The environment has been a primary consideration throughout the University's development. USC was the first university in Queensland to sign the international Talloires Declaration, pledging its support of environmental initiatives around the campus and surrounding community.
USC is a flora and fauna reserve, spread over 100 hectares adjoining the Mooloolah River National Park. To minimise impact on the ecologically sensitive National Park, the University has instilled a philosophy of sustainable operations through its Master Plan and environmental initiatives.
Like the National Park which borders the campus, the University site was once coastal lowland vegetation, including open heath and Eucalypt forest. The site was left relatively untouched until it was used for farming sugar cane in the 1940s.
USC acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which the University stands.
The University campus covers about 1 km2 (100 ha) and sits along a tributary to the Mooloolah River. The wider Mooloolah River catchment totals an area of 223 km2, and plays a vital role in helping to maintain water quality and protect aquatic ecosystems. All water travelling over the campus passes directly into the National Park.
All buildings on campus focus on environmentally sustainable design (ESD) to suit the sub-tropical climate of the Sunshine Coast. Some of the University's ESD strategies include:
- passive lighting and natural ventilation to minimise the use of non-renewable energy
- extensive use of screens, fins, sun shelters and tree plantings to reduce direct sunlight on buildings
- chilled water to supply air-conditioning to buildings, where applicable
- integrated building cooling systems, including atriums, breezeways, louvers, thermal chimneys and high loft ceilings to allow for the movement of warm air away from work and teaching spaces
- locating buildings to take advantage of prevailing breezes
- using lightweight building fabric and low maintenance materials
The buildings on campus have received more than 30 awards for planning, architecture and construction, and the University has been a joint winner of the Wildcard Award from the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).
The award recognises USC’s significant contribution to the urban development industry and the community; its commitment to best-practice urban design and sustainable development; and its encouragement of creative and artistic flair in campus development.
Additionally, USC is the only institution in Australia to hold full EnviroDevelopment accreditation from the UDIA for achieving elements of sustainability across six categories—ecosystems, waste, energy, materials, water and community.
To reduce the environmental footprint of car-based travel to campus, a number of initiatives have been developed around sustainable transport.
Several companies in the University's Innovation Centre are commercialising sustainability ventures, in areas such as solar, lighting solutions, water metering and environmental consultancy.
Many of the pieces in the University's art and sculpture collection have sustainability or Indigenous themes.
Building B and Building K
These buildings were completed in 1995 as part of the first stage of campus development. Initial features of this building included louvers, vaulted ceilings and breezeways to enable cross ventilation. This building has been further improved with vents and high louvers to allow heat to escape, and window treatments to reduce heat.
Building K, which includes USC's larger lecture theatres, has been fitted with motion detecting air-conditioning, minimising energy usage. The architect for these buildings was MGT who won the Maroochy Excellence in Building and Planning Awards in 1996 for an Institutional Building.
The University library was completed in January 1997 as part of the second stage. The architects John Mainwaring and Associates created sun-lit workspaces reducing the need for lighting, therefore decreasing energy consumption. The great ‘Queensland’ verandah on the northern side of the library in conjunction with tinted windows protect the library from the intense summer sun and reduce air conditioning usage. The library has won numerous awards for design.
Building I and Brasserie
Building I building was completed in December 1997 as part of stage three of campus development and includes smaller lecture theatres, academic offices, classrooms and research laboratories. The architects, Down Neylan and Daryl Jackson, created a flexible space which can be used for multiple events. The buildings feature thermal chimneys to allow heat to escape naturally and louvers to regulate heat. Building I has won awards for energy efficiency and environment.
Building D was completed in December 1999 as part of stage four. Architects Bligh Vollier Neild and Thompsett Architecture used passive lighting and cooling wherever possible for this building. They incorporated thermal roof and wall chimneys, operable windows and solar-activated aluminium screen systems. This building also uses materials which need little finishing therefore require less maintenance, further reducing USC’s footprint. Building D has won many local, state and national awards in environmental and sustainability categories.
The Innovation Centre was completed in May 2001 and was designed by Bligh Voller Nield. The Innovation Centre was designed to aesthetically appear 'high-tech and innovative'. The Innovation Centre is mostly naturally ventilated and uses a solar chimney at the high point of the building to enhance this ventilation. It has won two awards for energy efficiency and environment.
The Information Communications Technology (ICT) building was built as part of stage five of campus development and was completed in March 2004. The iconic building was designed by DesignInc Brisbane and has large steel screens which shade the six story building reducing energy consumption from air conditioning.
Building H was completed in August 2006 as a part of the sixth stage. This building was designed by Hassell and uses solar heated hot water in its laboratories. Skylights allow natural lighting, reducing the need for non-renewable sources of lighting. External walkways and wall shading allow air to circulate and cool the building.
Building C was completed in December 2006 as part of stage six of the campus development. The firm Architectus designed this building, including a 251-seat lecture theatre that uses a motion detecting air system. External corridors improve natural ventilation with skylights providing natural lighting.
Building M Precinct
The Building M Precinct was completed in January 2011 to accommodate both Engineering and Paramedic Science. Designed by Mode Architecture, solar power and hot water were installed allowing students to participate in the collection of data and management of the building's power use. A 'stripped-back' aesthetic has helped lower embodied energy costs with natural ventilation and extensive commercial and industrial louvers being used in the two main flexible teaching spaces.
Building H1 is the second phase of what will become the Building H Precinct. Completed in December 2011, the building was tendered as a design and construct project with Evans Harch Builders and Core Architecture. The layout of roof planes has been designed to maximise natural ventilation and day lighting. The sun shading blades and fins form a key element to the building's climatic response and design integrity.
Building E was completed in February 2014. The architect, Hassell, incorporated mixed mode/natural ventilation, operable windows and two huge thermal chimneys to increase air movement through the building and decrease reliance on air-conditioning. Rainwater is retained in storage tanks and integrated into the existing campus rainwater harvesting system. The dedicated wetland area also allows for stormwater detention and enhances the quality of the outdoor environment through native plantings, sculptures and meeting places in the Buranga garden area.
Building R was completed in October 2014. The architect, Deicke Richards, design the building so it responds to climate and context to deliver lower operational costs and a healthy working environment. Sun studies and modelling informed shade treatments to northern and western elevations. Open plan office spaces are also cross ventilated and oriented to maximise natural southern light and naturally ventilated circulation spaces overlook a corner entry plaza.
Engineering Learning Hub
The Engineering Learning Hub was completed in March 2015 as part of a project that included the Engineering Structures Learning Laboratory completed in July 2014. The architect, Brewster Hjorth Architects, ensured the project included 100% naturally-ventilated spaces and HVAC controls on all offices, laboratories and tutorial spaces so that the air-conditioning can be turned off when not in use. Building materials were used from recycled or sustainably-sourced suppliers including the huge timber portals which are a major feature of the structure. Water, power and waste are also all connected to the University's Building Management System (BMS) through individual meters and the campus's wider sustainable practises