Crommelin Study Centre

University of Sydney, Crommelin Environmental Study Centre, Pearl Beach, New South Wales, Australia, 2002-05.

The Crommelin Biological Research Station, beside the Arboretum in Pearl Beach on the New South Wales Central Coast, was gifted to the University of Sydney by Miss Minard Crommelin in 1947. The site consisted of 3 hectares, the buildings had fallen into poor repair, and the residential accommodation had become inoperable. The brief provided by the University envisaged the construction of a new general purpose building with a large meeting room, kitchen, toilets, storage and outdoor recreation areas, and a laboratory for biological and environmental study and research. New residential accommodation for university and school students was proposed, with accommodation for 32 adults, including ablution facilities. The site is heavily wooded and surrounded by mature eucalyptus forest, had a mandatory 40m set-back from a creek, and presented a serious challenge with regard to bushfire risk, particularly as the building included residential overnight accommodation that could be occupied by children. The proposed buildings were designed to resist bushfire attack, and to harvest and store rainwater, as well as maximising thermal comfort for occupants through strategic use of thermal mass, insulation, shading and cross-ventilation.

A Development Approval was obtained, after arduous negotiations regarding compliance with the codes for construction in bushfire prone areas, with 82 conditions, but one condition of the approval required that the sole access road, a leafy residential thoroughfare with expensive homes on either side, would have to have all trees and vegetation on each side cleared for its full length of 500 metres. This was also the access road to the Aboretum. Environmentalists and the local residents, understandably, were not prepared to agree to this. The project had to be abandoned.