Update on the Coombs Building protocols

HC Coombs Building

Stage 1 of the Coombs Building Refurbishment Project is now moving towards completion. 

As part of the important work being undertaken, your feedback on the new governance principles and protocols surrounding the Coombs Building Refurbishment Project is currently being collated.

History of the HC Coombs Building

The iconic Coombs Building was one of the first permanent structures on campus. It was named after Herbert Cole Coombs, Chancellor of the University from 1968 to 1976.

The building was designed by architects Mockridge, Stahle and Mitchell and constructed over nine years from 1960 to 1969. The architects were renowned for their innovative approach to construction and their work on educational buildings across Australia.

The Coombs Building Refurbishment Project is an infrastructure project designed to transform teaching and working spaces at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. The Project will retain the strong history of the building while ensuring both staff and students have world-class facilities to learn and work.

The brief and program of work 

In early 2018, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific developed much needed strategies for accommodating staff and supporting work practices into the future. They included: 

  • Where possible, full-time academic staff retain single-occupant offices. All other part-time academic staff, all professional staff and all students are accommodated in dual occupancy or shared offices.
  • The building will provide for more meeting room/breakout spaces for collaborative work.
  • Teaching spaces increase in size and are co-located to create a teaching hub and aid wayfinding.

From this, a range of projects were established focusing on the refurbishment of work spaces in Coombs (excluding areas recently renovated). These included:

  • A new entry, to address existing accessibility and heritage issues.
  • Updating the Coombs Tea Room to increase its capacity, increase its amenity and address circulation issues in its vicinity.
  • Provision of new centrally timetabled and managed formal learning spaces, supported by adjacent informal learning spaces.
  • A new College Executive Area including new, larger Formal Meeting Room, suitable for hosting visiting dignitaries.
  • The insertion of staff meeting/breakout rooms to facilitate collaborative formal and informal work practices.

These key projects, together with a number of smaller interventions identified in the Departmental Planning process, such as Family Rooms and a Prayer Room, have formed the basis of the scope of capital upgrade works for the HC Coombs Building. All spaces designed met the Tertiary Education Facilities Management Association (TEFMA) guidelines.

Status of program 

For those who work in the building or have been past it recently, there has been a lot of activity. Stage 1 of the program is focused on the south hexagon creating academic workspaces and common teaching facilities. Currently, Stage 1 of the project is expected to be completed by the end of July 2019.

This means the College will have plenty of time to ensure the equipment in these rooms is functional for the gradual activation of these spaces over Semester 2, 2019 and we can ensure they are fully operational for Semester 1, 2020.

Stages 2 and 3 focusing on the middle and north hexagons have not yet commenced. We do not expect staff to be affected by Stage 2 until July 2019 and Stage 3 in February 2020. Specific communications about this decant process will commence in May. 


The following principles have been applied to the Coombs Building Refurbishment Project:

  • All Departments/Schools/Functional Divisions in Coombs will be consulted about space requirements and needs around physical infrastructure including capacity for growth and requirements for Coombs teaching spaces.
  • Where possible preferences regarding proximities (eg other academic/professional units, resources such as CartoGIS etc) will be accommodated.
  • Where possible links to historically significant spaces will be maintained.
  • There is limited temporary accommodation across the University and while minimum standards must be maintained there may be some preferences that cannot be met during the decant process.
  • Wherever possible we will seek to move school staff no more than twice (once in to the building, once out). Where multiple relocations are required we will work with the affected staff to minimise the impact of these moves.
  • Concepts for enhancing the space in Coombs such as naming of spaces, displaying intellectual history, art and decoration will be provided to the College for feedback.
  • Staff can ask questions or provide feedback on the project at any time to coombs.refurbishment@anu.edu.au.

In alignment with these principles specific protocols (attached) have been developed about how space requirements have been determined to ensure consistent and equitable use of these refreshed spaces. 

Updated:  16 November 2021/Responsible Officer:  CAP Web/Page Contact:  CAP Web