SAHMRI: First LEED Gold Lab Down Under

Leslie Ashor, Woods Bagot
Georgia Singleton, Woods Bagot

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide, South Australia (SAHMRI) has achieved many ‘firsts' in its' short history. In 2015, it was the first Australian project to be awarded Laboratory of the Year. In 2014, it earned the first LEED certification for a laboratory project in Australia, and LEED Gold at that; that same year the first PET cyclotron in South Australia was commissioned at SAHMRI in a record 12 months. It is the first completed building in a new health precinct in Adelaide. In just 2009, this first translational/medical research institute in South Australia was formed, and now in 2016 they are realizing tremendous success in recruiting global researchers and making landmark biomedical discoveries.

In this presentation we will review the building and laboratory design process which led to a highly flexible, adaptable, innovative, sustainable solution; the challenges along the way; and how a 315,000 gross square foot building with over 90,000 net square feet of translational research laboratory, barrier animal facility, cyclotron and cGMP space on the other side of the world managed to achieve LEED Gold-and why this was important to the institution.

This project was designed without users or stakeholders; when Woods Bagot was awarded the project SAHMRI consisted of a board of directors. A combination of benchmarking, laboratory design expertise, and "subject matter experts" from local universities and hospitals provided the framework for a super-flexible design, which was critical as the institute's research focus was not yet identified. The design solution was purposefully iconic, and meant to push the boundaries of design, engineering and construction methodology common to the Adelaide area, in order to bring a world-class facility to promote world-class research. Project goals included sustainability, fostering collaboration, transparency, and visual connection between research floors.

The presentation will include documented performance of the building, from early 2014 to the present, utilizing data collected from the integrated building management system. The results of the post-occupancy review will be shared, forming a complete picture of what works, what doesn't, and what can be done about it.

The SAHMRI design team spanned the globe and utilised the latest technology to deliver an intelligence-based design solution, including a geometric structural skin and shading developed with parametric modelling tools to respond to the hot SA sun. We will also discuss missed sustainability opportunities due to limited local resources and Australia building codes and regulations (hint: count the stacks on top of the building!).

Learning Objectives

  • Identify how benchmarking data can guide discussions and inform design decisions, and why reliable benchmarking against comparable project types is critical
  • Understand why an in depth knowledge of local or regional codes and guidelines is critical, as well as how they do, or do not, apply to a specific project, and how pushing the envelope had unexpected results on this project
  • Appreciate that what might be considered "every day" sustainability measures in one country may not readily apply in another, and see how solutions to provide sustainability within reasonable cost may require more complexity, more creativity and more innovation than in other locales
  • Be aware of the ability of really smart people (scientists) to override almost any energy saving device the engineers can design, and that adding cost to the project with the expectation of lowering energy costs can end up only adding cost to the project; understand options for energy savings which can be more 'scientist-proof'


Leslie is a San Francisco, California based architect who has focused exclusively on laboratory design for over 18years. Her passion is creating world-class highly sustainable, innovative, flexible and adaptable laboratory solutions. Leslie has designed laboratories on over 100 projects globally, featuring a multitude of laboratory types for academic, research, industry and government clients.

As a Director of Woods Bagot and an Education and Science specialist, Georgia provides a strong commitment to the sector's development both within Australia and across the world. Having worked on a diverse range and scale of architectural and interiors focused projects, Georgia seeks to push traditional building and fitout typologies with dynamic, highly integrated and research-driven solutions.


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