Yugo North Terrace in Adelaide is a pre-engineered, adaptable, heritage-inspired passive high-rise

An apartment building in Adelaide designed for global student accommodation provider Yugo has been designed with flexibility in mind for other potential uses in the future.

Architect Rothlowman has used prefabrication, 3D printing and passive sustainability in the design.

The $110 million, 34-story tower on North Terrace was constructed using 700 prefabricated load-bearing precast columns, making the building one of the tallest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

It will provide accommodation for more than 700 students with several common spaces including a cinema, multimedia room, lounges, kitchens and social dining areas.

To achieve the flexibility, the building was prefabricated off site to allow for adaptation for future use.

Future use in mind

Principal of Rothlowman Ben Pomroy told The Fifth Estate that 589 individual bathrooms were pre-constructed as pods in NSW and craned into place, a decision made with the building’s future in mind.

A building “must have a life potentially beyond their current use,” Mr. Pomroy said.

It is what he calls the “long life, loose fit” that the design allows the building to be easily adapted if a change of use is deemed necessary in the future.

“Over the life of the building, it can be reconfigured as many times as possible, and structural columns aren’t going to get in the way.”

Passive sustainability

The building known as the North Terrace uses a traditional hot and dry climatic device, the Brise Soleil, an architectural feature that reduces heat gain in that building by deflecting sunlight. This facade was produced using an innovative 3D printing technique.

The imposing exterior columns serve the building in several ways. In addition to being load-bearing, they also provide a shading benefit. The vertical columns create a fixture and protection for the glazing which reduces the heat created by the sun hitting the windows directly, Mr Pomroy said. The depth of the floorboards also helps to provide full sun protection in the middle of summer.

“So in the afternoon and morning, the effective heat load of the building is reduced quite significantly, without the need to install mechanical systems.”

It’s all part of a push for passive sustainability.

One of the biggest carbon emitters on the planet is construction, and as architects we have enormous control over how much material goes into the buildings we design

“Sustainability, in my mind, is not about sticking things on the building,” Mr Pomroy said.

“Being sustainable is also about using fewer materials to do what we do, because one of the biggest carbon emitters on the planet is construction, and as architects we have a huge amount of control over how much material goes into the buildings we design.

“The structure and how the building is made can be a beautiful object in itself, rather than having to put things on it.”

Principal of Rothlowman Ben Pomroy

Wind downdraft

One of the challenges at the site was to limit wind to the surrounding environment without compromising the aesthetics of the surrounding heritage area.

The columns and floor slabs were designed to do the job so there was no need for lower level awnings or canopies.

This formed an “active damping” system to reduce sway.

But the damping is “probably half”. [the] size of what you would typically get, like with the outer structure on the tower, it slows down the wind speed as it hits the tower and moves up and down the building.”

These external elements would have significantly changed the look and feel of the immediately surrounding historic area – which the architects wanted to preserve.

Enlightened by the surrounding heritage

The building’s location on the historic North Terrace was an important point of reference for the architects.

“It’s in quite a sensitive location in Adelaide in terms of the listed buildings,” Mr Pomroy said.

The exterior structure was designed to go back to classical columns with entasis.

The English architect and archaeologist Francis Penrose defined “entasis” as: “swelling given to a column in the middle parts of the shaft for the purpose of correcting an unpleasant optical illusion which appears to make their contours appear concave instead of straight ” in his analysis of the Parthenon in Greece.

Sir. Pomory defined it as “the way the columns used to be designed to reflect how a tree grows”.

“The building tapers out … and then tapers back in the middle section, it’s a deliberate reflection of taller heritage buildings to our west.”

The architects also integrated bronze colored window treatments to try to “speak” to the surrounding heritage buildings in a modern way.

Work began on the project in 2019, and while the client’s short, surrounding buildings and site requirements were all taken into account, an almost complete world shutdown to combat a highly transmissible virus was not part of the plan.

Sir. Pomroy said that while he and his team occasionally reached across the border, site visits were usually conducted by video conference call with a partner member walking around the site and filming with their phone.

Yugo North Terrace was designed and built with architects Rothelowman and Intro Architecture, structural engineers Wallbridge Gilbert Aztec (WGA), service engineer Lucid Consulting and project management by Neoscap.

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