Sunshine Coast’s $100m Timber Rich Campus Tackles Inequality

The latest upgrade is part of a three stage, $300m campus development which will see 10,000 or more students' study from the Petrie campus by 2030.

Fri 05 Apr 24


More than $240 million has been spent on building the University of Sunshine Coast’s Moreton campus, with Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Helen Bartlett cutting the ribbon on three new buildings yesterday, which she confirmed will add 12,500 to 16,000 square metres of teachable space to Queensland’s fastest-growing university campus.

“These new buildings will provide students with more areas to study, collaborate, and socialise,” Professor Bartlett said of the $100m works, the second of a three-stage project, adding that the campus will eventually accommodate up to 10,000 students over the next five years.

“Ever since we decided to build our university campus here, we have had an ambitious vision for a comprehensive, modern campus—and it’s wonderful seeing that vision come to life.”

Federal Member for Dickson and current Australian Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (second from right) with the University of Sunshine Coast personnel breaking ground on the site in April 2022. (Photo Credit: The University of the Sunshine Coast)

We know that on average seven in ten graduates who study in the regions stay there to work and live. Over 90 percent of domestic undergraduate students from UniSC Moreton Bay were employed within four months of graduating. But the power of higher education to transform lives is priceless.

Professor Helen Bartlett, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Last year, Wood Central tracked the progress of the massive project, which saw 2,000 pre-finished interior AC-iHoop and Ariaply used extensively throughout the buildings. At the time, Scott Matthews, the Joint CEO of Austal Plywoods, which won the contract, revealed that plywood was “cost-effective and delivered ready to install.”

Built by Badge Construction and designed by KIRK Studio – at the forefront of Australia’s push to embrace mass timber design—and Cottee Parker, the three buildings each use a prefabricated mass timber superstructure, combining HESS Timber’s glulam and Xlam’s cross-laminated timber.

According to Richard Kirk, principal of KIRK Studio, using both prefabrication and mass timber “has proven to sequester carbon using renewable timber feedstock to significantly reduce construction time, reduce waste, and support safer and quieter construction sites.”

Mr Kirk is Queensland’s pre-eminent expert in mass timber design and has been responsible for designing almost all mass timber buildings developed in Queensland.

“The exposed timber structure, generous windows and large light-filled atriums produce an entirely new open typology for UniSC — fit for a young university unconstrained by traditional ways,” KIRK Studio said, adding that “the design showcases the University as an active, growing campus and produces a sense of gravity – drawing in students, staff and community members alike.”

This afternoon, Wood Central spoke to Katie Fowden, Xlam’s General Manager of Stakeholder Engagement, who said, “It is great to see the Sunshine Coast University expansion and showcase of sustainable construction using XLam’s Cross-Laminated Timber.”

The alignment is perfect just after they were announced one of the successful Centres for the Australian Forest and Wood Innovation funding and already housing the Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life.”

“The University is not new to engineered timber, with Hyne Group engineered timber in their award-winning Engineering Learning Hub, completed in 2015.”

The university is one of the country’s foremost leaders in timber research and was invited last month to join the University of Tasmania and the University of Melbourne in establishing an Australian Forest and Wood Innovation Centre focused on indigenous and agroforestry opportunities in Northern Australia. It also hosts the National Centre for Timber Durability and Design Life at its Sippy Downs campus on the Sunshine Coast.

Stage 1 of the campus ($140m) was opened in May 2020. Footage courtesy of @uscedau.

More than 4,700 students study at the Moreton campus, and Professor Bartlett said the new campus is exceeding expectations.

“There was enormous demand for a university campus at Moreton Bay before UniSC arrived, and we continue to see many non-school leavers enrolling as well as the traditional school leaver cohort from local secondary schools,” Professor Bartlett said.

With nearly half a million residents, this city, just 60 km from Brisbane, has tertiary participation rates significantly lower than state or national averages.

The higher education participation rate in Moreton Bay has lifted from 9.3 per cent to 11.4 per cent over the last two censuses, but it lags behind the Brisbane rate of 24.7 per cent and the national average of 15.4 per cent.

“We have worked closely with the Council, including developing on-campus opportunities for business leaders to connect with researchers, industry experts, and a pipeline of skilled graduates so they can innovate and build their businesses,” Professor Bartlett said.

“We are ensuring we align graduates with growth industries in Moreton Bay and beyond and connecting our researchers with the community to meet local and global challenges.”

Popular programs at UniSC Moreton Bay include Nursing Science, Primary Education, Social Work, Biomedical Science and the university’s Tertiary Preparation Pathway.

“Over 40 percent of students at the Moreton Bay campus are the first in their family to study, and 70 percent are Moreton Bay residents; we know this demand will just grow,” Mayor Peter Flannery said.

“Co-locating start-ups, entrepreneurs and innovators alongside students and researchers is a way for businesses to connect with their future workforce and drive additional opportunities for collaboration.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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