Macquarie University Clinical Education Building
Project NameMacquarie University Clinical Education Building (MUCEB) by Architectus
The conceptual objectives of the building are to create an inclusive, permeable, social and vibrant building in keeping with the values and aspirations of Macquarie University. Beyond this, the building needs to be adaptable and flexible to the present and future needs of both the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science and the campus at large.
Timber was chosen as the structural system for MUCEB for several reasons, the main being the ability to prefabricate off-site, which in this case was abroad in Austria. This allowed for programme efficiency and construction advantages across the board, which was highly important due to the site constraints- specifically being located next to an active hospital. Prefabrication does require meticulous up-front coordination and early detail resolution to enable overseas fabrication. Overseas production also inherently requires longer procurement lead times.
The project also follows Architectus & Macquarie University’s successful collaboration on the Macquarie University Incubator, which enabled the University to experience the advantages of Mass timber construction.
The building responds both physically and materially with the existing landscape and built environment, formalised in the cranked profile of the building.
The design foregrounds the requirements for university buildings to be able to adapt and change in a meaningful and practical way. Acknowledging the ever-changing teaching and learning environments, and predicting future teaching and learning configurations, it is paramount for a building of this typology to practically adapt within the obvious constrains of structure and services.
MUCEB uses a mixture of mass timber elements for its structural system. Unlike many hybrid timber projects, the only concrete used for MUCEB was in the ground floor slab. Spruce Glued Laminated Timber (Glulam) has been used for columns and beams. Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) has been used on all floors from level one, as well as all core walls (including lift shafts).
The connection of the timber columns to the concrete ground slab is via a custom steel base plate, which is bolted into a concrete edge beam and then into the column base. All connection details within the Glulam were prefabricated in the factory to facilitate accuracy on site.
The external ‘W’ columns are Victorian Ash Glulam, which has been locally sourced from Victoria. The Australian Mass Timber industry is burgeoning, but is still in a development phase. Certain mass timber products are in high demand or still unavailable in Australia, so all other elements for MUCEB were sourced from the Binderholz factory in Austria.
The project necessitated fire-rating requirements for a Class 9 building, including the over sizing of all beams and columns by 30% over the required structural integrity, in order to accommodate a charring layer. Timber reacts very differently to steel and concrete under fire exposure, forming a protective char layer that temporarily protects the member from burning. This was also taken into consideration with all CLT floors, whereas structural timber walls are to be covered with a fire rated plasterboard.
All Glulam columns are exposed behind the glazing – there are a few locations that required acoustic/fire separation, which have been integrated into the glazing design by way of a ceramic frit- a ground chalky material used in the production of glass.
The resulting grid formation of the timber construction exhibits a highly rational structure with an honest palette and warming materiality. The internal spaces are bright and soft, comprised almost entirely of timber and glass elements. It is important for educational buildings to be places of both inspiration and relaxation, and natural timbers provide an inherent calming effect when present in work spaces.