At nearly 70,000 square feet, Gillies Hall at Monash University in Australia has become the country’s largest Passive House-certified building. The school has a population of about 4,000 students, most of whom are studying subjects of early childhood education, physiotherapy and nursing. Since the building was opened, modeling has maintained indoor temperatures between 22 °C (71 °F) and 24 °C (75 °F) throughout the year.

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close-up of red cladding on an apartment building

At the forefront of the project was the usage of cross-laminated timber (or CLT), which inspired much of the design for the building’s interior. CLT is a type of prefabricated, solid wood paneling that is both lightweight and strong and is widely considered to have a low environmental impact in construction projects. Aside from providing superior thermal insulation, its simple and quick installation generates minimal waste onsite.

Related: LEED Platinum UCSB student housing harnesses California’s coastal climate

room with wood ceilings, a glass wall and several study tables

According to Simon Topliss, project director for Jackson Clements Burrows Architects, “CLT was a wonderful, low-carbon solution and is a robust, structural product with a warmth that concrete doesn’t have.” Close to 50 percent of the entire building’s internal walls and the partition walls in each apartment were made using CLT.

On the left, study tables in a neutral-colored room. On the right, bag hanging on a hook in a dorm room.

There are two wings of apartments on each residential floor, each joined by a connective “knuckle,” allowing the building’s circulation to integrate with the communal kitchen, lounge and study. There are glazed, open stairs with outside views connecting to other floors as well.

students playing table tennis in a recreation room

In Australia, Passive House-certified projects typically cost 6 to 10 percent extra to construct but use about 70 percent less energy than conventional buildings. The region where Gillies Hall was built often sees a large number of extremely hot summer days, so plenty of shading and cross-ventilation methods were implemented in order to keep the building within the temperature standards of Passive House certification.

student dorm with red and wood walls and a large window

The project was completed in 19 months, just in time for students to move in for the 2019 school year. Topliss said that the university’s commitment to fostering community was one of the main focuses for the design of the building. “So we wanted to take every design opportunity to create spaces for students to socialize, play and study together,” Topliss explained. “There is one resident adviser per 30 students, and floor planning was developed around this model.”

+ Jackson Clements Burrows Architects

Via Dwell

Photography by Peter Clarke via Jackson Clements Burrows Architects