The Australian PlantBank

PlantBank CROP

Helping to protect the future of Australian biodiversity

Turner & Townsend Thinc was appointed to project manage the delivery of a new, world-class seed conservation facility called the Australian PlantBank by the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust. The $19.8 million PlantBank is set in over 400 hectares of woodland at the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan in Sydney.

The contemporary, sustainable facility provides fresh housing for the current NSW Seedbank, and a new and stimulating venue for research, education and community interaction. It is the largest native seed bank in Australia and one of the largest in the world.

ADVICE + ACTION

Turner & Townsend Thinc successfully managed this complex project, with multiple stakeholders, through to completion. The team provided a range of advisory and delivering services and developed innovative solutions to create a bespoke, high-tech and educational facility.

The project was delivered on time and on budget and was opened by NSW Governor Marie Bashir and the NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker. Key to the successful delivery was the team’s focus on outcomes, innovation and collaboration.

OUTCOMES

The facility will help protect Australia’s precious 25,000 native plant species from the threats of extinction. The goal is to collect, store and study viable seeds or live tissue specimens of all plant species in Australia. This is a considerable challenge since Australia is ranked fifth in the world for the megabiodiversity of its flora and is one of 12 megabiodiverse countries in the world.

Seeds will be stored at temperatures between four degrees C and minus 20 degrees C, with some species also needing cryogenic storage at minus 196 degrees C. To reduce the significant amount of energy that is required to achieve such low temperatures, a natural cooling device has been installed. Outside air is taken into a thermal labyrinth – an underground concrete-lined two meter square tunnel, where the air is pre-cooled by up to seven degrees C as it passes through the labyrinth on its way to the air conditioning unit.

The seeds will be housed in a central concrete vault, its walls interspersed with foam linings to enhance temperature control. The vault will also have a four-hour fire rating and a high security door. All these features should enable seeds to be stored for over 200 years.