The Surry Hills Library and Community Centre in Sydney, Australia was recently awarded the 2010 National Award for Sustainable Architecture by the Australian Institute of Architects. Designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (FJMT), the library and community center sets a new standard of excellence for sustainable design. With automatic sun-tracking louvers, a rooftop photovoltaic system, a green roof, healthy indoor air quality, and an innovative air handling system, the center and FJMT are highly deserving recipients of this year's national sustainable design award.
The innovative four-story, almost 2,500 square-meter library and community center includes meeting rooms, a commercial teaching kitchen, and a childcare center with an outdoor landscaped play space. The center is bordered on three sides by busy city streets, so healthy indoor air quality was a priority for the building — this is achieved with the help of a number of energy-efficient strategies.
First, the air intake is located on the roof of the building away from the streets. Air is drawn in through the top of the glass walled atrium, where plants passively filter it. Then the air weaves its way through a “thermal labyrinth” — a series of high thermal-mass rock baskets, which cools the air — and then it again passes through the plant-filled atrium before heading into the different levels of the building.
The glass atrium on one side of the building helps passively heat and cool the center by serving as a buffer to the outside. Natural daylight filters in through the plant-filled space and automatic shades roll down when the sun is too intense. One side of the building features an automatic louvered system that tracks the sun to minimize glare and intense light in the library space. The rooftop features a photovoltaic system that generates enough power for the lighting and systems in the building, while the rest of the space is covered in natural grasses that form a green roof.
Toxins are minimized inside the building through low-VOC finishes, formaldehyde-free furniture, and the use of alternative materials to PVC for plumbing and electrical services. All the timber products are sourced from sustainable forests, and rainwater is collected, treated and re-used for the flushing of toilets and irrigation, watering the atrium plants and Collins Street Reserve lawn. The children’s play area also features an automatic fabric shading device.
The center was completed in 2009 and has also received recognition by the UDIA Excellence in Sustainable Design award and the Australian Timber Design Awards Public Building high commendation. Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP says about the project: “The Centre has been designed to achieve excellence in sustainable design and set new high standards in environmental performance for multi-purpose public buildings. [It] will be a starting point for the development of a green rating system for public buildings… [and] an innovative example of design and sustainable design possibilities.”
Images © FJMT