6 of Australia’s top sustainable architectural design trends

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6 of Australia’s top sustainable architectural design trends

With populations within cities expected to grow by an average of 50 million people per year, and today’s greenhouse gas levels at the highest rate in 3 million years, it’s important to focus on mitigating the effects of climate change before it’s too late.

“Solving climate change has gone from not in our scope to being a requirement in less than 30 years.”

- Shawn Fisher Hesse, International Living Future Institute Associate Director, via GreenBiz

Building with a sustainable focus is growing in popularity as both developers and consumers are beginning to see impressive results from investing in energy-efficient building technology which can reduce a building’s consumption by 30-40%.

The focus on building development sustainability has led to the creation of new jobs; new policies; changes in design, engineering and construction processes; as well as new metrics and rating systems with an environmentally-centric approach.

Australian architects and environmental engineers are becoming world leaders in building sustainability by pioneering new design trends and technology to achieve eco-conscious credentials. These projects are also garnering well-deserved attention from prospective buyers who consider a building with a low carbon footprint an essential factor when choosing a property.

Here are 6 leading sustainable architectural design trends in Australia:

#1 SOLAR BALUSTRADES

Case study: The General, Melbourne

the general's solar balustrades
The General's solar balustrades

Northcote’s ‘The General’ is the first building in Australia to utilise Onyx Solar photovoltaic glass on its exterior to generate sustainable solar energy. Occupying the corner section of High and Bent Streets, the glass balustrades (supplied by Environmental Technology Solutions) have been ideally positioned to make the most of excellent natural light but also provide an important layer of thermal protection year-round. Onyx solar balustrades are one of the key contributing elements which won ‘the general’ it’s impressive 7.5-star NatHERS energy rating.

Solar panel use globally:

- Noor (which is an Arabic word meaning “light”) is the largest solar farm in the world currently. By 2020, the $9 billion solar power plant is expected to generate 580 megawatts, which is enough electricity to power over a million homes.

Noor solar farm, Morocco. Credit: REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal
Noor solar farm, Morocco. Credit: REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

“Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”

- Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF) via World Economic Forum

#2 ROOFTOP URBAN FARMS

Case study: Burwood Brickworks, Melbourne

Urban rooftop garden. Credit: Burwood Brickworks
Urban rooftop garden. Credit: Burwood Brickworks

As part of Fraser Property’s wider project ‘Burwood Brickworks’, an urban farm situated atop the entire building will provide all the produce for the complex café. The farm will also feature systems including closed-loop technology for recycling wastewater, mulch excess organic material for compost, eliminate produce transportation by growing on site, feature rooftop solar panels as well as offsite renewable energy sources, avoid the use of worst-in-class chemicals to reduce air pollution and boast a 6 Star Green Star Community rating (this has already been obtained).

Rooftop urban farms globally:

- Brooklyn Grange, NYC

- Lufa Farms, Canada

- HK Farm, Hong Kong

- City Farm, Japan

“We built the world’s first commercial rooftop greenhouse on an industrial building in Montreal, Quebec, to prove that high-yield, year-round farming is a smarter, more sustainable, and commercially viable way to feed cities. Since then, we’ve built new and bigger and better rooftop greenhouses, to grow more and more vegetables.”

- Lufa Farms

Another stand-out example of the positive effects of rooftop gardens is the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) headquarters. 

Overhead and Cross-Section Schematics. Credit: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
Overhead and Cross-Section Schematics. Credit: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

Multiple awnings across the site have been planted with lush greenery, and during a 10-month monitoring period, studies undertaken by ASLA found that the green roof prevented over 100,000 litres of stormwater (which is approximately 78% of all precipitation hitting the roof) from flowing into D.C.’s overburdened sewer and stormwater system. The study also discovered that run-off water contained fewer pollutants, there was a 10% decrease in building energy use over the winter, and even on the hottest summer days, the roof was around 15°C cooler than conventional roofing on neighbouring buildings.

