Transforming Spaces Connecting Places

UWA’s Perth campus has a long and proud history as a ‘university without gates’. A welcoming campus with heritage-listed gardens and buildings, it’s a major drawcard for students, researchers and visitors alike. The green open spaces are an essential part of the campus’ character and a significant physical asset to the University.

As it looks to the future, UWA will be focused on preserving and enhancing its distinct and vibrant campus identity while investing in improving the campus experience, and embedding sustainability principles in all future developments.

We will be recognised as a vibrant, sustainable and connected hub that blends our heritage with our future and welcomes our partners, the community and the wider world.
UWA 2030

Supporting the strategic vision is the University’s campus masterplan, which outlines a three-pronged model of activation, renewal and strategic new-build. This ambitious program will transform the campus to become a hive of activity that visibly integrates a cultural narrative, is open, engaging and accessible, and has infrastructure that is resilient and digitally connected. Uniview spoke with Trevor Humphreys, Director of Campus Management, to find out more.

Transforming spaces

Optimising and transforming facilities will be a key focus as UWA works towards its sustainable environment priorities. Respecting the heritage associated with many buildings on campus, UWA will invest in rejuvenating existing spaces to be more conducive to high-quality, contemporary teaching, learning and research needs – fit-for-purpose and future-proofed.

Mr Humphreys believes a key challenge for the University will be to become more space efficient.

"As we work to deliver the UWA 2030 vision, we need to improve the utility of our facilities, remodelling with agility of use in mind. Creating open plan, modern facilities, rich in technology and with flexibility to adapt to future changes are essential components of this transformation process," he said.

While technological developments have had a significant impact on pedagogy, sectoral trends reveal students still require face-to-face contact. With the physical university experience in focus, strategic campus activation will play a crucial role, bringing a renewed and sustained dynamism to campus. The campus plays a critical role in the delivery of an experience that welcomes, engages and makes lifelong advocates of its students.

A Campus Activation Plan is in development for the University, focusing initially on students as the core audience, with a coordinated program of activities building on existing activity that already occurs on campus. The first phase of the plan targets the centre of campus outside Student Services from James Oval, Saw Promenade and into Oak Lawn. The plan intends to unite people and improve vibrancy on campus by creating specific points across the day, week, month and semester at which people congregate, building critical mass and common activity, and ultimately improving the student experience.

Creating a clean, green and sustainable campus

Among the transformation and exciting new building commissions, UWA has also signalled its vision to become an energy neutral campus.

"We will use less, and we will use it smarter … We will name clear targets for lowering energy and water use, and will invest in renewables and carbon offsets" (UWA 2030)

To achieve this reduction in energy consumption requires a concerted effort to improve efficiency and reduce demand on campus, investing in renewable technologies and advocating for behavioural change.

Thermal efficiency will be a critical feature of existing building remodels, and new buildings commissioned will be required to meet strict targets for energy consumption. Renewable technologies, including solar and wind power, already feature in new building designs, such as the EZONE Student Hub. A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) will offset UWA's remaining energy consumption.

According to Mr Humphreys, while UWA will seek to use and share environmental best practice wherever it can, behavioural change is key.

"Shifting staff and student mindsets and encouraging them to operate in the workplace in a more environmentally sustainable way will make a real difference beyond physical environmental measures the University will put in place," he said.

"For example, increasing the number of staff that travel to work by public transport, walk or cycle, improves wellbeing and reduces carbon impact and congestion."

Reflecting a shared history

Privileged to have a beautiful campus on the lands of the Whadjuk Noongar people, planning for future environments is being managed through a process of respectful engagement, facilitating local Aboriginal-led direction, to recognise the living cultural heritage of UWA.

A Cultural Heritage Framework has been drafted, which reflects the University’s Indigenous place and shared history, and presents a unique approach for future campus development, particularly in terms of landscape and the connection to the river.

"Revealing a site’s cultural heritage enables threads of knowledge, ceremony, use and meaning to inform and be sensitively woven into an everchanging contemporary fabric. The outcome will be a richly layered creative and collaborative cultural heritage map, possibly a first for urban Australia." (UWA Masterplan Vision, Cultural Heritage Framework)

Bringing this to life is the new School of Indigenous Studies building – Bilya Marlee, currently under construction within the southern precinct of the Perth campus. Following extensive engagement with Indigenous staff, students and elders, the building’s design responds to the cultural narrative of the site, incorporating the existing remnant trees in the south-east corner and integration with Prescott Court. Purpose-built, the building will greatly improve the current student experience with high-quality informal learning spaces, collaborative learning and spill out spaces, and a variety of research and postgraduate office spaces.