Monash Living Lab, a winning space for the future of urban water

Refurbishing a hydraulics lab on a university campus may not sound terribly exciting at first. Bring in Melbourne’s top designers and a vision by water engineer Associate Professor David McCarthy and we have a high-end research facility that is delivering ground-breaking research in water treatment and biofiltration. The Monash Living Laboratory is now an award-winning, flexible space in which multidisciplinary engineers conduct leading research.

The Living Lab

The Lab has a green facade, living walls and a green wall, each experimenting with different plants and conditions.

Kay Ng

Dr Kay Ng is a postgraduate student investigating the use of stormwater runoff for urban agriculture

Over two years ASPECT Studios collaborated with DesignInc architects and Irwinconsult engineers to turn Dr McCarthy’s dream into a reality. The new building was to become a flexible platform for testing technologies at the forefront of water sensitive urban development. He recalls; “I wanted a lab that could demonstrate and showcase to industry all of our fantastic research, while at the same time allow us to perform ongoing long-term testing of the water treatment systems installed around the lab”. The building is now winning national Landscape Architecture awards.

Situated between the Civil Engineering Structures Lab and the Monash Injury Research Institute, the Living Lab is an engaging green punctuation in the otherwise industrial landscape. With its living walls, rain garden, green roof, large storage tanks and atmospheric sensors all visible from the outside of the building, the Lab’s functions are well integrated into the building’s attractive design. Every plant visible as you pass by the building is being researched under unique testing regimes not found anywhere else. All the water collected and used in experiments, including the wastewater, can be sampled.

The Green Wall, Living Wall and Green façade contain carefully selected species of plants being tested for their abilities to perform thermal cooling, treat greywater, stormwater runoff and rain water, as well as measure the quantity of water they need - each with individual dosing and sampling capabilities. Inside, a number of workshops, labs and a rooftop greenhouse provide flexible spaces to perform other water quality and biofiltration experiments, as well as to construct and prepare equipment used in the field. The spaces are set up to enable water quality analytics to be performed under the best test conditions.

The Monash Living Lab is designed to support and showcase the changing needs of research and is an open environment for innovators in the water sector to come and trial their products, easily and cost effectively. With this building, researchers at Monash have the best opportunity to influence the evolution of practice for water sensitive cities.

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