Although fresh to the academic scene this year, the Melbourne School of Design (MSD) building is actually the culmination of almost eight years of planning by the University of Melbourne and its Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning.

What began as a conversation between the university vice-chancellor and the faculty in 2007 about creating a building to better accommodate the faculty’s 2500-strong staff and students, soon developed into an international design competition that received more than 130 entries from 15 countries.

Held in 2009, the competition brief was to design a new building with a total floor area of approximately 18,000 sq m at a budget of $90 million. The project was seen as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to design and construct a new building that would provide a working environment to encourage high-quality research, teaching and learning. Ultimately, a design by local firm John Wardle Architects, in collaboration with Boston-based architects NADAAA, was announced the winner of the competition. The competition jurors noted the quality of the partnership between the two architectural firms. “The winning design showed a detailed understanding of the teaching and research activities of the faculty, and the potential for contribution to research across the campus,” said the dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, Professor Tom Kvan when the winning design was announced.

The final design includes many pedagogical aspects such as dedicated spaces for research into sustainable precinct design and performance, as well as lecture theatres, a library, exhibition and specialist workshop spaces.

“It was important to the faculty that the building teaches students of the built environment disciplines with an inquisitive mind from the moment they approached the building,” says Andrew Middleton, development manager for the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning.

From the outset, the project sought to target a 5 star Green Star rating, with Umow Lai engaged to steer the project through the environmentally sustainable design and Green Star processes.

However, it was soon evident that the extent of the design initiatives in place would lead to the building ultimately being awarded a 6 star Green Star Design – Education Design v1.0 rating by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). In doing so, the Melbourne School of Design building also became the first education facility to be awarded the maximum 10 Green Star innovation credits.

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