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.

College Coronavirus Outbreaks Already Occuring

The air hasn’t yet become crisp and the colors of leaves are weeks from changing, yet coronavirus is already ravaging universities preparing for their fall semester.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cancelled its in-person undergraduate classes after a COVID-19 outbreak spread across campus during just the first week of the fall semester, reports ABC News. Universities have pledged to heavily clean and disinfect their campuses, but that won’t help too much in situation like this, as the clusters of infections at UNC are believed to have started in dorms, a fraternity house and student living spaces. Packed bars and off-campus parties are also believed to be a cause.

It isn’t fair to just call out UNC. Nearly two dozens members of a sorority at Oklahoma State University recently tested positive for COVID-19, reports NBC News. University of Notre Dame reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 between Aug. 6 and Aug. 14. More than eight percent of the students tested at the university since Aug. 3 have tested positive for COVID-19, reports the South Bend Tribune

Regardless of what university they clean, it appears the janitors and custodians at universities across the nation face an enormously difficult task this fall.

Nursing Home Cases Of COVID-19 Still Rising

Positive cases of COVID-19 were up nearly 80 percent earlier this summer and continue to rise, according to report reviewed by the Associated Press. The massive rise in cases were primarily caused by outbreaks in the southern and western United States.

Tamara Konetzka, a professor at the University of Chicago who specializes in long-term care, says the numbers shown in the study seem to suggest the problem isn’t close to being solved. 

One interesting statistic shows that more than 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths were related to long-term care facilities, despite the fact that the people living at these facilities only make up 1 percent of the nation’s population.

COVID-19 cases in nursing homes dropped from May to June and remained stable for most of the month. However, cases began to go back up in late June and have steadily rose ever since, according to the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living’s analysis of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data.

Some theorize that outbreaks spread to nursing homes because the people who work there are bringing the infections in with them when they don’t know they’re infected. Regardless of how the virus is getting to nursing homes, it’s certain that cleaning these facilities properly is just about as important as ever.

Advice For Reopening Buildings

As many buildings are preparing to reopen during this pandemic, the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force has updated its reopening “Building Readiness” guidance for HVAC systems to help mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. 

“The Building Readiness Guide includes additional information and clarifications so that owners can avoid operating their HVAC systems 24/7,” says Wade Conlan, ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force Building Readiness Team lead in a press release. “By rolling out this updated guidance, we are providing a more robust structure for building owners to complete the objectives of their Building Readiness Plan and anticipate the needs of building occupants.”

Specific updated recommendations to the building readiness guidance include the following:

Pre- and Post- Occupancy with Outdoor Air

The intent of this strategy is to ensure that infectious aerosol in the building at the end of occupancy is removed prior to the next occupied period. The building is flushed for a duration sufficient to reduce concentration of airborne infectious particles by 95 percent. For a well-mixed space, this would require three air changes (three times the building volume) of outdoor air (or three equivalent air changes including the effect of filtration and air cleaners) as detailed in the calculation methodology. There is also guidance on methods to increase the quantity of outdoor air introduced by systems. 

Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) Systems Operation

Guidance is provided to assist in determining if an energy recovery system using an energy wheel is well designed and maintained and whether it should remain in operation. Based on the assessment of ERV conditions, it may be possible to fix problems and return it to service.