Melbourne's Burwood Brickworks is set to become the most sustainable shopping centre in the world as the team aims for Living Building Challenge (LBC) certification.
Only 23 buildings have been LBC certified, and Burwood Brickworks is on its way to become the 24th, as well as the only retail property to meet the standards set out by the International Living Future Institute. These figures highlight just how challenging and complex the process is – a process that encourages buildings to operate as effectively as a simple flower, receiving its energy needs from the sun, using and circulating water, producing no waste nor toxicity and looking beautiful.
Developer Frasers Property Australia isn't providing the project with any special compensation to ensure it reaches its goal, says Jack Davis, the organisation's development manger – retail. No handouts are being offered in an effort to make meeting the challenge any easier. The shopping centre has to be as financially viable as any other development. That means it's up to everyone involved to commit wholeheartedly to achieving certification.
There are reminders of this everywhere as you walk through the centre, which is set to open on December 6. Signs tell workers to clear their tools with site managers to ensure they meet standards and to use no PVC due to the dangers it presents in both its fabrication and use. Retailers have limited artificial lighting by design and by need; even the candy bar in Reading Cinemas has windows.As Davis and living building challenge manager Stephen Choi walk us through the site, they share stories about everything from the timber – recycled from locations all over Australia – to the fully-operational sawtooth windows in the roof, which will provide natural ventilation when weather permits.
The Living Building Challenge requires developers to consider how visitors to the property can maintain engagement with the world beyond its walls. That reverence of space is on full show here. The approximately 13,000 square metre site was once home to a brickworks, and some of the bricks produced there have been tracked down and reclaimed for use in the shopping centre. Before that, it was an orchard, a fact that surely inspired the decision to plant 275 maturing citrus trees across the building's northern facade.
The presence of these trees is something that feels entirely unique to a shopping centre, as does the art that adorns the central mall. Painted by Wurundjeri, Dja Dja wurrung and Ngurai illum wurrung artist Mandy Nicholson, it tells the indigenous tale of the forming of the Yarra River.
Perhaps the most notable feature of Burwood Brickworks, if you can only pick one, is the 2000 square metre rooftop farm operated by acre Farm and Eatery. Comprised of five farming zones estimated to produce 11,000 plants every three weeks, the urban farm will provide fresh produce for acre's restaurant and cafe, which share the roof. Beyond meeting the LBC requirements that at least 20 percent of the area be dedicated to agricultural use, the project combines architecture and agriculture to connect people to the food they eat in a way that few urban destinations can. acre's urban farmer, Adrian Baiada, says he hopes the farm will provide visitors with the kind of positive experience capable of bridging the gap to good, sustainable action.
All considered, the entirety of Burwood Brickworks seems capable of bridging this gap, even with three weeks of construction left to go. It looks set to provide the kind of experience expected of all good shopping centres but in such a way that it feels like something innovative and important.