Building 215 Living Laboratory
Designed and built in 2012, Building 215, known as the ‘Living Laboratory’ provides Curtin engineering students with engaging and innovative experiential learning. The Living Laboratory gives students an environment in which to explore real life engineering parameters. This is an exciting departure from the traditional approach of learning engineering theory by examining a static building.
The original intent of this project was to provide students with a world-class example of sustainable building design and an alternative pedagogical approach to education. Students learn by ‘doing’ and use the building as a scientific instrument, which demonstrates the core principles of engineering and the complexity of how a building needs to be designed in terms of structure and comfort.
While there are many sub-projects running concurrently at the Living Laboratory, two key focus areas for students are examining air-conditioning services and structural monitoring of the building.
Students can monitor live system data on the building’s interface, temperature, humidity, thermal efficiency, air and cooling/heating water pressure dynamics. Information is displayed on kiosk screens, which are located in the foyer and walkways and is captured for further study and analysis. In addition to building services engineering areas of study, students are able to apply air conditioning system data to engineering principles used in the petrol chemical and allied industries. Students can, for example, monitor a sub-system air conditioning system, analyse inputs and outputs, measure carbon dioxide levels for fresh air ventilation, and in turn, explore ways to ensure optimal carbon dioxide levels that create a pleasant work environment.
Students are able to study structural monitoring by examining the building’s open stairwell and bridges through an array of accelerometer and strain gauges. Video data of walkway acceleration is captured so that students are able to visualise and measure the impact of weight on the structure, which provides them with a practical application to structural monitoring in building bridges or similar structures.
An additional feature of the building is that responses to wind loading, and the impact of wind on various faces of the building is measured by gauges around the exterior perimeter of the building and a weather station.
The Living Laboratory system has transformed Curtin’s approaching to teaching and learning within engineering and is designed to be extensible with more projects to be added in the future, including a study of on-site electrical energy consumption and the installation of a solar observatory.