Construction has started in Wollongong on what is expected to be the nation's first "living building".
The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre at the University of Wollongong's Innovation Campus is on track to be the first Australian building to be certified by the Living Building Challenge.
Project manager Lance Jeffery said the centre was expected to meet the strict criteria set by the challenge, the world's most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment.
"The centre is due for completion early next year and will probably be the lowest energy building of its size and kind in Australia.
"It will certainly be the first building to achieve a six-star Green Star Design rating in the Illawarra," he said.
"[Each year] the centre will produce more energy than it uses, thanks to a range of features.
"These include a high-tech ventilation system, rooftop solar panels and wind turbine, a natural waste water system and permaculture and native food gardens."
Mr Jeffery said a range of recycled materials including bricks and timber were being used in the construction of the building, helping to take these materials out of the waste stream.
"All the materials in the building have also had to come within a strict radius of the site to gain certification by the Living Building Challenge, and none of the challenge's 'red list' materials like formaldehyde, PVC or mercury will be used," he said.
Mr Jeffery said the centre would test a range of existing sustainable building technologies, and research and develop new ones in conjunction with industry partners including BlueScope Steel.
"It will be a living laboratory," he said.
"The technologies used in the building will be monitored for performance, and they will be displayed in an exhibition space for industry representatives, students and members of the wider community."
Innovation Campus director David Campbell said the 2600 square metre building, designed by architects Cox Richardson, was a perfect fit for the North Wollongong precinct.
"This reinforces the research credentials of the Innovation Campus and again shows the leadership of the University of Wollongong in having the foresight to design and operate such a building," he said.