October 4 2007

Train Station Expels Fumes Passively! and wins Lubetkin Prize!

Southern Cross Station_Image 10

The Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, Australia, by Nicholas Grimshaw uses a novel roof shape to expel diesel fumes from the trains below. The roof shape was designed to do several things including help exhaust diesel fumes from the train station below, protect occupants from the weather, connect old and new areas of the city, and provide a central civic destination for the city. The results are visually compelling and accomplish those goals.

[Above and below] ...you can see conceptual development diagrams for the roof shape. Fascinating is the sketch (below) on the upper left that shows the effects of a flat roof in lieu of the undulating roof on the top left.

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During a recent award ceremony during which the Southern Cross Station was awarded the Lubetkin Prize for Architecture by RIBA, judges noted that:

"The roof itself makes much of building physics. It is possible to describe the project in terms of structural forces, prevailing winds, and the ventilation of diesel fumes." - Lubetkin Prize Juror

I completely agree that this is a terrific architectural synthesis of physics, materials, environment, and occupancy. The project really takes advantage of the conditions at the site and the required space to generate a compelling architectural diagram. It is maybe even more noteworthy because at the time of the design the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling (CFD) was not sophisticated enough to be used in the project. Despite the lack of CFD the project's stack effect, undulating, double skinned roof is a success.

I should also point out that the architects took full advantage of the requirements to create beautiful architecture. The slide show below has some terrific images of the project. The roof vent design is wonderful as you will see.


For more information please visit the original article by Architectural Record.

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March 21st, 2008 at 9:00 PM

keith loveridge

Someone should talk to the people who have to work at Southern Cross station about the diesel fumes that don't get expelled from the station. I regularly use the station and am appalled at the level of diesel exhaust that I am exposed to at times. Some workers have been physically ill from the exposures and no-one wants to take responsibility because it is 'an award winning piece of architecture'. Pity it doesn't work properly!

February 15th, 2009 at 10:38 PM

Cait Carl

Have there been any studies to see if the building really doesn't work? It is hard to imagine that the building would continue to win awards if the purpose behind the architecture falls flat...

February 8th, 2010 at 3:18 AM


Over 300 adverse health reports from staff at the station attests to the fact that this roof is a dud.

June 28th, 2011 at 10:48 PM

noy hildebrand

apparently they are planning to install extraction fans to remove the fumes: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/southern-cross-station-to-act-on-diesel-fumes-20110628-1gp60.html CFD definitely has it's limitations (as any tools do) and pretty diagrams do not equate informed design, which is harder.

November 22nd, 2011 at 8:37 PM

keith loveridge

Just completed some air quality testing inside the station with certified equipment and PM 2.5 and PM10 levels inside were roughly double background levels outside in busy Swanston St. It was quite breezy inside the station, so not the 'worst case scenario' for testing. Not so sure that the extraction fan idea will be implemented, that's tantamount to an admission that the roof doesn't work. Pity the people who have to work there!