UTS Business School building inspired by a treehouse

Tuesday, 03 February, 2015

The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) has opened the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building - a 14-storey engineering innovation and the new home of the UTS Business School. Envisaged by internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry, the building’s unconventional design necessitated an equally unconventional approach to its construction.


The building was named after Australian-Chinese businessman and philanthropist Dr Chau Chak Wing, who generously donated $20 million towards its completion. UTS worked collaboratively on the project with Gehry Partners, Daryl Jackson Robin Dyke, Lend Lease and Aecom.

UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said the building is a physical manifestation of the innovative thinking that underpins the teaching, learning and research undertaken by the Business School and UTS as a whole. Its treehouse-inspired design was described by Gehry as “a growing, learning organism with many branches of thought, some robust and some ephemeral and delicate”.

The building’s east-facing, sandstone-coloured, undulating brick facade responds to Sydney’s sandstone heritage, while the large glass panels which comprise the west-facing facade reference the building’s city surrounds. The east facade, contorting and twisting in a three-dimensional plane over 14 storeys, created structural engineering challenges requiring innovative solutions.


Aecom Building Structures Lead Stephen Giblett explained that the bricks used are “completely unique and were invented specifically for this project”. In collaboration with UTS and the brick supplier, Aecom Technical Director - Buildings and Structures Ken Morkaya developed a brick, tie, mortar and backing system that solved the load, constructability and complex geometrical issues, keeping the facade bricks in place.

“The tie system I developed enabled the brick wall to be built traditionally with up to 10 courses of wet mortar, the standard for normal masonry construction,” Morkaya said. “The key innovation was a clip and tie system that held the bricks in place during construction while also providing the necessary tolerance to enable the complex curved geometry to be achieved.”

Inside, Aecom developed a lighting design based on a concept by L’Observatoire International to have the building appear to glow from the inside. The company worked with UTS to embed several environmentally sustainable design (ESD) features within the building, resulting in the achievement of a Green Star Education 5 Star Design Rating.


Aecom also faced the challenge of how to heat and cool the building sustainably. The interior consists of various different zones - lecture theatres, offices and meeting rooms - all requiring different methods of temperature control. The solution was to provide dedicated air-conditioning units for each zone and sensor technology to minimise wastage when a zone is unoccupied.

The building also uses higher than normal volumes of outdoor air to cool fan coil units. This fresh-air feature, combined with shorter air-conditioning ducts, means fans don’t need to work as hard, and air-cooled chillers mean the building does not consume much water in the process.

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building marks another milestone in UTS’s $1.2 billion City Campus Master Plan. It has been described by UTS Chancellor Professor Vicki Sara as “a symbol of everything UTS stands for - it epitomises our vision to be a world-leading university of technology where creativity and innovation intersect”.

Teaching will begin in the new UTS Business School at the beginning of Semester One on 23 February, while the public can participate in a tour of the building during an open weekend on 7 and 8 February. To register for the tour, visit http://newsroom.uts.edu.au/events/2015/02/dr-chau-chak-wing-building-open-weekend.

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