The Translational Research Institute (TRI) is an initiative to bring four of the country’s pinnacle research facilities together with to focus on a range of health and research areas including cervical cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, liver and kidney disease, malaria, HIV, osteoporosis, obesity, arthritis and diabetes.
Designed by Wilson Architects and Donovan Hill in conjunction with Aurecon façade consultants, and constructed by Watpac, the TRI building is an ambitious two-year construction project on the Princess Alexandra Hospital campus in Brisbane’s southern suburbs.
A Strong Façade
The building has three main façade styles present in the structure, each with unique solar, thermal, and aesthetic properties and was technically demanding with the different systems that were required to be designed.
The north façade integrates a glass sunshade designed to reduce solar transmission while keeping the views of the city. The courtyard, sheltered from the elements, was designed for ultimate visibility and aesthetic appeal, and the panelled aluminium sides were designed to keep out noise and light while retaining a degree of visibility.
Due to the sheer scale of the sunshade, assembling the individual pieces of the façade on-site would be too time-consuming. For this reason each façade panel was assembled at the factory, complete with the external cantilevered glass screen.
The resulting panels, each in excess of three tonnes, were lifted into place with a purpose-built lifting frame and used a specially designed hook-on system to make the installation more manageable. Site installation was required for the glass panels over the vision areas, coming to approximately 850 pieces.
Panelled aluminium façade
Several styles of panelled aluminium screens adorn the west, east, and south sides of the exterior. These screens are designed to allow inhabitants to see out, but keep sunlight and noise out of the laboratories within.
Due to the nature of the hot dipped, galvanised steel support structure in the curtain wall panels, extra care was required in order to meet the extremely tight tolerance of the aluminium screens. Each individual shelf outrigger supporting the secondary steel work and screens for the east and west façades was individually surveyed in order to correctly detail the support steel and ensure over 850 individual panels could be installed to the tolerances required.
The central atrium
The central courtyard is the centrepiece of the entire project, with views of the area from all sides of the building. The courtyard is ringed with large open areas, meeting rooms, cafe spaces and the main auditorium.
The lower levels of the façade incorporates low-e glass for high visibility, while spandrels consist of external printed glass — said to resemble culture in a Petri dish. The panels for the vision area were structurally sealed to a custom designed opening without any mullions for support, so a bespoke head system was designed specifically for the project in order to secure the façade.
The central staircase sits in the centre of the courtyard, consisting of a shimmering glass exterior structurally sealed to a steel ring beam and suspended from parapet outriggers on the eighth level.
Each steel ring beam in the staircase is made of three pieces consisting of two ‘C’ sections with a straight connecting member. Each level fixed at four locations to the concrete structure and weighs around four and a half tonnes, including three tonnes of glass.
The stairwell façade was built from the top down and utilised a mobile access plant to install the steel and mast climbers on each face.
The level of technical achievement in this building is impressive. When opened, the facility will house more than 650 researchers, and will have a pilot scale biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility allowing the research, production, clinically testing, and manufacture of drugs and vaccines under the one roof.
At present the front façade is nearly installed, and the project is on track for completion within the next few months. Make sure to sign up for the newsletter for updates on the project, including photos of the finished structure once it’s opened.