Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Australian Botanic Garden

Bowden Centre for learning

The Bowden Centre at the Australian Botanic Garden was opened on Monday 7 May 2007 by the Hon. Phil Koperberg, Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water. Catering for groups as large as 150, the centre hosts school children visiting the Garden as well as providing conference facilities for businesses wishing to escape the grind of the city to workshop and meet in a location that cannot help but inspire.

The building itself comprises one large classroom that can be set up in a variety of seating styles, an outdoor classroom area, full kitchen and office, and was designed by architects, Kennedy Associates. With a sustainability philosophy in mind, the building is very ‘new age’ in design, built from both recycled and sustainable materials and positioned to make the most of the summer and winter sun. 

The design not only uses parts of the old demountable building that the new centre replaced, but also incorporates a number of features that reduce the environmental footprint that the ongoing running of the building will leave. Constant temperature control is reinforced by the use of a 27,000 litre subterranean tank in a sealed system which circulates water through pipes beneath the polished concrete floor. Solar panels facilitate heating of this water, whilst a chiller cools.

A 10,000 litre above-ground tank captures stormwater from the roof which is used to flush toilet facilities. Recycled steel beams and windows from the old temporary education building have also been incorporated in the innovative design.

The natural and sustainable features include timber internal lining ‘Big River timber’ and chunky 75 mm silver top ash timber cladding from Radial Timbers who have perfected a computerised system of cutting plantation timber in a most efficient manner so that virtually no off-cuts or wastage occurs. These products provide both insulation and thermal mass to the structure. Synthetic insulation was installed in the walls, which are also wrapped in foil sarking, and the design of a concrete raft slab floor provides additional thermal mass.

Windows have been designed for cross ventilation and also to take advantage of the natural environment of the surrounding Cumberland Plain Woodland.