At the heart of the National University of Singapore’s University Town (NUS U-Town), stands three mid-rise buildings and a high-rise tower. This is the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), which hosts the National Research Foundation (NRF), as well as other research centers, startups, and laboratories.
NRF sponsored a design competition for the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise. Perkins and Will’s architectural firm won the competition entry that included a planning document and model.
The 67,000 sq.m. campus consists of a 16-storey tower for research spaces like dry lab research and three mid rise buildings (5,6 and 7 storeys) for wet lab research. A tall basement containing the mechanical and service spaces, and specialized laboratories run across the campus. The project was completed in December 2012 with a construction budget of USD 335 Million. The facility is zoned according to usage types and ventilation requirements. The wet laboratories are located in the low-rise wings, while the dry ones and offices are in the high-rise tower. The buildings are arranged around a central plaza with covered walkways, seating, gardens, and water features and are all accessed from the plaza. To maximize daylight, Perkins and Will designed the buildings to be very narrow, with the cores and corridors located at the perimeter. This reduces reliance on electricity.
The core values driving CREATE are interaction, sustainability, and adaptability. Its mission is to stimulate innovation, discovery, and entrepreneurship through interaction and collaboration across researchers and engineers. The interdisciplinary research centres at CREATE focus on four thematic areas of research; human systems, energy systems, environmental systems, and urban systems.
The building’s Sustainability features | CREATE
The design spearheads the use of advanced energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable technologies which supplanted existing performance standards for scientific research facilities in the tropics. It exploits the region’s tropical climate and unique ecological resources. The pioneering mindset of the campus is reflected in the architecture. CREATE transcends traditional laboratory design to perpetuate its mission to invigorate innovation, discovery, and entrepreneurship.
Interweaving the Ecosystem and Landscape
Inspired by the Singapore Botanical Gardens, the soft landscape is designed to develop into a naturalized tropical forest. The buildings have green roofs and vertical garden walls to provide ambient air conditioning.
Laboratories consume 5-10 times more water than regular building types. Singapore is an island nation that imports 100% of its potable water. To ensure water efficiency, Perkins and Will provided a water treatment facility that eliminates reliance on municipal water through the treatment and re-use of rainwater and greywater from showers and washrooms. Ninety-eight percent of water used at the campus is reclaimed water and recycled water [Nuwater]. Rainwater is also harvested from the canopies and stored.
Flexibility of Spaces | CREATE
The pedestrian street is covered in glass and is lined with retail spaces, restaurants, student services, and public gathering places. The laboratories are based on flexible plug-and-play systems. This is to accommodate a change of users without major modification costs. Overall, the centre saves about 66,000 cubic meters of water yearly.
Other features include;
- Improved glazed windows that substantially reduce solar heat transmission
- Motorized internal roller blinds and sunshades to maximize daylight and reduce glare
- Photovoltaic panels embedded on the buildings’ facade and rooftops to harness solar power solar water heating system and wind turbines
- Chilled beams that minimize the need for energy-intensive mechanical systems.
SWA Group provided master planning and landscape architecture for this unique setting. On the façade of the tallest building is a series of linear vegetative columns while sinuous pools and greenery perforate the facility’s ground-level terraces. Grand vertical spaces and roof gardens throughout the tower provide luxuriant community spaces planted with bamboo, vines, and groundcover. These gardens also provide shade within the architecture of the building and allow for cooling and energy conservation. Public and private exterior water gardens are strategically placed to provide refreshment for students, researchers, and visitors. Vegetation cover reduces albedo and the quantity of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere leading to effective reduction in the greenhouse effect and subsequently temperatures in the vicinity. Moreover, it gives a premium aesthetic and natural appeal with the landscaped exterior spaces complementing the built up environment.
Recognition | CREATE
CREATE is critically acclaimed and has been recognised for its excellence in research laboratory design, planning, and construction. It was named laboratory of the year by R&D Magazine in 2013. The competition does recognise excellence in research and science laboratory design, planning, and construction. It is the first scientific facility to be awarded the Green Mark Platinum Award by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority. Through its energy efficiency, generation of energy, and reduced water use, the project was bestowed the coveted status.
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