By Andrew Starc

3 June 2010 –
The Australian Institute of Architects will have a new  carbon neutral home in Melbourne – the first such building that will  be offered to the open market for sale on a strata floor basis.

The building, a redevelopment of the AIA’s current headquarters  at 41 Exhibition Street, has projected carbon savings on completion of 60 per cent and carbon reductions of 43 per cent.

According to the Institute will “set a new standard for green building design in Melbourne.”

(Grocon’s Pixel building in Melbourne will also be carbon neutral but its intention is to be an exemplar to Grocon’s clients, rather than offered to the market.)

Architects for the project, Lyons, said the building will have carbon neutrality as its core principle.

To achieve this outcome, the Institute has developed a sustainability charter, similar in principle to a green lease, requiring owners and tenants to agree to a series of practical sustainable operations during the occupation of the premises, such as waste management.

The building aims for a 5 Star Green Star Office Version 3, with features including a high performance façade system and active chilled beams throughout,  achieving a 40 per cent energy saving when measured against “business as usual”.

It will also incorporate storage of storm water for flushing of toilets, bicycle parking, and areas for tenants waste management.

According to a total carbon assessment run by the institute, it is projected that the building will achieve a 43 per cent carbon reduction through energy efficiency, waste management, transport strategies and use of sustainable materials; 60 per cent carbon saving by the purchase of appropriate green power; and 100 per cent carbon neutrality by using carbon offsets through owners and tenancy agreements.

The building will consist of 21 levels; a ground level of “micro” retail, four levels housing the Australian Institute of Architects, and 16 levels of commercial strata titled offices.

Institute chief operating officer Ross Clark said the dramatically sculptured and eye-catching new building was being developed as an “exemplar” in terms of design and sustainability.

“The building is intended as the Institute’s long-term home, and must perform at the highest levels of sustainability accordingly, while acting as a showcase for the cutting edge, world class architecture that Australian architects are renowned for. We’re delighted both with the approved distinctive design of the building, and its forecast performance.”

“Importantly, and in addition to the Green Star rating, a total carbon assessment of the project has confirmed we’ll achieve carbon neutrality over the full life of the building – from design to its long-term operational life.”

The architecture

Michelangelo’s rebellious slave

Lyons director Carey Lyon said the building design sought to create an interface between the building and passersby by, “while highlighting the fundamental importance of public architecture in the life of the city.”

Mr Lyons said the  small-scale site on the corner of Exhibition Street and Flinders Lane allowed for a design concept that “references the importance of Melbourne’s laneways, and helps maintain the fine grain of the city’s built environment.

“Too often small sites in the city get land-banked and eventually aggregated, resulting in large-scale developments and a loss of the fine grain elements that can help define a city’s character.

“By creating a 20-storey building with a total space of only 5000 square metres on this small footprint site, we are adding variety and interest into the urban streetscape.”

Mr Lyons said key aspect of the design was a “chiselled staircase that sweeps from the entrance foyer through to the fourth storey.

“This is a very public building, housing the Institute of Architect’s public spaces and gallery.  The staircase is designed as an expression of the outreach between architecture and the public.

“Through its open nature, passersby can see and access the public spaces inside.

“It is also designed as though it has been chiselled out of the structure, referencing the traditional Spring Street public-buildings of Melbourne that were literally carved out of bluestone.

“A second floor balcony jutting out over Exhibition Street, and further cut-out elements in the building  façade, add to the building’s visual interest and public interaction.

“The chiselling and cut-outs introduce a sculptural aspect to the building, expressing a liberating
sentiment inspired ultimately by Michelangelo’s unfinished ‘slaves’ sculpture in Florence,” Mr Lyons said.

“Creating architecture for architects and being judged by our peers has been an intense but
thoroughly rewarding experience for the Lyons practice.”