#3 TRI GENERATION PLANT

Case study: One Central Park, Sydney

One Central Park. Credit: Frasers Property and Sekisui House
One Central Park. Credit: Frasers Property and Sekisui House

One Central Park raised the bar back in 2013 for green energy by housing its own tri-generation plant on site. The energy source will supply electricity, heating and cooling for 3,000 residences and 65,000 sqm of retail and commercial space via ‘green transformers’ which are powered by natural gas. Environmental consultants and engineers have estimated a 190,000-tonne greenhouse gas emission reduction over the next 25 years which is the equivalent of removing 2,500 cars off the roads annually for 25 years.

Tri-generation plants globally:

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers, London 
  • DAMM brewery, Barcelona

#4 BLACK WATER RECYCLING

Case study: 1 Bligh Street

1 Bligh Street. Credit: Cbus Property
1 Bligh Street. Credit: Cbus Property

In 2013 Sydney’s 1 Bligh Street apartment complex was the first CBD development to house an Aquacell blackwater recycling unit. Aquacell said that the system would be likely to save 1 Bligh Street residents 100,000 litres of drinking water per day. The process involves treating bathroom wastewater (and sometimes additional water from a nearby sewer) to be used for plant irrigation, toilet flushing and cooling towers.

“Recycled water schemes like this will ease pressure on water, energy and land as our population increases – this legislation ensures ongoing management is robust and a level playing field is achieved. Only organisations that meet the highest standards can be issued a licence which streamlines the approval process for future schemes.”

- Aquacell CEO Colin Fisher

Blackwater recycling globally:

- Goreangab recycling plant, Namibia. 

As one of the first plants of it's kind, the 50-year-old treatment centre has welcomed visitors from developed countries who are facing water shortages to see where water reclamation started. Experts from Australia, Singapore and the US have taken inspiration from visiting the centre and now all three countries have their own sewage recycling plants.

#5 RECYCLABLE BUILDING MATERIALS

Case study: Central Institute of Technology’s Green Skills Centre, Perth

Green Skills Hub render. Credit: Pyramid Constructions WA
Green Skills Hub render. Credit: Pyramid Constructions WA

Western Australia’s greenest building also happens to be the education hub for environment training – Green Skills Hub. The building has been constructed using entirely sustainable materials including structural steel which can be reused later down the track, and recycled timber throughout. The centre was awarded a 6-star Green Star rating.

Training and Workforce Development Minister Liza Harvey explained that the Green Skills building would help provide students with resources, training and skills that,

“…ensures our graduates are at the top of their game in growing sectors such as sustainable building and construction."

- Liza Harvey, Training and Workforce Development Minister 

#6 SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY

Case study: The Burcham in Rosebery

Credit: The Burcham in Rosebery
Credit: The Burcham in Rosebery

There is no denying technological advancements are making their way into our everyday lives at rapid speed, and the all-encompassing smart home device that was once a fictional concept is now a reality. The Burcham in Rosebery has installed ‘Geo Fencing’ technology in all 99 of their apartments, and whilst providing residents with the luxury of having a coffee brewed for their arrival home or the lights on by 7 PM, the technology is also proven to be beneficial for environmental sustainability. Residents will be able to monitor and manage their energy consumption and modify their use based on pricing and availability, allowing them to control living costs and reduce their carbon footprint. 

Wiser Link Energy Management Tool. Credit: The Burcham in Rosebery
Wiser Link Energy Management Tool. Credit: The Burcham in Rosebery

THE FUTURE

3D PRINTED HOMES

Case study: Project Milestones' 3D Printed Home, Netherlands

An artist’s impression of the 3D printed houses. Credit: Project Milestone
An artist’s impression of the 3D printed houses. Credit: Project Milestone

A revolutionary project will see a Dutch town open five highly sustainable 3D printed concrete homes this year. The world-first design technique is likely to be adopted by Australian firms such as biotechnology company Mirreco who have already expressed an interest in utilising 3D printing for their developments. 

RELATED: 5 of Melbourne’s environmentally conscious new-development highlights

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