Investigating Science and Technology in the Built Environment

Before excursion activities

Big Build Up’ is a program that teaches you about designing buildings and the importance of thinking about how designs might affect the environment.

In this program you will be working in a design team on a task to redesign the old meteorological building in the city near the Harbour Bridge. Your task is to give the building a new use as part of a primary school. You will learn about the history of the building and what surrounds it on this page, and visit it on your excursion.

On your excursion, you will also:

  • Visit a two heritage buildings that have been developed to give them a new use, and to learn about important things designers must consider when they are designing buildings
  • Visit an Environmental Education Centre to learn about what makes buildings environmentally friendly
  •  Use ipads to learn how to professionally draw 2 and 3D models
  • Use a model to conduct a scientific experiment to work out how to make buildings more environmentally friendly
1. The Task
The Meteorological Building

The building you will be redesigning is called the Meteorological building.

History of the Meteorological Building

The Meteorological building was built in 1922 to house the officers of the Bureau of Meteorology. The second floor contained an apartment, which was used by the Regional Director of the Bureau and his family. The building was situated in Observatory Hill near the already operating weather observing station, which had been operating on the hill since 1821. Weather recording instruments were also housed on the roof of the building including a Dynes Anemometer, which was used to take wind reading and other recordings. Changes to the surrounding environment, including the development of high rise buildings, made it increasing difficult to take accurate readings.

After 1950, satellites and computer technology revolutionised meteorology and by 1963, the original function of the building was becoming obsolete. The Bureau moved to new offices at Chifley Square. Between 1963 and 1989 the building was used as a Meteorological Bureau workshop. Part of the building was also used by the Navy’s Cartographic Archive section.

In 1991 the National Trust was given permission to use the building for storage. The building has deteriorated rapidly and is currently in a derelict state. The building is now administered by the NSW Department of Lands.

Time line of use
  • 1821 – Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, instigates weather observations be taken in Sydney area.
  • 1858 – Astronomical Observatory built, Government Astronomer, Henry Chamberlain Russell, monitors weather for shipping. Shade Tent, Observing Station, in
  • which thermometers housed is built.
  • 1908 – The Bureau of Meteorology proclaimed as a Commonwealth entity.
  • 1917 – Observing Station moved due to climatic changes from development.
  • 1922 – Purpose built structure erected from the Bureau, located within boundaries of Observatory Hill, on Crown land. Constructed west of the Cottage or Messenger’s Quarters, located to the west of instrument enclosure.
  • 1933 -Sydney Harbour Bridge opens, resulting in further changes to local geography, which interferes with instrument readings.
  • 1946 – Cahill Expressway constructed, interferes with instrument readings, Observing Station site being raised a meter to cope with interference.
  • 1963 – Bureau of Meteorology relocates to the Commonwealth Centre at Chifley Square, however between 1963 and 1989, part of the old building used as Bureau workshops and as home for the Navy’s Cartographic section and archive.
  • 1990 – The National Trust of Australia (NSW) given permission to occupy part of building for storage purposes.
  • 2000 to present – unoccupied (administered by NSW Dept of Lands.

The derelict Meteorological building today

met Building

A CAD drawing using Google Sketchup

Location – Observatory Hill

The Meteorological Building is located on Observatory Hill. This is an historic area in the suburb of Millers Point, Sydney. Observatory Hill has some important educational buildings on it like the Sydney Observatory, The National Trust, Fort St Public School and Observatory Hill Environmental Education Centre. The building is within Fort St Public School and next to the weather station and the reused messengers Cottage. Your design task is to find a new use for the the building because Fort St PS is growing and needs more space

2. Designing in a team

Part 1 – Your teacher will put you in a design team. From what you have read about the building and it’s location, discuss what would be a good new use for the building with your team. You will be drawing a floor plan showing your ideas for the building. To help you practice drawing floor plans, draw a plan of your classroom in your Student Activity Booklet. Measure your classroom with a tape measure or trundle wheel, work out a good scale with your teacher, and draw birds eye views of the objects in your classroom. Some examples of birds eye views are shown in your Student Activity Booklet.

Ask your teacher for a floor plan of the building and practice drawing some design ideas on the plan with your design team. When you are happy with your team’s final design, paste it into your Student Activity Booklet. You will practise using these ideas on your excursion day to make a professional looking plan on an ipad.

Part 2 –  The second part of your task involves your team making the building more environmentally friendly. Read about the 7 things that make a building environmentally friendly. Discuss with your team how you could make the building more environmentally friendly and draw these on the building’s picture in your Student Activity Book. On your excursion day you will learn how to professionally draw these on a computer using a program called Floor Planner. If your school Ipads have floor planner you can practice using it before your excursion.

Follow up to Excursion – Teachers!

Visit ECOSPACE, a comprehensive unit of learning which provides the opportunity to learn about the built environment, energy and sustainability (for Stage 3) in a fun way. It is aligned to the new Science and Technology syllabus and integrates Working Scientifically and Working Technologically through the Built Environments substrand. It provides teaching notes and resources which support learning to use as required.

Follow up Experiments

Which is the better insulation material?

Can the colour of your house reduce your energy footprint?

Rooftop Gardens


Energy efficient houses

How denim insulation works

How to be more eco-friendly

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