Australia is Building the World’s First Coral Conservation Facility

Contreras Earl Architecture has revealed its design for the world-first coral ark. Located at the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef in Port Douglas, North QueenslandAustralia, the conservation facility “aims to secure the long-term future and biodiversity of corals worldwide which are under severe threat due to climate change”.

Dedicated to the future of corals worldwide, the Living Coral Biobank, designed by Contreras Earl Architecture, with leading engineering and sustainability consultants Arup and Werner Sobek for the Great Barrier Reef Legacy, is the first facility of its kind. Focusing on taking care of 800 species of the world’s hard corals, the new building is a “living ark”, with next-generation renewable energy design, creating optimal conditions for coral storage while minimizing energy consumption and solar gain.

Courtesy of Contreras Earl Architecture / SAN architectural illustration
Courtesy of Contreras Earl Architecture / SAN architectural illustration

Securing the living biodiversity of the world’s coral species immediately, the 6,830 sqm multi-function center will also host exhibition areas, an auditorium, and classrooms as well as advanced research and laboratory facilities over four levels. Moreover, “the Living Coral Biobank will enable visitors to get up close to live specimens in aquarium displays, learn about coral ecosystems through exhibitions and events, and observe coral husbandry experts going about their daily work in a protected wet lab environment”.

Commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Legacy, the project responds to context, climate, the user, and its function to protect 800 species of coral. The volume, inspired by the mushroom coral, takes a series of organic undulating concrete fins, on the façade, “clustered closely at ground level to offer protection from adverse tropical conditions including threats of a flood”. On higher levels, the fins twist and unfurl, allowing natural light and ventilation while providing solar shading. On another hand, the visitor’s’ journey is defined by an architecturally manipulated play of light.

Courtesy of Contreras Earl Architecture / SAN architectural illustration
Courtesy of Contreras Earl Architecture / SAN architectural illustration

This project brings with it a profound responsibility to consider the impact of architecture and the construction industry on the natural world. As one of the world’s major contributors to CO2 emissions and associated climate change, it is essential that the construction industry be encouraged by architects towards carbon neutrality. The Living Coral Biobank is an opportunity to set a global benchmark for sustainable outcomes and zero-carbon goals as well as creating a world-leading conservation and education facility. The ambition for this project is to create a beacon for environmental awareness – a center of hope, learning, and wonder. — Rafael Contreras

Courtesy of Contreras Earl Architecture / SAN architectural illustration
Courtesy of Contreras Earl Architecture / SAN architectural illustration

Responding to the need to conserve the corals in a highly controlled environment as well as the requirement for biosecurity to prevent cross-contamination, sustainability is at the core of every design decision, aiming to be self-sufficient and carbon neutral. In fact, the structure was divided into six compatible climate zones over four levels, with adjacencies minimizing energy resources used for climatic control. 

Smart Strategies for Creating Sustainable Outdoor Workspaces

Article from FacilitiesNet.

The most effective workspaces are human-centric, and amplify the message that people are a company’s most important resource. There are several primary attributes to any truly compelling, people-first workplace: an urban vibe, with a buzz of activity that feels like a place where something important is happening; a collegial atmosphere where employees are part of something bigger, and their contribution is recognized and important; and they allow a “walk in the park.” As facility managers look for ways to create tenant amenities, they should look to outdoor spaces that can be captured and repurposed.

Everyone needs a break from time-to-time. We need to regroup, regenerate, and rest. An effective workplace supports this. Maybe it’s as simple as a view, or integrating interior planting, or even literally a walk in the park across the street. It’s an often overlooked feature, and it can have a profound influence on the success of an office.

Integrating nature and the office building

Nature impacts human well-being at a fundamental level and can measurably reduce levels of fear and stress. Nature can soothe and even reduce pain. It’s no accident that hospitals and other institutional settings increasingly try to integrate nature and outdoors into design. 

Nature’s restorative effects can improve one’s ability to pay attention and focus. A break can improve our ability to refresh and come back ready to take on new tasks. A workplace that can integrate nature is one that can truly make people healthier when they go home than when they arrived in the morning.

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this thinking as building owners and facility managers contemplate the next level of effective workplaces with renewed attention to not only actual outdoor spaces, but indoor atriums, and even interior community spaces. There is great interest in how to create this connection to nature or make existing spaces or underutilized features into effective workspaces, particularly with the knowledge that the transmissibility of the virus is significantly reduced in outdoor settings. In fact, many schools and colleges are contemplating outdoor instructional settings where facilities and weather permit.

The workplace is not far behind and the close connection between interior architecture and landscape architecture is being amplified as effective rooms are developed both indoors and out for small group settings, for team spaces, for brainstorming sessions, and alternative solo work seats.

A place for rest and a place for work

Historically, outdoor settings have been places to be seen, but not necessarily to have been occupied for a work day. Increasingly we’re seeing these spaces with a renewed focus, not simply as beautiful ambiance, but as a functional space as well.  They can provide the needed respite for stressed employees, but they can also be effective work settings. Even in generally inhospitable climates, with a bit of shelter and even heat on a cool day or cooling on a warm one, outdoor settings can work as highly effective spaces akin to effective interior spaces.  Often these outdoor spaces are literally extensions of interior community spaces with materials and features that make the inside and outside blend seamlessly.  

As facility managers look for ways to amplify the features of their portfolio, they should look to outdoor spaces that can be captured and repurposed as another tenant amenity in the arms race to attract and retain tenants. An exciting feature of this trend is in existing buildings where underutilized roof decks, parking garage roofs, or balconies become features that one or more tenants can use. Something as simple as a physical connection between the bustle of an active building lobby and recaptured but adjacent outdoor space can provide an entirely new and very welcome experience for tenants. And it supports the idea of a compelling, human-centric work experience. Facility managers must ask themselves: What will make individuals come to the office from the relative safety of their homes? The experience, the amenity, and the chance to work effectively with colleagues must be compelling.

Making the outdoors work for work

Effective outdoor workspaces have the same requirements as their interior cousins: Furnishings should be flexible and movable.  Materials should be inviting and welcoming. Technology can transform a space from a simple arrangement of chairs to a real and effective team space or collaboration zone. Robust and seamless network connectivity is a must.  Lighting (or shade) should allow screens to be visible and for participants to be seen. The new normal will always have virtual participants whether the meeting and the participants are inside or out.

Spaces need not, however, be a collection of interior rooms simply moved outdoors. A top that can provide some level of shading, visual privacy from above, and some ability to withstand moisture makes the space habitable in all but extreme conditions. Some settings provide cooling to extend their use further into warm weather and heat to do the opposite in cool climates. While the very hottest days, a heavy downpour, the onset of frigid weather, or a snowstorm may render a space inoperable, facility occupants will appreciate how much of the year an outdoor setting can be effective and serve as a productive workplace.