Built for Life, Sydney

2 May 2013

The 1970’s glass house pyramid structure, The Biomes,  in the Sydney Botanical Gardens is being redesigned to enable an ecosystem to thrive within the confines of the built environment.


This outstanding project was won in an open public tender with our design colleagues from Hassell. Originally intended to be a refurbishment of the existing building, the project has grown in scale during design. It now incorporates a completely new centre to replace the iconic pyramid. The new centre will feature three so-called Biomes which will function as events centres and exhibitions spaces with exhibitions including such concepts as an Indonesian rainforest.


The exciting challenge for our team is designing a building services system to sustain both a monsoonal Northern Territory ecosystem adjacent to a low land tropical rainforest, complete with regional insect life and exotic plants. This will be sustained throughout Sydney summer and winter all within what will essentially be a glass box.


Our building services systems will produce internal conditions with temperatures ranging from 35 degrees Celsius in summer to 15 degrees in winter with humidity ranging from 100% in the height of summer to 20% in the depths of winter. We will achieve this through use of a hybrid natural ventilation and active cooling, humidification and dehumidification of the air and active heating in the soil and air. We are investigating a complex labyrinth and desiccant wheel system to temper the air. The irrigation system will be designed to approximate precipitation.


Environmental design is central to the design philosophy. This is manifest in the Garden’s commitment to reduce overall energy and consumption, to optimise opportunities for passive thermal design, natural day lighting and ventilation, the capture and reuse of storm water and the use of low energy embodied materials throughout the construction. Other initiatives include using the onsite rain water tank as a heat sink and PV cells.