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Sydney’s Taronga Zoo Sets the Benchmark

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Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is now home to a world-class science and learning facility designed by NBRS Architecture.

Working closely with the Taronga Conservation Society, from initial concept through to detailed design, NBRS Architecture created an inviting work and learning hub. Built at a cost of $30.7 million, the Taronga Science and Learning Facility (TISL) is the first of its kind in the Southern hemisphere.

The new facility showcases Taronga Zoo as a leading science and research institution. Taylor Constructionand BKA Architecture were part of the successful team who led the project through construction to delivery.

This dynamic institute houses tutorial learning environments that allow students from diverse backgrounds to interact with the zoo. Students of all ages—early learners, high school, tertiary students and researchers— will benefit alike. The hub will support over 150,000 visits per year and will strive to enhance educational engagement. The design aims to promote authentic learning experiences for students and truly transform the education experience at the zoo.

The three-storey building is designed around a bright and spacious atrium space that seamlessly connects the Institute’s various functions. It serves as a key orientation point for all.

Further, you will find three captivating and carefully designed habitat classrooms themed around desert, rainforest, and woodland elements. There are also purpose-built laboratories along with an innovative lecture theatre, boardroom and offices. In order to provide better comfort, acoustics of these spaces were considered so that their design allowed to reduce echo and reverberation.

Situated on the picturesque shores of Sydney Harbour, the site is set on a rolling hill. The shape and design of the structure embrace the form of the land. Its design is inspired by nature and patterns found in DNA structures, making the building truly unique, both inside and out.

Andrew Duffin, Design Director at NBRS spoke to Jobsite ANZ about the relationship of the built form and the surrounding landscape.

“The TISL design grew out of contextual research. The naturally finished, grounded form sits comfortably within the sandstone outcrops and Sydney vegetation. The materiality flowing from outside to inside reflects the contextual tones and defines natural rhythms of cells and animal skins.”

In response to the client brief, Duffin said, “The design reflects a close working relationship with Taronga Conservation Society to create a benchmark facility evoking its ‘shared planet’ purposes. The big idea of branching arms centred on the light-filled atrium down to the detail of the cell-like façade reflects to produce naturally responsive experiential environment.”

As a result of this development, Taronga Zoo is the first zoo in Australia to receive a six-star environmental rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. TISL was awarded a Green Star Design & As Built, Six Star Certified building rating, the highest possible rating. It proves TISL’s world leadership in sustainable building practices.

Key sustainable features of the development include:

  • the use of recycled water for toilet flushing and irrigation

  • a solar PV rooftop installation that will provide a clean source of energy on site

  • a gas-boosted solar thermal installation which will meet the buildings hot water requirements

  • passive design in the foyer area allowing to avoid the implementation of air conditioning systems

  • specialised louvres to reduce solar radiation penetrating the building, helping to keep optimal temperature levels

“The purpose-built facility has provided an agile, transparent and sustainable environment that creates tangible links between theory and practice. The facility is a living example of conservation by achieving a Six Star Green Star rating,” Duffin said.

This state of the art facility is now home to the largest conservation science team of any zoo in the southern hemisphere.

On the October 16, 2018, the Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, visited Taronga Zoo to cut the ribbon at the official launch of TISL.

On the other side of Sydney, just 45 kilometres away, a new zoo is under construction. With plans to open in the second half of 2019, the $45 million Sydney Zoo is located on a 16.4-hectare block of land overlooking Bungarrigee Park in Western Sydney. This exciting tourism attraction will provide 160 full-time jobs during construction and 120 full-time jobs during operation.

ASPECT Studios was commissioned by Sydney Zoo to design the master plan for the expansive site. Designed to connect the zoo with the broader landscape of the surrounding park, it will appear to be free of fences—enclosure devices will be concealed in the landscape elements. This strategy allows people to be in close proximity to the animals while employing best practices in animal welfare.

Sydney Zoo is aiming to become the world’s first energy-independent zoo through the development of a solar power network.

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