Collaborative project ready to transform learning

In 2020, UWA will offer an unparalleled student experience and become the new go-to destination for industry, government and research partners when the EZONE UWA Student Hub — a world-class learning space for the engineering and mathematical sciences — opens in its entirety.

The $80 million facility is supported by Foundation Partners BHP and Woodside, along with alumni donors.

Comprised of three engineering laboratories, 14 flexible learning studios and space for 150 research students, EZONE will transform the way UWA educates students, undertakes research and engages with industry, alumni and the community.

The north side of EZONE UWA has been extremely well received since opening to students and staff in semester two this year. The ground floor includes a thermodynamics lab, flexible learning studios, student services administration and a café. Upper floors contain open learning studios, workspace meeting rooms, an industry incubator and both social and silent work breakout spaces, which will link to the south side when it opens next year.

While 2020 represents the culmination of the two-year build, opportunities for student involvement and collaboration with industry have been key to the process. BHP Head of Corporate Affairs Western Australia Meath Hammond said the EZONE is a revolutionary education and research facility. “The EZONE will equip Western Australia and the world with engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians who will shape the future of many different industries.”

“We are proud of the legacy we are creating with UWA and together we will be future ready.”

Echoing this sentiment, Woodside Chief Technology Officer Shaun Gregory said the new building would benefit future generations of students.

“Young people are our future and we owe it to them to provide them with the opportunities we had,” he said.

The EZONE UWA Student Hub is one of the best examples in Western Australia of how industry is working alongside students to be responsive to current and future needs.

UWA Major Projects Manager Merv Shortt said from the planning and design stages, through to the construction phase, student learning had been maximised.

“It has been a multi-layered project with great outcomes, including students in part-time employment on the build (with Perkins Builders), offers of internships and numerous student assignments based around design data,” Mr Shortt said.

He said the installation of a viewing platform and coordinated site tours gave students and staff the opportunity to learn the intent and philosophy behind the project. Once delivered, Mr Shortt said the student hub would transform into a learning tool with all mechanics of the structure visible to students. This includes access to a digital twin system, which allows students to read the performance of the building during live working conditions from internal and external building sensors, and to manipulate data on a remote offsite digital system.

“It will also allow for creative modelling solutions for optimal conditions within the building, such as air conditioning and ergonomics,” he said.

The building has not just been designed for its opening next year; it has been built for future students to challenge, manipulate and change going forward.

Master of Professional Engineering (Mechanical) student Sharon Nanang was among students given the opportunity of shadowing Mr Shortt during the innovative build.

“I went to meetings with other project managers, architects, students and stakeholders and learnt a lot about how the professionals go about their projects,” Sharon said.

“What surprised me was how well everybody worked together, considering there were so many people involved. The experience was one of the greatest things I have been involved in and as a result, I got my summer internship position from networking with an engineer during my work experience.”

Sharon said there were many opportunities awaiting students within the new ‘smart’ building.

“IT students can develop applications that can be used to potentially maximise the building’s efficiency, and electrical engineering students can look up and see all the wiring on the ceilings and essentially map out the building’s electrical connections,” she said.

Up to 15 projects, involving 60 students, were developed and integrated into the EZONE UWA build, while another small group of students have been actively recording the project’s progress in 4D that will be used for project management studies within engineering and architecture.

Master of Architecture student Tyran Hanlon was part of the student team engaged to photographically survey the refurbishment of EZONE North and the demolition and construction on the site of EZONE South, a collaborative effort between the School of Engineering and the School of Design. The project was rapidly launched to record each stage, from earthworks to completion, creating a visual record of the project transformation.

“Each fortnight we take 360-degree panoramas at up to 29 nodes across the site, which will be uploaded into a 4D learning environment, allowing students to virtually experience the processes, technologies and innovations that are going into the project,” Tyran said.

To date, they have taken over 3,000 photographs that have been stitched together to form more than 500 panoramas.

Tyran said he had been humbled to have been engaged in such a transformative project for UWA and the future of tertiary education more broadly.

“It has been great to be part of the journey, seeing the site transform every fortnight from what it was to the world-class facility it is shaping up to be,” he said.

Alumni spotlight:

David Gulland (BArch ’88) – Principal, Hassell

Having spent his younger years growing up near the Nedlands campus, attending kindergarten in the building currently used as the construction site office, and then studying architecture just north of the site, David feels a strong connection to place.

He believes the combination of the garden campus setting and the University as a place to meet, challenge and exchange ideas has resulted in an outward looking, international facility with a strong local identity.

“Architecture is a collaborative activity that extends well beyond the architectural team itself, and the connection with the UWA community, in particular the Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and Campus Management, has been very strong,” he said.

There are a number of current and past linkages with UWA across the entire project team, including the Landscape Architect role (also by Hassell), led by UWA alumna Natalie Busch (BEnvDes ‘02, BArch ‘05). Adopting a coordinated design approach with the architecture, Natalie also liaised with Dr Richard Walley OAM and others on integrating the Indigenous story of place and learning specific to the location.

David said the project had a broad range of innovations that overlapped, with the themes of ‘Connection and Exchange’ and ‘Inside-Out and Outside-In’ driving the design process. He said the combination of different elements, including urban design, planning, sustainability, specific design elements and the building as a tool for learning itself, were all important.

“The building has been designed as a living textbook for investigation and interpretation by students and researchers,” he said.

Mike Yates (BE ’05) – External Project Manager, NS Projects

Delivering something back to the place that helped set him on his professional pathway was a privilege for Mike, who said a key innovation of the project was the high level of interaction between staff and students.

“This interaction will be enhanced with the infrastructure being installed in the building,” he said. “The digital twin system creates a platform that captures key data and information from the building’s engineering systems, enabling staff and students to access the performance metrics of the building – giving them real experience and understanding of the engineering systems they are learning about.”

Mike agreed that collaboration had been a cornerstone of the student hub project, through consultation with an extensive stakeholder group within the UWA community. “This has included consulting with students and staff on the furniture selections for the building, right through to discussions around the strategic objectives and vision for the project with UWA and industry executives,” he said.

Blade King (BSc ’15, MPE ’17) – Structural Engineer, Pritchard Francis

Being exposed to an outstanding design project early in his career, after gaining an engineering position through the UWA scholarship program with Pritchard Francis, was a dream opportunity for Blade.

He said the structural design of the new building was extremely complex, requiring post tensioned concrete slabs and beams in combination with a perimeter steel truss. This accommodated the large internal spans and the remarkable external facade developed by Hassell architects.

“The structures lab includes a 5x5-metre L-shaped reaction wall made of one-metre thick reinforced concrete, allowing the University to carry out full-scale structural experiments, matching the best structural research facilities in the country,” he said.

Blade also said a large percentage of the consultant design team had graduated from UWA, resulting in extensive collaboration with graduates from a variety of UWA faculties from the conceptual stages through to construction.

“The entire Pritchard Francis structural design team are graduates of UWA and throughout construction we have worked with UWA students who are shadowing the University’s project manager, as well as students employed by the builders.”