JCU Ideas Lab Facade
Location: James Cook University, Cairns QLD
Completion Date: July 2020
Fabric: PTFE Mesh - Chukoh FGJ 412-28
Client: Wilson Architects / BESIX Watpac
In a space designed “to encourage collisions of ideas”, the JCU Ideas Lab Facade is a great example of modern building design incorporating an architectural membrane façade. Using a PTFE mesh fabric envelope, the James Cook University Ideas Lab façade plays with the idea a simple prosaic building can be transformed in something that is unique and beautiful.
Wilson Architects approached us to create a “fabric screen” as part of their design for the new Ideas Lab at JCU Cairns. The PTFE mesh façade provides sun protection for the building, while still allowing plentiful natural light into the classrooms, labs and workspace.
The overall construction of the building was by BESIX Watpac, and we were responsible for the design, engineering, and installation of membrane façade, including the external steel façade support framework. The geometric design of the building with its undulating PTFE façade creates unique forms and interesting planes and was an exciting project to be involved with.
The PTFE mesh allows students and faculty inside the buildings to have unimpeded views out through the façade, while also allowing natural light ingress to the building, helping to reduce overall power consumption. The use of open-weave mesh provides a significant reduction in thermal heat gain, leading to further reduction in power consumption in cooling the building throughout the day, helping to create a sustainable, energy efficient building.
The shape of the structure challenged our engineers and install teams to innovate for the best outcomes. The geometry of the steel structure required specialized engineering and install in regard to alignment of the seams. Co-ordinating the position of the steel members with the fabric position required all the experience and knowledge of our install team.
There were a number of other obstacles to overcome on this project, not the least of which was the global COVID-19 pandemic. With construction beginning not long in the early days of quarantines and restrictions, the mobilisation of experienced installation staff had to occur around forced quarantines. To add to that, unexpected unseasonable Cairns tropical downpours created fabric installation challenges.
The folded building form gives the JCU Ideas Lab Facade a presence in the landscape, while at the same time moderating heat and glare and maximising natural light to the workplaces within. At night, the building is transformed by projecting moving images and colour onto the PTFE façade allowing the Ideas Lab to become a focal point for the University.