Heriot-Watt at Putrajaya: Malaysia's first purpose-built green campus

By Linda Archibald

  • Most prominent feature of the Heriot-Watt University campus is an arching green roof from ground to third floor

 

 

Malaysia’s first purpose-built green campus will open its doors in Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya in September 2014, setting the stage for more such eco-friendly education institutions in the country in years to come. 
 
Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd (PjH) is the landowner, project owner and master developer for the development of the Malaysian flagship campus of Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University. Located on 2.49 hectares at the Putrajaya lakefront, the property is on a 25-year lease to the university, offering an exceptional learning environment.
 
CEO and vice-principal Professor Robert Craik says the purpose-built campus costing 35 million Pound Sterling (about US$53 million), is expected to host 4,000 undergraduate, postgraduate and research students in various disciplines.
 
Due to its location on the waterfront commercial district of Precinct 5, the campus offers a diverse and mild intensity mixed commercial development with an integrated environment.  With Heriot-Watt's reputation as a research-led university and ranking in the top 4% globally, Professor Craik says the university hopes to establish research links regionally. 
 
Arfizan Arshad, the project architect from Hijjas Kasturi Associates, says the project is being developed in two phases, with the first having already started and scheduled to be completed in May 2014 for operations to start by September that year. 
 
The green building index (GBI) consultant is PCR Sdn Bhd’s David Wang. In his submission for GBI rating, Phase 1 of the project consists of five-storey institutional and commercial blocks and one level sub-basement car park. The 253,899 sq ft development plan on a 1.83ha site will include a prime retail centre which has eateries facing the lakeside, while the ground floor and above will be dedicated to facilities like laboratories, classrooms and administration.
 
Work on Phase 1 is now at the basement up to the second floor. Phase 2 is on a 0.27ha site that will include a tower for commercial use as office block or campus expansion, with a maximum height of 77 metres. It has yet to be decided when work on this phase will start.
 
Optimising passive design
The project site predominantly faces north and south, making it ideal to optimise the passive design aspect, the first approach to take in designing for sustainability.
 
Says Arfan: “Everything from orientation to overhangs to thermal properties, everything that could create a better building envelope for you to work effectively in the passive manner, plus the cross ventilation is really what you want to do. Furthermore the project is being developed on a plot ratio of 1:2, which makes it ideally, a low density development.”
 
Hijjas Kasturi had won the tender for the project based on a competition hosted by PjH. The requirement was that the design must incorporate elements of nature and technology in the city campus. 
 
“At that time, we didn’t know it was for the Heriot Watt University. We were just given the brief that it was a university. The key concept was to converge nature and technology. That was a big driver for us: we are going to need as much nature as we need technology,'” says Hijjas Kasturi director Serina Hijjas. 
 
They then set out to design a campus with 80% landscape and 20% building footprint. “Today, when we design in the city, 10% is landscape and 90% is building. Tomorrow’s future is going to move more into a scenario where you should be getting a much higher percentage of landscape than you do in terms of the building footprint,” she says, adding that this is the concept of ecological urbanism that is being adopted. 
 
Capitalising on the waterfront view in the master plan, the campus building has been designed so that building blocks behind the campus, higher than five storeys, will still get a great view of the lake. These upcoming developments include hotels, apartments and commercial properties. 
 
The pedagogy of emerging learning environments was another drive for this campus project.  Professor Dr Kenn Fisher, an Australian who specialises in spatial learning environment, helped Hijjas Kasturi during the competition for the project tender, bringing to the table the latest in teaching methodologies in new schools in Australia and England. 
These include more versatile use of space, where aside from designated lecture halls, regular classrooms can be turned into function rooms for workshops, group discussions and meetings. 
 
“We also want to bring in more daylight, more natural ventilation. This is an open campus so there is a lot more daylight and cross ventilation in the classrooms,” says Serina, adding that while the design plans were robust they were well-researched too. 
 
Green roof 
The most outstanding green feature of this new campus is its unique and arching green roof that curves from the ground to the third floor. It is expected to be a landmark feature in Putrajaya.
 
According to Wang, the green roof provides a large expanse of outdoor common space for students and the public. “The top of the roof will act as an observation deck accessible from the glass lift from the ground floor,” he says. 
 
Serina adds that the concept of this green roof is that it holds within it hidden treasures. “The inspiration for that is that you find a space you occupy that is hidden underground and connectivity is important for a university campus, from bridges to internal walkways.” 
 
With the green continuum, the ground is raised over four floors, tucking the buildings underneath (the hidden treasures, so to speak). 
 
While this stands out as the most prominent feature of the campus, it also poses the greatest challenge and can potentially incur the largest expenses – taking into the account the maintenance cost. 
 
The 300 metre long, 30 metre wide green roof, the first of its kind in Malaysia, requires the use of particular soil at various parts, waterproofing, irrigation system and suitable grass. “Because of the 30 degree curvature on the green roof, the soil density on the roof will vary,” Arfizan points out, adding that the combination of varied types of soil, grass and irrigation is important to avoid erosion. The proposed properties for the green roof will also be subject to hydraulics tests. 
 
While it was hard to convince Heriot-Watt University to retain the green roof concept, the team successfully did so following careful research of the most economical and viable options. “Everyone likes building a green roof, but we had to find how to maintain it and at a nominal cost,” says Arfan.
 
The green roof will feature prominently as properties over five storeys high located behind the campus will be able to enjoy the scenic view of the green roof as well as overlook the waterfront. 
 
Other green features
Mechanical and engineering firm Perunding Wangsa Sdn Bhd's electrical engineer Rajendran Muthiah says the campus will include a built-in control system driven by overall thermal transfer value which essentially measures the energy consumption of air conditioners. 
 
The campus lighting, he says, will be ‘powered’ by the maximum use of natural daylight through passive design such as natural glass glazing with no blinds installed, while T5 lights will power the darker areas. T5 lights and some LED lights will be used to light the compound at night. Also to be integrated is a rainwater harvesting system. 
 
Arfizan adds that the air-conditioning system used for the campus will be a combination of variable refrigerant volume (VRV) and gas district cooling (GDC) system which is a cooling strategy that optimises the usage of air-conditioning in a building. 
 
He says that while a building management system (BMS) will be put in place, there is no indication whether the campus will install an energy management system (EMS).
 
On whether the campus will tap solar energy, Arfizan says while such an opportunity exists, the campus will not be embarking on this to generate electricity. 
 
 

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