In the heart of Melbourne, The Saint Teresa of Kolkata Building development offers the Australian Catholic University an integrated learning and teaching environment that enhances engagement, and connectivity, inspiring staff, students, and educators with the past while looking to the future.

Project summary

The $226 million, 18,344 square metre development includes 13 levels of education space, 7 levels of basement and three additional levels over the heritage-listed Mary Glowrey building. The two buildings operate as one unified whole with direct connections between the two at all levels. The building incorporates centralised teaching facilities, informal learning spaces, upgraded student amenities, green spaces and a rooftop multi-sports court.

Construction of the building commenced in November 2018 and was completed in May 2023.

Creating an elevated space for flexible collaboration and engagement

The development provides a range of student spaces, from 36-seat flexible flat floor rooms to a large 300-seat tiered lecture theatre. At each of the teaching levels, a range of informal learning environments are provided to support the flip classroom concept and deliver much-needed additional student space on campus.

The new Australian Catholic University (ACU) consultation area acts as a highly visible student contact point and is supported by an array of self-serve amenities, casual lounge areas, communal study spaces and small focus rooms. The student hub at Level 6 opens directly to a large outdoor landscaped terrace, taking full advantage of the elevated views of the city and surrounding suburbs and creating access to fresh air – an important feature of the vertical campus design. On the rooftop, a fully netted multi-sport court enclosure is designed for mixed use and is accompanied by change facilities and equipment storage. The lighting design of the court allows for after-hours use, providing a space for respite and recreation at all hours.

The upper four levels of the building are dedicated to academic office space. A flexible layout of enclosed and open work points has been designed around a consistent provision of meeting rooms, staff kitchenettes, storage and amenity spaces. A large conference facility will allow for flexible reconfiguration utilising retractable walls and is supported by a breakout lounge, catering and meeting facilities. Each level has been designed to meet the current requirements of the University and can be easily adapted for future use.

Below ground, a seven-level basement offers staff and student car parking, bicycle parking and a series of back-of-house facilities spaces.

Fostering connectivity, honouring the past and integrating the new

The development involved integrating the historically significant 99-year-old Mary Glowrey Building with the new St Teresa of Kolkata building to create one unified space for education. The St Teresa of Kolkata Building wraps over and behind The Mary Glowrey Building and is interconnected at every level, allowing students and staff to move seamlessly between the two structures that operate as one.

AECOM designed the vertical transportation systems to cater for the movement of a large staff and student population at peak periods through careful placement of lifts and elevators throughout the building. All spaces up to level 7 can be conveniently accessed via escalators to allow for the seamless flow of foot traffic and ensure lifts are accessible and not congested.

Integrating the existing Mary Glowrey Building systems with the new St Teresa of Kolkata Building presented a unique challenge. AECOM successfully reconfigured the building’s fire, ICT, and security systems and installed a new substation and switchboard to meet the updated requirements of the campus.

The project required substantial upgrades to the life safety systems within the existing Mary Glowrey Building and the diversion and relocation of existing fume cupboard exhausts from the existing building. The design process navigated a number of challenges related to the interconnection of the buildings. This was managed through detailed survey and close negotiation with the project Building Surveyor to develop a scheme that would limit cost and operational impact on the University, resulting in an optimum design outcome.

Limiting interruptions to campus life

Consideration of design needed to ensure The Mary Glowrey Building remained operational throughout the construction phase, limiting the interruptions to staff and student movements. Land space limitations and the sites’ location, which is bound by busy city streets, added another layer of complexity to delivering the project in a live environment. Creating the appropriate design required a comprehensive understanding of the existing systems to inform the design and reduce business-as-usual continuity risk. AECOM worked collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure the delivery of the design did not compromise the existing buildings’ operations and managed the limitations of the constrained site through meticulous planning.

Environmentally Sustainable Design

One of the project’s prominent aspects was its emphasis on environmentally sustainable design, driven by a target of 5-Star Green Star Design & As Built ratings and requirements for responsible sourcing of building materials. Working with an independent commissioning agent, AECOM established specific energy and water targets for the design of the campus and achieved a forty percent more energy-efficient building compared to a defined reference building. This was achieved through the careful design of ventilation and lighting systems and the application of new building management and automation systems.

Enhancing student experiences through upgraded AV systems

The integration of advanced digital technology throughout the campus creates an enhanced learning, teaching, and working environment for students and staff. Providing upgraded AV systems throughout the campus caters to a wide function of uses across formal and informal learning, study, and workspaces. The systems cater to varied learning modes and the needs of the growing digital delivery requirements of the educational institution.