The new Andrew N. Liveris Building will be the University of Queensland’s flagship platform to integrate innovative, industry and research-embedded learning with interdisciplinary and global solutions-focused research in areas such as energy, water, resources, consumer products and sustainable engineering. [Professor Paul Lant Head of School, School of Chemical Engineering, 2009-2013].

The School of Chemical Engineering’s existing building has served the school well for several decades, but the increasing space constraints and efforts in maintaining safe environments meant a new home was required for the school’s future growth and research work. The design principle brief for the new building was for a safe, state of the art teaching and research facility whilst being flexible, adaptable, accessible, scalable, visible and collaborative. The building would enable to school to deliver their research and teaching programmes which cut across diverse disciplines in chemical, biomedical, bioprocess, environmental, materials, metallurgical and minerals engineering.

AECOM’s engineering design team supported the ambitious vision of the project by creating a flexible, functional, and resilient design whilst catering to the needs of the diverse stakeholder groups.

The building looks to the future; both in innovative and interdisciplinary teaching as well as solutions focussed engineering research. The new facility is a 12-storey building with the levels intrinsically linked by a central atrium and vertical learning laboratory. A combined building plant and laboratory flue roof space is located on the top floor of the building. The building primarily consists of modern state-of-the-art wet research laboratories, offices and meeting spaces, teaching and learning spaces as well as common and shared space over a total floor area of approximately 20,000m2.

The teaching spaces are collaborative and multi-modal, immersed in a technology rich environment. The informal learning spaces include 24-hour student learning centres which are an important enhancement to the student’s learning environment.

A specific requirement for the School of Chemical Engineering was for the building to incorporate several multi-storey and single storey Pilot Hall spaces which are adaptable for rigs to be constructed as part of process engineering learning and research initiatives.


AECOM provided comprehensive engineering design services including mechanical, electrical, fire protection, environmentally sustainable design, vertical transportation, audio visual and acoustics, structural and civil and dangerous goods and hazardous area consulting services.


Through considered and innovative engineering design, we delivered the following benefits,

  • Energy Efficient Solutions – implementing solutions to lower the ongoing operational energy use of what could be an energy intense facility. One key focus area was the fume cupboard exhaust design. Our team investigated alternative solutions via manifold systems coupled with sash management gaining efficiencies in spatial footprint on the roof, reduction in the number of exhaust fans (and roof space requirements). The fume cupboard strategy adopted will deliver lower maintenance costs through a significant reduction in roof exhaust fans and achieving energy efficiency further enabled through sash management at the fume cupboards themselves.
  • Future Lab Adaptability – By designing large research laboratories with services infrastructure and a structural grid design ensures future adaptability to convert the open labs to smaller modules as research needs change. The manifold fume cupboard strategy will enable the school to add fume cupboards in the future with relative ease, without the need to modify vertical riser or roof plant infrastructure. The wet laboratories also include planning for future PC2 adaptability, where they can be transitioned to PC2 certified laboratories easily.
  • Design life of 50 years – The structural design was developed in collaboration with the architect to provide a robust and durable structural solution. A concrete frame including post tensioned band beams and conventional reinforced concrete slabs on columns set out in a clear and logical regular grid was found to be the optimal design solution. The design offers structural efficiency, strong vibration performance, flexibility for the heavy service requirements of the laboratories and a buildable structure known to the local market. Several framing options were evaluated against agreed criteria to offer more than the conventional solutions. The break-out pods over the atrium suspended off the floor’s edge, through the evolution of design and constructability feedback, became cantilevered curved steel pod frames supporting CLT floors. This solution helped solve the tricky balance between minimising weight in a suspended structure and providing the required vibration performance.
  • Pilot Hall Functionality – A key space for the school, the Pilot Hall was briefed to be an open working area with ample sight lines across the hall, with the ability to have different rigs operating independently at each respective hall and changed over time. We worked with the school on a hazardous area and dangerous goods strategy that could support this functionality without the need to physically segregate each hall. Instead, approaches in utilising floor bunds, dilution of chemicals handled, and quantities stored were brought together to achieve the intended functionality within the desired open halls configuration.

Images: Christopher Frederick Jones