media National Award for Best Facade 2012

Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership - Best Facade 2012

Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership excels on many fronts: securing industry awards in architecture, construction and AWCI'S Best Facade 2012.

Since the Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership opened in 2012, the restoration and addition designed by Maddison Architects, of former Victorian State School No. 307, has been the recipient of plaudits for its architecture, construction and facade. Lead Architects, Maddison Architects received a Commendation in the 2012 Victorian Architecture Awards Heritage category for Public Architecture Alterations and Additions in June, and Cockram Construction was recognised by the Master Builders Association of Victoria 2012 Excellence in Construction Awards - in the Construction of Commercial Buildings.  And capping off the year at the Association of Walls and Ceiling Industries (AWCI) National Conference held in October, Kakosi Construction, installers of the Smartfix® facade fixing technology and Symonite panelling took out the National award for Best Facade 2012.


Located in inner city suburb, North Melbourne, the Heritage listed building, circa 1882, was one of approximately 615 schools designed by Henry Robert Bastow who served as Chief Architect and Surveyor to the Education Department after Victoria's Education Act was introduced in 1872. It was a profound time that marked the start of free, secular and compulsory education.

Named in honour of the visionary architect, Bastow Institute is a one-off facility that today connects educational leaders and provides professional development in state-of-the art training facilities. In refurbishing the original building, Drew Carling, Associate Director, Maddison Architects who worked with Heritage consultant architects Lovell Chen to bridge old and new said, there was a deliberate decision to treat any new amenities created within the existing spaces as "insertions within the room - so that new work could be read as obviously new." The new contemporary two storey learning facility, which houses both formal and informal learning spaces, creates a striking entrance to Bastow Institute from the rear. Careful not to crowd the site with mass or bulk, Maddison Architects sympathetically placed focus back on the civic institutions in the immediate vicinity.  "The Victorian Education Department is creating a new facility to lead us into the future - this building is trying to represent that," Carling said.

Facade ingenuity

Smartfix® concealed facade fixing technology incorporating Symonite specially engineered aluminium sections in Ebony Black, clads all new external work to the Bastow Institute and is carried through on those same walls internally. "The new space created has essentially been treated as a singular holistic form - the Symonite material is therefore treated in a holistic way- applied both internally and externally, so that it's unified," Carling said.

Maddison Architects' specification of Smartfix®, a silicon free mechanical fix facade system as opposed to a taped solution, in conjunction with Symonite panelling, was underpinned by the "finish, durability and performance of the materials and their ability to deliver the seamless architectural result we were after and with guarantees such as waterproofing," explained Carling.

Smartfix® fixing systems are free of screws, tapes and heavy face sealants and have been approved and tested for use as a waterproof facade system and self draining system - exceeding the Australian Standard requirements AS4284 for Weather Performance and Structural Integrity. Likewise, the Symonite core is completely impervious to weather, which for a client saves the cost of installing a waterproof barrier.  The use of Australian made products also resonated in their specification. Smartfix® is a family owned and run Australian company as is Symonite (a Borg company), operating since 1982 and 1986 respectively.  

Commenting on the Smartfix® and Symonite alliance which began in 2000, Angelo Turco, Managing Director Smartfix said, "It's a unique relationship that brings together, Australia's only locally produced aluminium composite and Australia's only facade fixing technology group." A highly intelligent system, Smarfix® was bestowed a coveted International accredited Red Dot Design Award, Honourable Mention, in 2008 from Germany.

The innovative nature of the new works to the Bastow Institute saw close collaboration at play between the architects and the Smartfix® design team during the project's design phase. "The facade design was technically very involved and inherently difficult to build - everything was on an angle," admitted Carling.  Michael Turco, Smartfix Facade Design Manager, "had an intimate knowledge as to what we were trying to achieve and was able to create the detailing for the unusual junctions," Carling said.

"The opportunity to work collaboratively with Maddison Architects ensured that we gained a clear picture of the expectations and the design vision.  That fed into our selection of the most appropriate Smartfix® system and how that might be executed while considering the complexities of the fabrication and installation of the facade," explained Michael Turco. "We used 3D computer models to determine the highest level of finish for the complex geometric nature of the Bastow project," Turco revealed. "Adopting this technology enabled the Smartfix® design team to fully anticipate the technical complexities presented early in the delivery process," he said.

Installation insights

Commenting on the installation of the Smartfix® mechanical fixing and Symonite panelling, Robert Vogt Engineer at Kakosi Construction said, while the angular design presented a high degree of challenge, "because Smartfix® is an easy system to work with, that made the job time efficient and relatively straightforward."

Working with a combination of standard Smartfix® system horizontal and vertical joiners there were also some angles that called for fabrication to meet the design requirements. "Precision was essential. We needed to ensure all of the top hats were plumb and in-line before applying the Smartfix® and Symonite," he said. When compared to traditional cassette jointing systems, Smartfix® is 20% quicker to install.

In addition to the intricate shapes and angles demanded of the Smartfix® and Symonite, it was "the workmanship and collaboration with the builder and trades involved and the quality finish achieved," that made the project one of the most unique Kakosi Construction has ever installed, Vogt added.

According to Harry Marks Business Development consultant for Symonite, "As well as being able to deliver a clean lined finish via the Smartfix®/Symonite solution, Symonite panels stand-alone in the Australian market for strength, mechanical properties and performance. The modified Du Pont Impact Resistance Test showed that Symonite resistance to denting is at least 300% better than Thermoplastic cored composite panels. Symonite has a hardness rating of 36 Brinell and is also backed by a 15-year guarantee for  panel integrity," he said.

Resistance to fire is another point of distinction - "Symonite will not combust as a result of its own propogation," Marks explained. This makes the panel a suitable building element where compartmentalisation of fire is an important aspect in fire safety engineering and design or any situation where a lightweight fire resistant panel is required.

"What's been achieved in the design, construction and installation of Smartfix® and Symonite for the Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership - embodies the versatile nature of the materials and is a great example of Australian design, technology, engineering and manufacturing at work together."