New John Paul II building in Brisbane showcases sustainability

Published: Monday 15th June 2015



The official opening of the John Paul II Building at Brisbane campus this month welcomed another highly sustainable building into ACU’s portfolio, supporting the University’s ongoing commitment to reducing its environmental impact while promoting the wellbeing of students and staff who use the building. 

The striking design by leading Australian architectural practice, Conrad Gargett, combines sustainable materials with smart technology to cut water and energy consumption well below that of a conventional building and deliver an indoor environment tailored to support the productivity and health of the occupants. 

Early in the building’s design stage, ACU’s Properties Directorate and the architects identified the need to deliver a building that contained not only high-quality teaching and administrative spaces, but that could also operate efficiently and reliably in Brisbane’s year-round heat and humidity.

The only way to control the impact of that heat and humidity on the campus’s many mid-century buildings is with air-conditioning and plenty of it, which is why Brisbane campus has ACU’s lowest energy-efficiency. 

The John Paul II building changes all of that, beginning with the glass façade (pictured). The highly reflective glass functions as a buffer to the sun’s rays to limit the amount of heat that radiates into the building and cutting the sun’s glare for occupants. To manage the heat that inevitably enters the building, highly efficient chillers and fans drive the air-conditioning.

Meanwhile, the lights in the John Paul II building use minimal power and are linked to motion sensors that switch off lights in rooms that are unoccupied.  

To building also has water tanks that collect rain water syphoned from the roof, for use in irrigation of the surrounding gardens and for toilet flushing. And the toilets and taps throughout are among the most efficient available on the market. 

But the John Paul II building will deliver benefits not only to the campus’s environmental impacts and running costs, but also to the quality of the indoor environment for the students and staff who will occupy it.  A host of features ensure that for the occupants, the John Paul II building will be a comfortable, healthy and productive building. 

The features include carbon dioxide sensors that will adjust the amount of fresh air delivered into high-use areas such as teaching spaces, maintaining excellent air-quality for occupants no matter the time of day or night. 

To further enhance the air quality, the carpets, paints, adhesives, sealants and furniture contain very low amounts of volatile organic compounds, which are associated with risk to workplace health and wellbeing. After hours, the building will purge its air mechanically, to remove built-up contaminants. 

Students and staff will also benefit from quiet air-conditioning, double-glazed windows, and artificial lights designed to minimise flicker – a frequent source of discomfort and headaches – as well as from the external views onto Brisbane’s extensive grounds, available from more than 90% of the usable floor space.