Architecture - Masters

Ember Institute

Despite the great amount of information on the impacts of fire, there are obvious gaps within the research of fire ecology. The long-term ecological effects of fire exclusion, prescribed burning and other important strategies of fire management is overall poorly understood, with fire ecologists only just beginning to initiate and implement research studies to determine the extent of these impacts.

ember institute

‘Ember’, the educational link between research and the community. It’s organic and abstract form, though unique for its surroundings, seamlessly blends into the ridged and hilly landscape which engulfs it. Like a burning ember, the internal lights emit an eery glow up over the satin grey fibre cement exterior reminiscing the buildings intent.
The structure peaks interest, it invites people in although being unaware of what lays ahead. Leading into the inner workings the grand open spaces and natural finishes contrast to the bleak and monolithic exterior. High ceilings welcome soaring interactive screens allowing research to be conveyed to visitors and personnel. A large sweeping curtain wall wraps around the elevated north-east façade permitting occupants to gaze out over the landscape which they seek to protect, while from the exterior looking up an almost flickering fire effect is achieved – a constant reminder to the research which the institution seeks to educate. The building aims to bring both the community and speciality fire regime organisations together to create a Queensland hub for fire management education.
Having a focus on implementing better fire management programs, the structure itself has been designed to strict standards. The completely ‘Equitone’ fibre cement shell creates a retardant exterior layer against flames and embers, while the insulating layer behind protects the inner workings from heat. This exterior layer coupled the no eaves or overhanging balcony’s, with the limited windows placed strategically; the structure is to achieve a BAL rating of 19/29. This rating is also possible with the interior fire egress being thoughtfully designed to allow for occupants to exit quickly and easily within the required standards. Ember is in the forefront of fire prevention and educational services.


The Fire and Biodiversity Field Research Station focuses on immersion and interaction. The facility is a part of the land, being built into the base of the hill and looking up and out into the environment which surrounds it, allowing the users to feel a higher responsibility to solve its problems. The station houses departments for actively fighting fire, prescribed burning and training, along with a wildlife recovery unit for injured animals, practical research labs, private and collaborative office spaces, a meeting room, equipment storage and a large kitchen and lounge for everyone to use.
The overall form is hugely shaped by the surrounding location, with certain design liberties being possible as a result. Positioned by a creek on the north-east facing slope it is very unlikely for fire to burn up towards the facility, having to of originated by the creek and travel against prevailing winds to do so. This orientation as a result allows the structure to utilise glass on these facades, though windows are still equipped with water sprinkler systems and toughened glass to help achieve the BAL FZ rating which is requested. In respect to fires originating from the south-east, the structure acts as an extension of the land, with flames passing by or above, utilising the earth as a natural insulating barrier. The use of fire-retardant materials such as masonry brick walls, the Ember Equitone fibre cement system and stainless-steel drainpipes adds an additional protective layer. The overall design and layout of the research facility is kept simple, with large open spaces and direct corridors allowing for easy navigation and escape, as well as creating numerous opportunities to promote views of the surrounding environmental and natural light.

Rhys Kelly

I have spent my years at university exploring unique and potentially controversial designs in an attempt to push myself to a more abstract thought process. I am quite structured in my usual thinking; I like to understand how things work or what can be done to increase efficiency. I am passionate about architecture and wish to continue to push myself.