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Place and Community Framework

5. Sustainability.

Principle 5 focuses on Sustainability. RMIT places will embody the institutional commitment to exceed best practice sustainability: from planning and design through to ongoing operations and activation.

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Over the last three decades, RMIT has developed a reputation for leadership in sustainability at a national and international level through our broad ranging efforts to shape a sustainable environment and society. Driven by a clear agenda, RMIT has sought to model institution-wide excellence by embedding sustainability principles and practices throughout learning and teaching, research and operational activities.

RMIT defines sustainability as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for people and the planet harmonising three core pillars: economic health, social inclusion and environmental protection, which are interconnected, and crucial for the wellbeing of individuals, societies and ecosystems.

Our commitment to sustainability underpins our approach to sustainable, place-based development. Our organisational mission guides how we design, operate, manage and activate our places. We recognise that all of our activities have the potential to positively impact on place and people, and each place brings unique opportunities to innovate and improve.

This is why we aim to exceed best practice as we collectively work to address global challenges through our local actions. Through our collaborative approach we empower our students, staff, community and industry to demonstrate sustainability leadership. By striving to set new standards in the creation of sustainable built environments, we not only raise the bar, we provide practical ways for our communities to actively contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals.

How this could look in practice

We recognise the transformative potential of each of our places. Regardless of scale, specialisation or location, we believe that every RMIT place must contribute to the delivery of our sustainability agenda from inception through to ongoing use and activation.

We can achieve this through the application of our sustainable design principles:

  • Reduce emissions through passive design, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Assess and adapt infrastructure to reduce climate change vulnerability.
  • Use environmentally sustainable best-practice design and technologies in all development and refurbishments.
  • Pursue precinct-based solutions that minimise resource consumption and greenhouse emissions.
  • Responsible water management, focusing on high levels of water efficiency in operations, water capture opportunities and water sensitive urban design to minimise the use of potable water sources.
  • Responsible use of resources in considering the circularity of material flows in the built environment and developing progressive waste management systems.
  • Deliver spaces which encourage sustainable behaviours including recycling, energy saving and water conservation.
  • Encourage sustainable modes of transport, by providing safe pedestrian access, public transport connections and high quality cycling facilities.
  • Respect, preserve and enhance heritage, cultural and natural assets.
  • Leverage infrastructure upgrades to provide a mechanism for student participation and research creating living labs.

Example: A living lab for adaptive re-use

The ‘New Academic Street’ (NAS) project transformed four 1960s-designed ‘brownfield’ into 32,000 square metres of new and refurbished space. The project created a new major entry point for the university, as well as a variety of arcades and laneways to open up large sections of the existing façade. In keeping with Melbourne’s laneway culture, these arteries provide clear way-finding and urban experiences and enable greater connectivity to the rest of the campus and with Melbourne’s CBD including public transport links.

An additional 4,600 seats were created throughout the campus precinct for study and relaxation, resulting in a vibrant hub that provides a strong student experience. The university library was expanded by 44% and incorporates a mixture of spaces for informal learning, quiet reflection and collaboration.

The application of environmentally sustainable design strategies ensures a comfortable internal environment to support formal and informal learning, using both natural and mechanical ventilation schemes so that more favourable outdoor weather conditions can permeate the building. Occupant comfort is monitored using sensors and actuators and is enhanced in winter and summer using ceiling fans and gas heaters.

Embracing the concept of ‘Adaptive Re-use,’ the lower levels of the existing concreteencased steel buildings were stripped back, with floor levels demolished and reinforced structural steel installed enabling the buildings to withstand the changing loads and use created by new adjoining structures, stairways, laneways, glass-covered arcades, balconies and terraces. Environmentally sustainable design strategies ensure a comfortable environment, using both natural and mechanical ventilation, sensors and actuators.

The floor plates were fully repurposed to meet the needs of current and future students. Large dark two-storey lecture theatres are now innovative, light and comfortable tiered student study spaces. Once impermeable façades, they are now opened up resulting in a blurring of the outdoor and indoor environments. The new four-storey Garden Building and Terrace has been integrated into the campus, creating additional social spaces for staff and students. Built using lower impact glue-laminated timber, the building is characterised by the widespread use of greenery and open garden space to enhance the urban environment.

Other sustainability initiatives include thermal heat recovery, water-sensitive urban design and the creation of linked open-air terraces on level 7 of the buildings creating easy access to open air, planted green rooftop spaces for students and staff. The sustainability principles upon which the project is based complete the picture, with the project rated 5-star under the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Interiors (pilot) tool.

The Garden Building links together four levels of activity with an external staircase and features a variety of vegetation both inside and out.

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