Swanston Academic Building (Building 80)

The Swanston Academic Building opens in Semester 2, 2012

The Swanston Academic Building is now open.

 Closeup of the Swanston Academic Building’s façade.

Closeup of the Swanston Academic Building’s façade.

 Sustainability at RMIT Swanston Academic Building brochure.

For more information on the Swanston Academic Buiding’s environmentally sustainability design features, download a copy of the sustainability brochure (PDF, 4.31MB).

The Swanston Academic Building is now open

The much anticipated Swanston Academic Building (Building 80) opened on Monday, 16th July, 2012. This state-of-the-art educational facility contains innovative lecture theatres, classrooms and specialist spaces that support a host of teaching and learning methodologies.

The Swanston Academic Building has been designed to a high sustainable standard and has been awarded a Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) 5-star Green Star Education Rating for environmentally sustainable design.

The Swanston Academic Building is a key component of RMIT University’s substantial revamp of its “Swanston Street Precinct”, which is set to transform the northern end of the Melbourne CBD.

Read on for more information about the Swanston Academic Building.

Swanston Academic Building vision

The Swanston Academic Building (SAB) is RMIT’s biggest investment in a teaching and learning facility to date. The Swanston Academic Building is also the largest construction project that RMIT has ever undertaken. The building covers a Gross Floor Area (GFA) of 35,000 square metres, is 11 storeys high and forms a significant part of RMIT University’s “Swanston Street precinct.”

Consolidation of City campus

One of the main purposes of the Swanston Academic Building is to consolidate RMIT’s three academic colleges – Business (BUS), Science, Engineering and Health (SEH) and Design and Social Context (DSC) – on to the Swanston Street campus.

The College of Business offers TAFE, undergraduate and postgraduate programs over a range of disciplines including accounting, law, business IT, economics, finance, marketing, and management. The number of College of Business students accounts for over a third of the overall student population.

The Business cohort of students and staff have resided in RMIT’s Building 108 (at 235-251 Bourke Street) and have been several blocks away from the heart of the City campus, which is bordered by Swanston, La Trobe, Russell and Franklin Streets.

The College of Business relocation to the Swanston Academic Building will allow the CoB staff and students to be more closely engaged with the RMIT City campus community.

Teaching and learning spaces for the future

The Swanston Academic Building is distinguished by innovative, state-of-the-art learning and teaching facilities – the features of which are shaped by input from RMIT academic staff – and are available to the entire City campus.

In 2008, Lyons architects and the RMIT-based Project Manager for the Swanston Academic Building consulted extensively with a wide range of academic staff to gather information about their current (and future) learning and teaching methodologies (pedagogies) and the types of learning and teaching spaces that will enhance their teaching practice.

Student feedback also informed the shaping of the teaching and learning spaces.

Study, recreation and retail spaces

The Swanston Academic Building has introduced more student study and recreation spaces to the City campus.

Students have been consulted about their study space needs and plans for spaces designed for either solitary or group study have been developed.

Student recreational areas and retail outlets selected to meet students’ needs and budgets also form part of the Swanston Academic Building.


The Swanston Academic Building is located at 445 Swanston Street and has been built around the historic Oxford Scholar Hotel and is flanked by Swanston, A’Beckett and Stewart Streets.


The Swanston Academic Building has:

  • 35,000sqm of floor space and 11 levels (including basement)
  • 6 large lecture theatres available that are available to the whole University community
  • 70 small and medium-sized teaching and learning spaces that are available to the whole University community
  • 9 specialist learning venues that are available to the whole University community
  • Two-storey cantilevered student portal that overhangs Swanston Street
  • Nine additional double-height student portals for study and recreation
  • An innovative mix of teaching and office space on all levels of the building to encourage more interaction between staff and students
  • Eleven retail outlets (that include coffee carts, cafes and a restaurant) that will be progressively opened from July through to early 2013

Environmentally sustainable design features that include:

  • Active chilled beam technology, which is a building conditioning system that uses convection and water to efficiently move energy throughout a building for heating and cooling.
  • An Under Floor Air Distribution System (UFAD) that is used for ventilation and cooling of large, high spaces, such as lecture theatres, where energy can be saved treating an occupied zone rather than trying to control the conditions of the entire space.
  • Student portal heating and cooling that uses mixed mode ventilation. When the external temperature is between 17oC and 30oC and the wind speed is less than 10m/s, the Swanston Academic Building portals will operate in natural ventilation mode, opening the vents and windows to outside conditions.
  • Façade and sunshading. The Swanston Academic Building’s façade is comprised of external panels and triangular elements, which provide different degrees of shading, based on the orientation of the building.
  • Glazing. The combination of shading elements and glazing performance allows for high levels of natural daylight to penetrate the internal spaces of the Swanston Academic Building, without allowing for significant glare.
  • Rainwater harvesting and grey water treatment. To reduce the consumption of drinking (potable) water within the Swanston Academic Building, rainwater is collected from the roof of the building in an 80 kL rainwater tank and is used for irrigation and toilet flushing.
  • Energy-efficient lighting. The Swanston Academic Building contains a number of energy-efficient lighting sources that include fluorescent lamps and Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). These lamps offer a significant reduction in lighting power consumption: approximately one third of that consumed by incandescent lamps.
  • Sustainable materials. Where possible, the Swanston Academic Building has been constructed from materials that have a reduced environmental impact. These materials include those with a lower embodied energy, those that originate from sustainable sources and those that use reduced amounts of raw materials.
  • Central Plant. Chilled water for the Swanston Academic Building is sourced from a chilled water plant room that is located on the roof of RMIT’s Building 12, opposite Building 80 on Swanston Street on the City Campus. This option is more energy-efficient than the installation of a localised chilled water plant on the roof of Building 80.
  • Building Management and Metering. The Building Management System (BMS) is connected to energy and water meters and allows for real-time monitoring of water, electricity, and gas consumption
  • Demand-based Control Ventilation (DCV). The Swanston Academic Building has been fitted out with Demand-based Control Ventilation (DCV) technology, which maintains proper ventilation and improves air quality while saving energy. Carbon Dioxide Gas (CO2) sensors control the amount of ventilation for the actual number of occupants.
  • Solar powered hot water. The Swanston Academic Building has solar-powered hot water capacity. The solar panels are used to pre-heat the water, which is then stored in tanks until required.

Project update

July – January 2012

Construction of the Swanston Academic Building, RMIT University’s largest building to date, has progressed in great strides. Building works are six months ahead of schedule with the new building opening in Semester 2, 2012.

The Swanston Academic Building has also received a Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) 5-star Green Star Education Rating for environmentally sustainable design.

October 2011

Swanston Academic Building progress to October, 2011

June 2011

Brookfield Multiplex is progressing with construction works ahead of program. The concrete and steel structure is expected to be completed by October 2011, and the façade installation is due to commence in July 2011.

Strategic User Groups have been established by the Project Control Group to facilitate planning for the University’s move into the SAB, with emphasis on the College of Business.

September 2010

RMIT University has appointed Brookfield Multiplex as the contractor for the Swanston Academic Building (SAB). Brookfield Multiplex has taken possession of the SAB site

March – August 2010

The SAB “New building construction - Expressions of Interest” advertisement was published nationally in all major newspapers in mid March 2010. The formal Tender period will commence in late June and close in early August 2010. The appointed Main Contractor will be announced in mid to late September, 2010

Early-stage Swanston Academic Building site preparation works began in May and are due for completion by the end of August, 2010. Building construction will commence shortly thereafter.

January – February 2010

The Swanston Academic Building (SAB) will be cooled by chilled water that will be reticulated around the City campus from an energy-efficient central plant located in the neighbouring Building 12 on Swanston Street.

The A. G. Coombs Group has been appointed to install chilled water carrier pipes and conduits from Building 12 to the SAB site and BTB Australia has been appointed to carry out directional drilling under Swanston Street to enable the installation of the chilled water carrier pipes. These works commenced at the beginning of February.

September – December 2009

Extensive work continued on the demolition of Building 48, at 449 Swanston, to make way for the future Swanston Academic Building. The entire building was dismantled by mid December, 2009.

Design development for the Swanston Academic Building was finalised in late November. The tender for the main contractor (construction company) will go public in the second quarter of next year and construction of the Swanston Academic Building is scheduled to begin in September 2010.

August 2009

The demolition of Building 48 is underway and is set to be completed by the target date of December, 2009. Property Services has appointed a new Project Manager, Philip Flynn, to project manage the construction of the Swanston Academic Building and the Design Hub.

July 2009

RMIT’s Building 48, located at 449 Swanston Street, is earmarked for demolition in August, 2009, to make way for the future Swanston Academic Building.

March 2009

The Design Development program is well underway.

February 2009

The schematic design and cost report were presented to the Vice-President, Resources, the Executive Director, Property Services, the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Business, the Vice Chancellor and the Campus Development Committee. Both the schematic design and cost report were accepted and approved. Lyons architects have been given approval to proceed to Design Development.

January 2009

The schematic designs for the Swanston Academic Building are scheduled to be presented to the Campus Development Committee (CDC) on Thursday, 26 February 2009. Briefings with the Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President Resources are scheduled prior to the CDC presentation.

