Australia’s green building game changer: World’s first sustainable shopping centre gets go-ahead

The first sod has been turned on an ambitious project to create the world’s most sustainable shopping centre. Photo: Frasers Property Australia

A groundbreaking sustainable development featuring a renewable energy-powered shopping centre, an urban rooftop farm, and 700 eco-friendly homes has been green-lit in Melbourne.

The first sod of earth was turned this week at the Burwood Brickworks site 14 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD, as work began on what’s billed as the world’s first sustainable shopping centre, set for completion in late 2019.

The project aims to be the first retail development in the world to achieve a Living Building Challenge certification, thanks to $14 million worth of eco-features.

The rise of living buildings

Burwood Brickworks will integrate housing, 2.5 hectares of open space, and community facilities including a shopping centre with a rooftop urban farm. Photo: Frasers Property Australia

Far from the concrete monoliths common to suburban Australia, the 12,700-square-metre shopping centre will be ensconced in lush foliage and surrounded by 2.5 hectares of parkland.

According to developer Frasers Property, the building’s “biophilic design” will allow for an “abundance of greenery, natural daylight and fresh air throughout the centre via a sawtooth-style roof to fulfil visitors’ desire to connect with nature and create an environment which encourages longer dwell times and return visitation”.

The Burwood Brickworks site, 14 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD. Photo: Frasers Property Australia

In a move emblematic of the growing ‘living buildings’ movement, the developers are seeking to create a built environment that is “regenerative rather than degenerative”, Frasers Property’s Peri Macdonald said.

“We think that our industry does have an obligation to do more. Our communities and retailers are going to start to demand it as well,” he said.

“If you look at the population that we’re serving, they’re going to want to be in places that are beautiful, unique, less harmful, and hopefully actually improving the environment.”

In order to qualify as a living building, the project must generate 105 per cent of its annual energy requirements, which developers say will be achieved through a mix of solar panels, off-site renewable energy and high-tech battery storage.

Other requirements include the use of sustainable, locally sourced building materials, with 99 per cent of construction waste to be re-purposed and diverted from landfill, and a specialised water system that will capture, treat and reuse all rain and waste water.

Sustainability guru Joost Bakker has also been brought in to consult on the project’s 2000-square-metre rooftop farm, with a proposed paddock-to-plate restaurant.

The mixed-use development will include 2.5 hectares of parkland and open space. Photo: Frasers Property Australia

The 700 medium-density homes, expected to be completed in late 2020, will include a mix of freestanding, semi-detached terrace housing, land lots and two apartment buildings.

The project will set a new global “benchmark” for sustainable urban design, Frasers Property general manager of residential Sarah Bloom said, with all homes featuring rooftop solar panels, energy-saving and water-saving devices, appliances and fittings.

“This project exemplifies everything we stand for: building sustainable, liveable communities that promote the long-term health and wellbeing of our residents,” Ms Bloom said.

Isabelle Lane / The New Daily