RMIT Swanston Academic Building

A.G. Coombs Projects was appointed by builder Brookfield Multiplex to provide air conditioning and mechanical services throughout the 11 storey RMIT SAB building.

The project included the detailed design, installation and commissioning of a new air conditioning system and building management and controls system (BMCS).

Chilled water for the Swanston Academic Building (SAB) is sourced from plant that resides on the roof of RMIT’s Building 12, located opposite SAB, a more efficient option than local plant. A combination of active chilled beam technology and displacement ventilation is a substantial feature of the building’s energy efficient air conditioning system. Under Floor Air Distribution Systems (UFAD) were installed for ventilation and cooling in the large, high ceilinged spaces including the lecture theatres, where energy is saved by efficiently providing conditions in the lower occupied zones.

Heating and cooling of student break-out areas or ‘portals’ uses a mixed mode ventilation approach. When the external temperature is between 17 degrees Centigrade and 30 degrees Centigrade, and wind speed is less than 10m/s, the portals will operate in a natural ventilation mode, opening the vents and windows to outside conditions. If too dry, a mist system will put moisture water into the air, with circulation air fans.

The teaching space booking system communicates with the building’s BMCS to ensure that the air conditioning is automatically activated in the portals 20 minutes prior to their usage, providing students with comfortable conditions.

Demand-based Control Ventilation (DCV) technology has been installed throughout the building, helping maintain the required ventilation rates and improving air quality while saving energy. Carbon Dioxide Gas (CO2) sensors control the amount of ventilation for the actual number of occupants. Sensor lighting across the facility also contributes to RMIT SAB’s energy saving requirements.

Construction of the new RMIT SAB building was an ongoing challenge. With its unique design and structure, and stringent environmental requirements, the project demanded the need for technologically advanced building service providers. A.G. Coombs has a proven track record of delivering large-scale, technically complex projects on time. They have once again demonstrated this capability. Their strong understanding of educational facilities coupled with their expertise in building systems and controls has brought additional innovation to this project, helping to deliver a world-class building that offers exceptional amenities and facilities for RMIT’s students and academics.

Andrew Deveson, Project Manager, Brookfield, Multiplex

Project Overview

Project Name: RMIT Swanston Academic Building

Location: VIC

Client: Brookfield Multiplex

Project Value: $15 million

Year Completed: 2012

Project Type

Construction – new build (detailed design, installation and commissioning)


  • Project completed on time.
  • New systems successfully installed.
  • Building on track to meet its environmental targets.
  • BMCS enabling real-time monitoring of water, electricity and gas consumption.


  • Australian Construction Achievement Award (2013)
  • Victorian Public Architecture Award (2013)
  • National Public Architecture Award (2013)
  • Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Award - Infrastructure and Buildings (2013)
  • Shortlisted World Building of the Year Award (2013)
  • Property Council of Australia's Innovation and Excellence Awards - Victorian Development of the Year (2013)
  • Property Council of Australia's Innovation and Excellence Awards - John Holland Award for Best Public Building (2013)

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