Sustainable Buildings Research Centre

The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) is a multi-disciplinary facility that aims to be a leader in ideas and solutions that address the challenge of transforming our buildings and built environment into sustainable, resilient and effective places in which people live and work.

The SBRC is also the home of the Australian Power Quality and Reliability Centre. Through research, collaborations, and links with industry we aim to meet the challenge of improving the performance of our new and existing building stock focused on making buildings more livable, more sustainable, more cost-effective and kinder to our environment.

The building

The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) is a multi-disciplinary facility that aims to be a leader in ideas and solutions that address the challenge of transforming our buildings and built environment into sustainable, resilient and effective places in which people live and work. Based on optimised passive design principles, natural ventilation and careful equipment selection, the SBRC is an ultra-low energy building.


  • Net Zero Energy.160kW onsite renewable energy system produces more power than the building consumes each year.
  • Net Zero Water. Onsite rainwater harvesting and treatment.
  • Building Layout. H-shaped floorplate designed to optimise natural ventilation, provide access to fresh air, natural light, and optimise the use of thermal mass.
  • Hybrid Mixed Ventilation. Maximised natural ventilation system with a ground source heat exchanger and in-slab hydronics system.
  • Locally Sourced Materials. All primary materials have been sourced within a limited radius of site to contribute to the regional economy.
  • Low Impact IT Solutions. Energy efficient thin-client hardware operating in a virtual desktop environment with softphone technology.
  • Car Free Living. Twenty dedicated bike spaces with change rooms, electric vehicle parking and close to public transport.
  • Edible Gardens. Onsite vegetable, herb, and fruit gardens.
  • Plug & Play Micro Grid. Advanced electrical and communication system to mimic the broader utility network and enable testing and demonstration of emerging power technologies.
  • Advanced Building Management System. Advanced BMS to control, monitor, and report on all building systems.
  • Environmentally Safe Materials. Building materials predominantly free of Red Listed chemicals.
  • Internal Green Wall. Three vertical green walls within internal atrium space.


  • Net-zero energy. SBRC produces more power than it consumes.
  • Water exporter. SBRC harvests and distributes water beyond its own needs.
  • Natural ventilation. Natural Ventilation design with task-based, passive conditioning using various methods (including ground source heating and cooling, solar walls, earth to air heat exchanger).
  • Building-integrated smart-grid. Integrated power grid capable of simultaneous testing of multiple renewable energy generation sources and storage systems.
  • Fully-integrated Green IT building management system. SBRC is wired to measure and report on all aspects of sustainability (including workgroup power consumption, water use, printing statistics).
  • Natural waste water system. A greywater separation and natural treatment system will enable export of greywater to nearby buildings.
  • Sustainable IT solution. SBRC delivers a cutting edge holistic approach to Green IT.
  • Urban agriculture. Inclusion of permaculture and Australian native food gardens across the SBRC site. 

Internationally recognised for efficiency and restoration

With 468 solar panels and 3 vertical gardens, SBRC produces more power than it consumes and creates a restorative space.

Winner of the Milo Dunphy award for sustainable architecture.


[Speaker: Joe Agius – Design Director, Cox Architecture]: It is a building of its place. It’s very much informed by its’ landscape setting in the broad sense of the word. The escarpment, the ocean, the textures and the materials of the site. I'd like to see the building as being, in a sense or having grown from the site.


[Speaker: Professor Paul Cooper – Director, Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC)]: So, our vision for the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre from the start was something that was going to push the boundaries, something a building that we could look back on in 10 years time or longer and know that we really pushed the boundaries of sustainability. We wanted it to be net zero energy. We wanted it to be net zero water and we wanted it to be made of materials that were benign, very environmentally friendly.


[Speaker: Joe Agius – Design Director, Cox Architecture]: So the notion of brick alaj is essentially about making an object from found things. And our interpretation of that for this building was really using materials or a material palette that is essentially sourced locally as much as possible. They found and reused rail track, found and reused brick and found and reused timber, they are the principal materials for the envelope of the building.

There's a practical aspect to all of this as well. It allows the building to gracefully weather in place. It's not a building that requires a high degree of maintenance to be kept shining and new. We wanted to grow old gracefully and we want the building materials to register age and time. And the other aspect to sustainability is the two reforms to the building. The High Bay building, with its rolled curved roof, is shaped that way to facilitate natural ventilation from north to south, whereas the research building with its long wing shaped roof, with its very extensive shading on the north side and it's kick up to the south side is really about enabling cross ventilation but also controlling light in a very precise way and prohibiting glare, given the intensity of screen based activity. If you go into that office space now, I think you'll find that there'll be no lights turned on and you'll know that there's no blinds that have been retrofitted, and that's a really good measure of the quality of the daylighting within the space.

[Speaker: Michael Bradburn – Project Architect, Cox Architecture]: The predominant key challenge is we were aiming to achieve the Living Building Challenge for living building status, as the first Australian building to attempt to do this. We needed to meet a whole series of criteria, including eliminating chemicals that are on a particular red List, but also meeting any industry standards like the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC standard for timber.

The building itself is an experiment and will be tested on and retrofitted overtime as a core focus of this center. And there's a rooftop test area pacifically designed as somewhere that research test kit can be landed and plugged in and used in the building.

On the other side of the building here, we've got the first installation of building integrated photovoltaic technology that was developed with BlueScope. It's an example of a retrofitted detailing approach to this particular technology. That approach of plug and play also extends to the mechanical water system to input heated or cooled water from a source, for example, geothermal, and put it into the mechanical system where it's used by the building or a smart grid that simulates the grid that allows any generation source, so that the PV or wind or possibly even wave technology in the future to be plugged into the building and directed to any load source in the building.

[Speaker: Joe Agius – Design Director, Cox Architecture]: In terms of other favorite positive outcomes, the fact that the Urban Agricultural Garden is actually a living, thriving place, and the students and researchers actually do use it to grow food.

In terms of user comments etc., the thing that's most pleasing is that it works as a place to conduct meaningful research. It supports the research intent of the University. In terms of feedback from students, the fact that they just enjoy being there. They enjoy the ambience and the warm of the building. We strive to create a building and a place that has had an almost domestic quality about it.

[Speaker: Professor Paul Cooper – Director, Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC)]: So the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre building has been a tremendous asset to the university since we've been in occupation here in terms of attracting the attention of international students and top research students. But also it's a really nice place to work in and I think I speak for everyone who works here, it's a privilege to be in this space.


Tour Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, Illawarra Flame House and Desert Rose house

Sustainable Buildings Research Centre Snap Content

The main entrance foyer of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre is our public exhibition space. This space is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and all are welcome.

This space displays the key facts about the SBRC and the Illawarra Flame House. Various research prototypes and project posters are on display as well as our interactive digital signage.


The SBRC hosts public open days and community tours to educate the community on our important work in sustainability. We showcase our research equipment as well as our industry partners and researchers who are available to tell visitors all about many of the exciting projects taking place across the Illawarra. This includes tours of the Illawarra Flame House and more recently exposure to the new Desert Rose House, our award winning entries into the Solar Decathlon!


Self-guided tours of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre are free to be taken at your leisure. This informative tour is a great way to find out all about the SBRC building and some of the exciting research we are doing.

We encourage everyone to visit our building and take the tour. 

The SBRC welcomes school groups for tours and sustainable school workshops! If you are interested and want to find out more please contact the Science Centre & Planetarium

Discover more about our team and projects