The countdown is on for next year’s opening of the Sir Samuel Griffith Building; Australia’s first zero-emission, self-powering teaching and research facility.Due for completion in May 2013, the building is rapidly taking shape and the colour scheme has now been revealed. Architect Casey Valance, from Cox Rayner Architects, said warmer colours had been chosen in keeping with the Master Plan upgrade of the whole Nathan Campus.

“We have included gold, bronze and green tones for the exterior and interiors. These reflect the environmental status aspirations of the building as well as the natural context of the campus,” Casey said.

Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor said the $40 million dollar world-class building, will be a showcase of genuine sustainable energy alternatives for Australian and global communities. The Sir Samuel Griffith Building has been made possible by Australian Government’s financial support of $21.05 million through the Education Investment Fund.

Solar panels will collect energy, which is then stored in batteries, to provide a stable power supply over any 24 hour period. Excess energy will be used at night to chill water for the main air-conditioning system to run the next day. A second, innovative storage system will hold further energy in case it is required, quite literally, for a rainy day. The hydrogen fuel cells will kick in when the first batteries run down to a certain level.This scale of this second hydrogen storage process has not been done before and this technology could one day be incorporated into isolated buildings, such as schools in rural communities.

“It is a model for remote communities that are ‘off-grid’ and cannot access power in Australia and across the world,” Professor O’Connor said.

“It will also be a pilot for applying this safe, sustainable power supply in urban settings.”

Innovation in the Sir Samuel Griffith Building will also extend to the comfort and well-being of those who work inside it. An air-conditioner unit, separate from the main system, will deliver personal levels of temperature and air flow through outlets at each desk or workstation. This reduces the workload of the primary system. Instead of maintaining a temperature of around 22 degrees throughout building, the overall ambient temperature can be higher because it becomes less important for individual comfort. No longer will there be office complaints that the room is too hot for some and too cool for others!

The use of artificial lighting inside the building will be minimised by large windows, few internal walls, and glass partitions. This open-plan, shared office space will also provide environmental scientists, engineers, psychologists, urban planners, health and legal and business experts the opportunity to work together and develop cross-disciplinary sustainability solutions.

“It is a remarkable building by any standard, and one which reflects the University’s commitment to finding sustainable solutions to issues of the contemporary world,” Professor O’Connor said.