Frank Gehry’s first Australian building has reached a literal high-point with the “topping out” of the structure. The University of Technology, Sydney’s (UTS) Dr Chau Chak Wing Building is now a local landmark, even with the building’s distinctive brick façade still hidden behind scaffolding.

“It’s hard to believe I can now stand on the top of a building that will redefine downtown Sydney when it opens,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Ross Milbourne. “Construction has progressed to the stage that there can be no doubt that this is a Gehry building and a fantastic one at that.”

The building will also be one of Sydney’s greenest education buildings, with the awarding of a 5 Star Green Star – Education Design v1 rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

“Sustainability is a driving force for all the building works that UTS is currently doing as part of our City Campus Master Plan,” said Professor Milbourne. “It’s appropriate then that our highest-profile building should be the first proect to receive formal 5 Star Green Star certification.”

Key sustainability features of the building include high-performance glazing, energy-efficient building services, water-efficient fixtures, a 20,000L rainwater tank, sustainably sourced timber, 160 undercover bicycle racks and end-of-trip facilities, and digital signage communicating the building’s sustainability features.

“The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building is only the second university building in Sydney to achieve a Green Star – Education rating, and demonstrates that it is possible to integrate sustainability into an architecturally challenging building.  We congratulate UTS for its green leadership,” said the GBCA’s Chief Operating Officer, Robin Mellon.

With the completion of the building’s main structure, contractor Lend Lease has already moved onto the next phase of the project with construction of the curvilinear brick façade well underway.

“Lend Lease has been fortunate to have delivered some of Australia’s most iconic and complex projects. However, we are particularly proud of the Dr Chau Chak Wing building,” said Managing Director of Lend Lease’s Building business in Australia, Murray Coleman.

“We’re using state-of-the-art construction methods including building information modeling and combining it with traditional artisan techniques in order to deliver this unique Frank Gehry design. Today’s topping out is a significant milestone, celebrating that we are one step closer to delivering this impressive building for UTS and its students.”

Over the coming months, a team of brick layers will lay approximately 320,000 custom-designed bricks by hand, arguably the project’s greatest challenge. To minimise any risk associated with this element of the construction process, the design team undertook extensive façade testing with full-size prototypes in both China and UTS’s own specialist civil engineering labs.

Inside the building, some signature spaces have already taken shape, such as the dramatic three-storey void on the ground floor. This void which will house the ‘oval classrooms’, two, 120-seat auditoriums stacked one on top of the other and clad in jutting timber beams.

Topping out is a construction industry tradition and marks the final concrete pour at the highest point of the building. It is an opportunity for workers, consultants and stakeholders to celebrate this milestone and acknowledge the hard work of all those involved.

The Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, named for the Australian-Chinese businessman and philanthropist, will open in mid-2014 at a total development cost of $180 million. The 12-storey building is located in Ultimo, on a site adjacent to both the ABC and the Powerhouse Museum.

Based on the concept of a tree house, the building will house the UTS Business School. Up to 2,390 students and staff will study and work in the building at any given time. The project is a centrepiece of UTS’s $1-billion City Campus Master Plan, a ten-year design and construction program that will transform both the university and the southern CBD.