La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science—Pioneering Research Center

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group’s design matched the pioneering pathway of the state-of-the-art education facility itself. The iconic six-story, Melbourne research center of the La Trobe Institute of Molecular Science (LIMS) represents an architectural and design tribute to the cutting-edge advances of the research occupants it houses.

The design demands were challenging from every conceivable aspect—from the requirements of the aesthetic exterior and the functional interior, combining research labs with teaching labs, to the 5 Star Green Star rating requirement, which was a non-negotiable.

Project Facts
  • Client: La Trobe University, Novated to Watpac Construction Pty Ltd
  • Architect: Lyons Architects
  • Construction Value: $100 million

The client requirement for the design and construction of the LIMS building was clear from the outset, to:

“Create a building that is both functional and symbolic of the future rather than reflective of the past.”

The result is a testament to what coherent collaboration and a pioneering approach can achieve. As facilitator between all the design disciplines, Tetra Tech engaged and guided the design team in determining the most appropriate design solution using the Green Star pathway and documentation matrix to establish a clear design framework from the outset. Tetra Tech’s design team adopted an integrated platform for 3D design using REVIT software.

Indoor environment quality was paramount. All aspects were considered, such as lighting levels, natural light, external views, air temperature, air flow humidity, etc. Tetra Tech designers implemented design solutions that positively impacted these aspects, achieving outstanding quality of indoor conditions without compromising energy efficiency.

As a result, LIMS consumes approximately 45 percent less energy than a standard education building. Tetra Tech achieved this by reducing the energy requirement of the building, in part by using occupancy-dependent lighting and air-conditioning, by designing a highly efficient energy system through a number of interconnected engineered solutions, and by maximizing the reuse of energy available onsite. All of these elements add to the sustainability and pedigree of this facility.

The campus central cogeneration plant provides over 70 percent of the building’s cooling capacity through absorption chillers, while two 50,000-liter rainwater tanks are filled via an intricate collection system linked throughout the building. Wastewater associated with laboratory processes is part of a closed loop, which collects the water in a settling tank for filtering, to avoid any discharge.

The building’s striking cellular exterior is a light-hearted play on its functional purpose yet represents a feat of design and sustainability of the highest achievement.

Image courtesy of Dianna Snape