This paper describes the preliminary design and energy analysis of a university research building in NSW, Australia. This case study highlights some of the challenges confronting those wishing to design cost-effective net zero energy buildings in the Australian higher education sector and beyond. The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) is presently under development at the University of Wollongong and will be a unique building in the local region and an exemplar in respect of demonstration of a range of technical and operational means of reducing greenhouse emissions and other ecological impacts. This paper provides details on the constraints and opportunities presented to the project in terms of both renewable energy production and minimization of energy consumption in the building. The performance of the building was simulated using a number of tools for a range of ventilation and air conditioning options. Energy generation and demand management options considered include: use of earth-to-air heat exchangers; ground source cooling and heating; building integrated solar air heaters; natural and mixed mode ventilation schemes, etc. Comparions between results from public domain simulation packages and those developed by the present research team are discussed. The constraints imposed by the goal of achieving a net zero energy building are also reviewed.