The Gippsland Water Factory’s Vortex Centre houses office and laboratory functions and an interpretive experience for a major new water recycling plant which was recently completed near Morwell in Gippsland. The vortex form of the building strongly expresses the dynamic movement of fluids down a pipe, at the same time providing a unique internal environment.
Combining cost performance, aesthetics, water education and ecological intelligence, the 650m2 facility is a beacon of exemplary sustainable design. Inherent in the design and interpretive message is the celebration and conservation of water – the essence of the Gippsland Water Factory. The centre was designed as a building that teaches.
The inspiration for the Vortex Centre is the notion of a giant oculus shaped structure that hangs off the side of the massive membrane bioreactor tank that forms part of the Water Factory. The Vortex’s shell is made up of seven barrels that fit into one another as they decrease in size, thereby resembling a vortex.
The structure is built over an artificial lake that delivers cooling to the building together with other passive environmental measures, including natural ventilation and thermal convection. Due to the stable temperature of the lake, the building delivers a very low energy summer outcome. Cool water from the bottom of the lake is passed through heat exchangers, delivering cool air into the interior. At night, the lake water is pumped over the roof to be cooled for use during the day. In winter, waste heat from a biogas powered cogeneration system will be used to heat the interior. The combination of these design principles ensures the Vortex is a low user of natural gas and power from the electricity grid.
At the entry to the Vortex, transparent pneumatic ETFE cushions incorporate variable skins allowing the façade to be ‘tuned’, admitting or excluding sunlight for different seasons and daily conditions.
The Vortex will impress first time visitors and looks to provide regular return visitation by school groups and the public alike – one of the best measure’s of the facility’s success.
Gippsland Water Factory Alliance
United Nations Association of Australia - World Environment Day Awards 2011 - Green Building Award