The recently completed Harrison Secondary School in Canberra’s north is an exemplar of sustainable and innovative educational facilities.
Originally earmarked for completion in 2013, strong population growth and high enrolments in the existing Harrison Primary school brought forward the $50M project. Completed in time for the opening of the 2012 school year, the school accommodates up to 800 students from years 7 to 10. May & Russell architects have designed a new facility that merges with the primary school in both form and function; the two schools are located on the same block and now operate under a single administration.
As part of the ACT Government’s mission to improve the sustainability of all public schools across the territory, the Harrison Secondary project was set a minimum design benchmark of a 5-Star Green Star rating. Sustainability was a major consideration for the design team and the final design incorporates a range of cost effective sustainability measures to minimise environmental impact and foster education imperatives.
“Beyond the striking colourful and modern design, the first element most visitors to the school notice are the thermal chimneys projecting from the roof of each building,” says NDY sustainability consultant Matt Fitzgerald. “Coupled with ceiling fans and openable windows and louvres, these regularly spaced chimneys have eliminated the need for active cooling throughout the campus, except in specialist areas such as special needs classrooms.”
To minimise the carbon dioxide footprint, solar hot water systems have been provided to preheat cold water supplied to efficient gas heaters. Highly efficient lighting was designed, coupled with daylight and occupancy sensing. Radiant gas heaters were installed in the gymnasium, while convective heating panels and ducted air handling systems deliver low-emission-intensity heating to classrooms. Individual controls are provided, to ensure heating is only provided when required. Low-e high-performance glass and insulation, coupled with specially designed shading and overhangs, will ensure comfort conditions are maintained with minimum energy expenditure.
The energy saving initiatives in the building has resulted in a predicted energy consumption roughly half the benchmark for a typical school. The school’s emissions will be further reduced with the installation of solar panels as part of the ACT government’s plan to make all ACT public schools carbon neutral by 2017.
The school has reduced its water consumption with large underground rainwater storage tanks designed to capture rainwater, providing water for toilet flushing and irrigation. This state of the art, sustainable facility is among a select few education facilities that are setting new benchmarks throughout Australia, alongside the Australian Institute of Management’s 6 Star Katitjin Centre in Perth, and Victoria University’s 5 Star Learning Commons Exercise Science and Sport (LCESS) centre in Melbourne.