From the outside, The Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) looks just like another exploration by H2o Architects into the use of timber cladding in commercial and institutional buildings.Inside, it is a whole different story.

Located on the Wimmera plains at the edge of Horsham, the AGG will provide secure storage for seed samples, accommodating up to 200,000 accessions for the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industry.

The building will also be used for processing seed and seed requests and will include a packaging and receiving area, freezers operating at -20 degrees Celsius, drying facilities, administration areas and a multipurpose educational foyer space to accommodate visiting groups.

An optimum interior temperature was therefore paramount for the design of AGG, and H2o have responded with an interesting insulation system that incorporates a multi-layered façade and double skin freezer design with an inner ‘esky’ box.

Looking at the exterior, observers are met by two red cedar and brick cladding boxes that are shaped like a builder’s tri-square and form the weather protecting layer of the building.

The timber panels carry images of ancient crop circles and modern plant anatomy, and blend the building into the wet lands and surrounding Wimmera plains.

The architects note that these panels were chosen not just because of their looks but because they were the most flexible, thermally efficient buffer to the climate, the rain, wind and high solar loadsof the Wimmera plains.

Inside, the gene seed samples are stored within an inner ‘esky’ box of insulated panels and serviced by an environmentally responsible mechanical system, keeping them at the optimum -20 degrees Celsius.

A key design element that contributes to the building’s thermal efficiency is the thermally stabilising air pillow which is sandwiched between the external cladding and interior insulated panels. The design ensures that the freezers operate with less imposed load and reduce the energy consumption and operating costs of the facility.

The Horsham Genebank merges three Australian storage facilities and is part of an international network of seed banks that includes the Svalbard Global Seed Vault built deep inside a snow-covered mountain on an island in Norway.

It has now reached completion. Images: supplied.