materials have been selected for their durability and sustainability. A post-tensioning structural system was used because it reduces the quantity of concrete required for structural framing. Timber products sourced from sustainable forests and the building has alternative materials to PVC for plumbing and electrical services. The finishes contain low levels volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Waste management strategies and recycling were adopted during demolition, construction and occupation (these strategies include a centralised collection and sorting facility).

The Surry Hills Library and Community Centre includes 2 floors of library, a 26 place childcare centre, offices for Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre and a function hall. This beautifully appointed function hall is available for hire to the public. Accommodating up to 100 people, this hall divides into 2 acoustically isolated rooms for smaller events.

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