The University of Wollongong's "living laboratory" is steadily being brought to life.
The steel skeleton of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre at the Innovation Campus is up and is now being fleshed out with reused brick and recycled timber walls.
A high-tech ventilation system is being installed to allow the building - and its occupants - to breathe easily. And the addition of solar and wind technologies will ensure that it has an excess of energy.
The $26 million applied research facility - due for completion by June - is set to be the first Australian building certified by the Living Building Challenge.
Project manager Lance Jeffery said the challenge, set by the International Living Future Institute, was the world's most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment.
"The Living Building Challenge takes sustainability to a whole new level," he said.
"Not only does the certification program focus on site, water, energy and materials, it looks at areas like health, equity and beauty too," he said.
So, while the multidisciplinary centre will employ recycled and reused materials - including timber from an old bridge, discarded railway tracks from CityRail and bricks from demolition sites - it will also be aesthetically pleasing.
And though the building's H shape has been designed mainly for ventilation, it will also be good for the occupants' health and well-being, as it will give them plenty of access to natural light and fresh air.
The permaculture and bush tucker gardens, herb gardens and internal green wall were necessary to meet the urban agriculture requirements of the challenge, but they also improve the air quality for all.
Plug-in stations for electric vehicles and bike stations are practical, and they also serve to steer people towards greener transport options.
Mr Jeffery said the centre would serve as a living lab, demonstrating to industry and the community how to make sustainable buildings and effective living/working places.
Researchers will not only test existing sustainable building technologies but also develop new ones, along with industry partners such as BlueScope Steel.
"It's targeted to be a net-zero-energy building, which means it will generate more power than it uses in an annual cycle," Mr Jeffery said.
"This will be achieved through a combination of technologies, from on-site solar generation to battery storage to ground source heat exchange, which dumps heat in summer and stores it in winter.
"It will also be a net-zero-water building, as all the rainwater will be captured, treated and reused."
The building will be constantly monitored for optimal performance. As well as monitoring and research labs and office space, it will include a major exhibition space on the ground floor.
"We will be working very closely with industry to answer their questions on sustainability and energy efficiency - on how they can improve their products and how to get emerging products on to the market," Mr Jeffery said.
"But we don't want the centre to be an ivory tower. We want to have it accessible to students and the general public."
• The 2600-square-metre building, on the 8000-square-metre site, has been designed by Sydney architects Cox Richardson and is being built by Baulderstone construction services.
• The building’s construction materials will include reused bricks from demolition sites and recycled timber from sources such as an old bridge.
• The building will be free of ‘‘red list’’ materials such as formaldehyde, PVC, mercury and lead – as required to gain Living Building Challenge status.
• It will use a range of renewable energy resources including wind turbines and solar panels and will be a net-zero-energy building, generating more power than it uses in an annual cycle.
• It is targeting a six-star Green Star Design and Living Building status through the International Living Future Institute.