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Feature article


Studio B

WORDS BY Joshua McAlister

Studio B is a design studio that embeds Ecologically Sustainable Design (E.S.D) as a primary building block within the development of their projects. One of the key steps to their approach to a project’s development is the exploration of sustainable opportunities – how can this project benefit the ecosystem?

Previously known as BHY Architects, Studio B works as a design studio sharing skills to reach the best holistic solution for their clients. Of particular interest is the relationship they have developed with non-secular organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Catholic, Anglican, Baptist and Uniting Churches. They have designed spiritual spaces that include the identity of the religious organisation and meet the client’s services brief by using ESD strategies. They have described their work as ‘a marriage of sustainability and mission.’

Studio B is very much focused on the human and spiritual experience of their buildings with their philosophy being:

“We create welcome.

Our projects offer hospitality.

Our spaces are made for gatherings.

We facilitate both relationship and withdrawal.

Our projects build community.

We choreograph space for human movement.

Architecture that is both physical and spiritual.”

Aaron Pocock _ Photographs

Aaron Pocock _ Photographs

Aaron Pocock _ Photographs

Aaron Pocock _ Photographs

Current examples of community and spiritual buildings recently undertaken are the St Alfred’s Anglican Church and the Salvation Army Centre. Although these are spaces dedicated to reflection and spiritual engagement, they also carefully encourage people to bond together in different group sizes. The sustainable aspect of the design has been integrated to provide both passive and active ESD responses.

The St Alfred’s Anglican Church, situated in Blackburn North, is a 360 seat worship auditorium with meeting rooms, crèche, cafe, and office spaces. The sustainable design features include activated thermal mass, with rammed earth walling, concrete slab on ground, and reverse brick veneer walling. The passive cooling system uses a subfloor tunnel, incorporating underground stormwater tank with a heat exchanger, with the inclusion of thermal and hydronic solar absorbers.

The building has no air conditioning but its comfort conditions are achieved passively with the heating assisted by gas. The natural cooling incorporates a labyrinth chamber that retrieves ducted air from a shaded garden and then pre-conditions the air with water from a cool sink. The evacuated tube solar panels provide background heating for the hydronic heating system. The integration of a thermal chimney drives the entire passive ventilation system.

The Salvation Army Centre, under construction in Chirnside Park, consists of a new church with function and welfare centre that will provide a permanent home for the Mooroolbark Salvation Army community. The centre includes a 250 seat multi-purpose worship auditorium, a cafe, and a 120 seat function room with commercial kitchen, offices, crèche and youth centre.

The design challenges were incorporated into the ESD solutions. This includes adapting the one in six sloping site, to include a labyrinth cooling system that uses the subfloor void and the thermal mass of stormwater tanks.

The key design feature is a tall element that is created to look similar to the landmarks of church buildings in the past. But this steeple serves a practical purpose that is to ventilate the auditorium naturally, as a solar or thermal chimney.

The thermal chimney ventilates and cools the auditorium being modelled for stimulated air flow. Natural light is carefully introduced into the auditorium in order to provide connection to landscape and to reduce use of artificial light whilst successfully allowing projected images to be used.

Studio B, led by Fred Batterton and Jonathan Gibb, is able to design buildings that passively and actively manage their lighting, heating, cooling and water requirements with the minimum of energy input. The large functional spaces can be used for worship and community development for significant numbers of people while having a small environmental impact.