September – December 2008

Throughout September to December, Lyons have been working on the schematic designs for the Swanston Academic Building (SAB). Further consultations with College of Business Schools took place, which has informed the development of the schematics.

Earlier plans to relocate the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning and the School of Property, Construction and Project Management into the Swanston Academic Building have also been revised with the two Schools to be now housed in alternative accommodation. This change in planning has also impacted on the schematic designs.

In December, the architects conducted a SAB Schematic Design Development presentation to Professor Margaret Gardner, Vice-Chancellor and President, RMIT University, Steve Somoghi, RMIT’s Vice President, Resources, and Professor Gil Palmer, RMIT’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Business. During the presentation, the architects laid out the plans to convert the top level of the neighbouring RMIT-owned Oxford Scholar Hotel into an RMIT staff club.

The Swanston Academic Building cost report is due for completion in February, 2009..

May – August 2008

Lyons has conducted detailed briefings with academic staff from College of Business Schools, the College of Science Engineering and Technology (SET), the College of Design and Social Context (DSC), executive staff from the Student Services Group and student representatives to gain feedback on teaching and learning resource needs and student-centred study and recreation spaces.

After the completion of the staff and student briefing, architects will then begin the Swanston Academic Building schematic design, in which concepts and themes are converted into preliminary drawings and the building’s scale, appearance and its proximity to adjacent buildings are explored.

RMIT is also documenting the design, development and construction process of the Swanston Academic Building.

Sue Johnston, from the Program and Courseware Enhancement (PaCE) team in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) is managing this multi-faceted project. The University is undertaking to:

  • photograph the progress of the project using two high-quality, time-lapse still photographic cameras;
  • conduct video interviews with key personnel, such as project managers and architects;
  • provide video and still-photographic coverage on site at ground level, of soil investigations, demolition, excavation, foundation laying, construction, finishing and landscaping; and
  • collect project documentation.

The wider community was also given the opportunity to comment on the Swanston Academic Building and the Emily McPherson Building – currently under refurbishment – at the “Help us design a new home for business” information evening that ran on Wednesday, 30 July.

Around 100 guests from the business community, government, the architecture profession and the education sector attended the information session to meet the architects, view presentations on the building and refurbishment projects, ask questions and provide feedback.

April 2008

The Swanston Academic Building project vision and concept was introduced to all RMIT Pro-Vice Chancellors and Heads of Schools at a workshop that ran in April.

A further presentation for staff and students was also held.



end July 2008

Schematic design

end November 2008

Building 48 demolition

August 2009

Construction begins

September 2010

Scheduled for completion

Semester 2, 2012


RMIT Project Manager

Philip Flynn

Manager, Client Relations

Tony Metherell


Lyons Architects

Structural Engineer

Bonacci Group

Services Consultant


Building Surveyor

Peter Luzinat and Associates

Quantity Surveyor

Wilde and Woollard


The Complex (PDF, 8.49MB)

The sheer presence of Swanston Academic Building (SAB) by Lyons Architecture demands thinking about some issues that are “larger” than architecture.

Architecture Australia, Vol. 101, No. 5, September/October 2012

RMIT’s latest is a building to navigate as well as inhabit (PDF, 220KB)

RMIT University's city campus has developed a reputation for heroic contemporary architecture.

Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, 20 August, 2012

RMIT’s new business centre draws attention (PDF, 306KB)

RMIT’s newly-opened $200 million Swanston Academic Building is emblematic of the ongoing evolutions in university teaching, breaking through the cityscape like a shiny multi-coloured technological creature shaking out its spiky sun shades and saying “look at me!”

The Australian, Thursday, 9 August, 2012

RMIT’s waves of progress (PDF, 193KB)

Its colourful, wavy Swanston Street facade shimmers like coral in the grey cityscape. Where for decades there was wasteland has risen RMIT's ambitious new Swanston Academic Building

The Age, Saturday, 14 July, 2012

Arguments in architecture

Melbourne’s universities are competing to build the best design hubs, and architecture is the ultimate winner.

The Age, Friday, 11 September, 2009

Melbourne academic landmark a boon for architects

Architecture and Design, Wednesday, 18 March, 2009

A landmark $200 million development by RMIT is touted as set to create 800 construction jobs and overhaul the appearance of Melbourne’s CBD.

RMIT to pamper business students

The Age, Tuesday, 29 July, 2008, Page 3

RMIT business students could be treated to such digital delights as a “group debating café”, “text screen arcades” and an interactive grassy knoll when the university’s most expensive academic building opens around 2011.

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