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The National University of Singapore’s extension for the School of Design & Environment will be the first net-zero energy building in the tropics. With a gross floor area of 8,500 sqm the building will accommodate design studios, labs and workshops for the school of architecture, landscape, interior and product design. Serie Architects+MPly with Surbana Jurong in Singapore won the open competition to design the building in 2013.

As a design school with an emphasis on energy-efficient technologies, this building had to embody the principles it espoused and be an exemplar to the students, faculty and extended design community. The goal of the design was to create a net zero energy building: a design school that produces as much if not more energy than it consumes.

The design concept was based on the loose arrangement of learning spaces with fully openable facades. These spaces were optimized to enable efficient cross ventilation and good exposure to daylight. Protection from the harsh sun was provided by an oversailing roof which also serves as an energy harvester through the use of PV cells.

In addition to environmental aspects, the proposal also rethinks some of the standard architectural solutions to the educational program. The design uses the potential of sectional connections across programmatic zones and a circulation strategy to set up unexpected meetings across the student body and faculty. The design contains five types of spaces for learning: the large open studio, measuring nine by 70 metres for collaborative learning for interior design, product design and architecture students; smaller studios surrounded by landscape for researchers; the ‘dropdown’ crit space for student presentations, visible from all principal approaches to the building; test bedding areas located along the façade of the building where test facades can be erected; and social spaces of different sizes which are spread across the building for interaction and relaxation.

Christopher Lee, Principal of Serie Architects comments, “Beyond the challenges of creating a net zero energy building our emphasis was on the imperatives of learning and research as a creative and collaborative process.” Serie worked with Transsolar Climate Engineers to develop the net-zero energy building design concept. Surbana Jurong were Local Architect, Services and Structural Engineers.