Heritage goods shed meets circular economy as retention works complete

The heritage retention works at Melbourne’s famous Goods Shed No.5 are complete following a careful six-month process, leading the way for bringing historic buildings in line with the circular economy in an approach which keeps products and materials in use.

The works involved individual components of the shed being cautiously dismantled and catalogued so they can be repurposed – sparking innovative ways for regeneration and waste reduction.

Riverlee, who owns the site and initiated the works, is committed to retaining as many items as possible, giving them new life through the forthcoming Seafarers mixed-use development encompassing luxury residential and Australia’s first 1 Hotel.

Freyssinet Australia together with Mann Group completed the works, salvaging items including 1944 bluestone pavers, 20 timber sliding doors, 40 steel trusses and 105 steel window frames which will be used in the reconstruction of the Goods Shed. Approximately two kilometres worth of timber purlins, also salvaged, will be repurposed through the new building including in the site’s forthcoming 1 Hotel, likely to be incorporated as feature stairs, wall cladding, lighting fixtures, furniture and hotel bedheads.

Riverlee development director David Lee says the conclusion of the heritage retention works is a milestone in the progress of Seafarers and is exemplar in both urban renewal and reversible design, a concept that involves taking apart buildings and reusing their components for a second life.

“We are committed to the preservation of history, building with it rather than over it, and our extensive heritage retention works at Seafarers is a perfect example of this,” says Lee.

“Through Seafarers, we are striving to honour the Goods Shed’s historical context while finding a sustainable solution from the salvaged materials, reusing as much as possible.”

“The heritage retention works are an excellent example of how we can create a circular economy with our older buildings – eliminating waste and keeping materials in use rather than looking for new alternatives. Given the heritage components, and complexity of putting all the pieces back together, our work really does take reversible design in Melbourne to the next level.”

“This process has been far from simple and we commend our engineers, historians and design team who have made it possible to preserve elements of this iconic Melbourne building.”

The next steps will involve further assessment of the retained items to determine origin, species and age before they are weaved into the new Seafarers mixed-use waterfront precinct. The remaining concrete structure of the Goods Shed building on-site will be integrated into the future mixed-use building/design.

Riverlee engaged historian Emma Russell from HistoryAtWork to lead the historical studies on the project and to ensure as much of the original story and components of the shed can be retained throughout the new Seafarers development.

“It is exciting and inspiring to work with a property development company so genuinely keen to uncover the tangible history of their sites and materials, and the social and local history these places have played a role in,” she says.

“Retaining and repurposing the century-old timbers, bluestones and trusses, combined with innovative ways to integrate Seafarers’ social history, ensures the long memory of this fascinating corner of the CBD will be shared with visitors and residents alike in an authentic rather than manufactured manner.”

The heritage retention works at the Goods Shed No.5 complement Riverlee’s earlier restoration of Melbourne’s first electric crane, bringing it back to its former glory on the Seafarers site. Recognised in 2002 for its historical significance to Victoria, the Malcolm Moore crane was built in 1948 by Malcolm Moore Limited and is acknowledged to be part of the most intact cargo berth in the Port of Melbourne from the pre-containerisation era.

Seafarers is slated for completion in early 2024 and will feature a limited collection of premium waterfront residences above Australia’s first 1 Hotel, the world’s leading sustainable luxury hotel.


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