The largest mass engineered timber building in Western Australia, Murdoch University’s Boola Katitjin, was named Project of the Year at the WA Engineers Australia Excellence Awards yesterday.
Judges were impressed with its ingenuity, delivering “a sustainable end triumph” and said the building, which won WA’s top architecture prize in June, had the potential to be an “engineering influencer”.
Aurecon worked closely with the architects and construction partner to bring to life Murdoch’s vision for a sustainable and student-centred place of learning and connectedness.
Vice Chancellor Professor Andrew Deeks said Boola Katitjin – which translates from the Noongar language to “lots of learning” - symbolised everything Murdoch University stands for: Sustainability; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and First Nations.
“This building embodies all three themes and presents a marker of progress in our pursuit of solutions for a better and more sustainable world,” he said.
“Boola Katitjin also honours our connection to the Country on which we are fortunate enough to learn and teach, carrying on a tradition thousands of years old. It does this through innovative design, construction, fit-out, art and landscaping – setting a new global benchmark for sustainability.”
Principal Engineer Pratik Shrestha said the recognition was testament to the unique collaboration.
“This award is so special in many ways. Boola Katitjin is such an extraordinary building, not only because of what it is, but because of what it stands for – with respect to leadership in sustainability, with respect to innovation, and with respect to engineering and architectural excellence,” he said.
This is a building that will leave a legacy for many generations to come.”
Constructed from glulam and cross laminated timber sourced from sustainable suppliers in Australia and Europe, Boola Katitjin was first-of-its-kind project for Aurecon.
“The first thing we did was reach out to the timber industry to really understand a simple question of here's a tree and here's the building – how do you go from A to B?” Mr Shrestha said.
“It sounds simple enough, but we needed to roadmap that out and look at the risks and look at the opportunities, because often that's where projects fall over.”
The huge portal frames in the northern plaza proved to be one of the biggest engineering challenges, but the team used it as a research opportunity, building a full-scale prototype of one of the connections and breaking it to pieces to understand the behaviour of the frame. Aurecon also led a world-first trial using an autonomous robot to install 100 timber screw fixings, an important and usually labour-intensive task.
Murdoch University Pro Vice Chancellor Sustainability Dr Martin Brueckner said Boola Katitjin was symbolic of an effort to meet the world’s biggest collective challenge: to develop sustainable ways of living without destroying the fragile ecosystems and cultures of our planet.
“To do so we must be compassionate to our surroundings and continue to develop the social, environmental and technical competencies required to embrace a circular economy,” he said.
“Boola Katitjin provides a case study of that progress. A case study of cultural engagement, of sustainable design and of the exploration of materials that are central to improving our built environments.”