Melbourne’s newest office space sets sustainability benchmark

One of Melbourne’s latest commercial buildings has set a new benchmark in sustainability with an innovative structural solution featuring a lightweight movement resistant steel frame, timber flooring and double-glazed glass walls.

The five-storey, 4000-square-metre second tower at 276 Flinders Street, at the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth Streets, meets the highest in environmental standards, reaching a 5-Star Green Star rating, as a result of the innovative method that uses low environmental impact building materials compared to standard construction.

The building foundations being constructed completely by steel, with no concrete used at all in the process.

According to research on the environmental impacts of steel as opposed to concrete, steel was found to be a “better and a more sustainable building material”, using 25 per cent less total CO2 emissions and 68 per cent less total natural resources.

Managing Director of commercial property investor, Fivex, Lesli Berger, said: “The use of lightweight fully-ductile steel grid framing and cross laminated timber is a relatively new approach to commercial building and one most property owners would not venture to use as it is in its infancy.”

“Despite not being a mainstream solution, we wanted to use this more environmentally friendly solution, both at the build stage and over its lifetime, as we are always striving for the most positive outcomes in our developments.”

“When we decided to build the second tower to meet the demand for high-quality contemporary commercial space in Melbourne, we set the sustainability bar higher than needed – aiming to deliver a building that met a 5-Star Green Star design solution.”

Mr Berger said Fivex’s commitment to more sustainable outcomes in its developments extended beyond the construction and through most parts of the building.

“Not only have we achieved environment benefits by cutting out the use of concrete in the design, but we have achieved ongoing sustainability gains through initiatives such as water recycling and natural ventilation.”

“Rainwater is being harvested for flushing toilets and bin wash-down and windows on each floor are openable to allow natural ventilation to enable air conditioning usage to be dramatically cut.”

Other initiatives employed in the construction of Fivex’s second tower on the site to reduce its potential environmental footprint include:

  • High performance, double-glazed windows with thermally improved metal frames
  • Incorporation of high levels of thermal insulation
  • Lighting systems with maximum efficiencies and advanced controls throughout e.g. LED fittings throughout
  • Efficiency controls for lighting and HVAC systems throughout common areas
  • A natural ventilation strategy in lieu of mechanical ventilation
  • Use of high-efficiency air-conditioning equipment.

According to lead architect for the project, Murray Brassington of Baldasso Cortese, the sustainability design elements assisted in delivering a contemporary space that had a light and airy feel.

“The new office is connected to the existing tower at each level, resulting in larger than expected floor-floor heights. There is a ‘New York’ feel about the space as a consequence of the extra ceiling height and perimeter floor-ceiling windows.”

The innovative construction method, undertaken by Multiplex, also meant that the build was completed much quicker and with less disruption than the traditional construction approach.

Graham Cottam, Regional Managing Director of Multiplex said of the lightweight structural solution adopted for this building extension: “We almost cut traditional construction time in half – before we had the steel framing completed for a floor, service trades were following in behind.”

“In a traditional build, we would need to wait for the reinforced concrete to fully set and strip the formwork supports before the service trades would be able to start work on that floor. What would have taken us at least 18 months to build, took us less than 12.”

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