Timber triumph carves top honours for sustainable construction

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

Murdoch University has added a feather to its construction hat with its new flagship building winning the prestigious Western Australia Project of the Year Award.

The indigenous culture-inspired facility named Boola Katitjin has racked up a range of awards since its opening, including the Master Builders Western Australia Award for best educational building and top prize at the 2023 WA Architecture Awards.

Labelled a potential “engineering influencer” by WA Engineers Australia Excellence Awards judges, the building follows biophilic design principles, connecting occupants to nature through its natural breezeway ventilation and views over the Beeliar wetlands.

The project is already attracting global attention for its contribution to advancing the sustainable, renewable, and circular approaches the education and construction industry requires to assist Australia in reaching its net zero carbon goals.

Principal Engineer of the project, Pratik Shrestha, commended the unique collaboration in making the Boola Katitjin building a reality after overcoming a series of challenges to construct the largest timber building in WA’s history.

“This award is so special in many ways,” he said.

“Boola Katitjin is such an extraordinary building, not only because of what it is, but because of what it stands for – with respect to leadership in sustainability, with respect to innovation, and with respect to engineering and architectural excellence.”

“This is a building that will leave a legacy for many generations to come.”

The Vice Chancellor of Murdoch University, Professor Andrew Deeks, told Build-it that Boola Katitjin symbolises the university’s values of sustainability, diversity and inclusion.

“This building embodies all three themes and presents a marker of progress in our pursuit of solutions for a better and more sustainable world,” he said.

Named after the Aboriginal words for ‘lots of learning’, Boola Katitjin has been designed to honour the cultural significance of First Nations people and their place in Western Australia’s history.

The building’s design follows cultural protocols and connects the land’s Aboriginal past to the present through colourful indigenous artwork depicting indigenous tales and historical events.

Sharon Cairns, the Director of the Australian Institute of Architects WA, praised the building’s symbolic importance to the indigenous community.

“The building stands as a message of hope that can inspire, engage, and encourage others to join on the journey to reconciliation,” she said,

Boola Katitjin, which houses the University’s School of Indigenous Studies, has taken sustainability to ‘another level’ with a rooftop garden that provides natural insulation, reduces heat, and promotes biodiversity.

Its eco-friendly features include solar power, extensive use of recycled materials, and strategically located windows that allow natural light to enter.

An energy-efficient smart meter system reduces the building’s power consumption by up to 30 per cent, and a façade of 202 coloured fins, made from university waste-sourced recycled plastic, provides shade from the sun.

Engineers Australia General Manager for Western Australia, Susan Kreemer Pickford, said the award would motivate the next generation of WA engineers.

“The Engineers Australia Excellence Awards go beyond recognising elite accomplishments in engineering,” she said.

“They highlight the pivotal role engineers play in our daily lives and their efforts in advocating for community well-being and the environment.”

The WA award qualifies Boola Katitjin to compete for Engineers Australia’s prestigious Sir William Hudson Award – Australia’s highest accolade for an engineering project.

The awards will take place on November 29 in Melbourne.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.

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