Exchange Precinct at Curtin University wins Environmental Excellence Award

REALMstudios’ Public Realm and Landscape Master Plan for Curtin University’s Exchange Precinct was in part recognised at the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) WA 2022 Awards last Saturday, with the broader project receiving an Award in Environmental Excellence.


REALMstudios’ master plan for the Exchange precinct delivers; city making, liveability and sustainability’ within a tertiary education context. A unique network of residential, retail, commercial and teaching spaces create a cohesive and integrated public realm with strong sustainability principles underpinning outcomes.




Foundational to the environmental design response was the retention of key stands of iconic Pines, remnants of the plantation into which Curtin University was established. These trees are both part of the heritage of Curtin but also provide a critical food source for the endangered Carnaby's Black Cockatoo. The urban realm and built form are structured around these elegant forms to create a new understanding of 'Distinctly Curtin'.



Anticipating water scarcity in a drying climate, planting across the precinct was reverse engineered and limited in area to synchronise with a centralised and large-scale precinct rainwater tank located under the Banksia Common. Turf area was reduced due to its high irrigation demand. Alternatively, the design focuses on establishment of tree canopy (mostly on-structure) for cooling shade and extensive native or xerophytic plantings to public and communal areas to minimise water use.



The design delivered upon Design Guidelines for biodiversity providing 161 different plant species across the project of which 112 (or 70%) are native species and 49 (or 30%) are non-native species. Of these 22 are native bush tucker species and 13 are other productive plants associated with the community garden on podium at Twin Dolphin Hall. The planting incorporates many key species from the pre-colonial Banksia woodland ecology associated with the area.


Urban Heat Island Effect is reduced through careful selection of low Solar Reflective Index (SRI) materials that were assessed under Green Star. As most landscape materials had never been tested for SRI, REALMstudios supported and advocated the landscape industry suppliers to provide independent SRI testing to meet requirements.



More broadly the project integrates pedestrian and cycle priority with flush public domain and seamless connections to promote usage of active and public transport and the new bus port. Equal and safe access is carefully considered with lighting and DDA compliant pavement design.


We are very proud of the environmental outcomes for Exchange and the contribution that the REALMstudios team have made to achieve this award. Congratulations to Curtin University and all involved in the project.

Acknowledgement from the jury:


“Exchange was a stand out development in this years award program due to the clear commitment to environmental sustainability, including maintaining a world leading 6 Star Green Star rating.


Through the development…Curtin University has prioritised carbon reduction, sustainable water management, protection of green space and native habitat, walkability and alternative mode of transport to deliver a precinct where people want to live, work, play and be involved.”


Client: Curtin University/Live-in Learning

Builders: Lend Lease and Probuild

Landscape Contractors: Deep Green & TDL

Architects: John Wardle Architects, Six Degrees Architects, Nettleton Tribe Architects

Precinct Architect: Christou Design Group

Noongar Artist: Kambarni

Artist: Warren Langley

Public Art Consultant: Apparatus

Civil, Hydraulic, Sustainability: Stantec

Electrical & Lighting: ETC

Irrigation: Hydroplan

DDA Compliance: O'Brien Harrop Access

Project Management: Johnson Group WA

Contractors: Lend Lease & Probuild