Developers and architects can plan a Living Building Challenge project, but it takes a builder to meet what is widely regarded as the world’s toughest green building test. For the Hacer Group’s work on the Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre in east Melbourne it meant going well beyond business as usual in terms of specifications, supply chain and practices. The Fifth Estate asked Hacer’s Living Building Challenge coordinator Roxanne Spittle how it was done.
TFE: What were the biggest challenges for Hacer?
Hacer: The biggest challenge Hacer Group faced was educating our subcontractor team and supply chain on the requirements that needed to be met for our Green Star and Living Building Challenge, and ensuring this education was implemented on site.
In particular, this related to ensuring that the correct and compliant materials were installed, applied or placed during construction and that the waste streams were directed to the correct bins.
TFE: Which consultants helped you navigate these challenges, in particular, the specific requirements of the Living Building Challenge?
Hacer: Our consultants were open to reviewing different materials and alternative methods of construction required to meet Green Star or Living Building Challenge compliance when Hacer Group and our subcontractor team found that the documented details where non-compliant.
TFE: What did you learn that will be used on future construction projects?
Throughout the project, we had to manage our waste efficiently to meet both Green Star and Living Building Challenge requirements. We found our waste contractor offers recycling services for waste streams that we were previously unaware of.
For instance, we found that if we provided dedicated “plaster only” bins for uncontaminated plasterboard, we could recycle 100 per cent of this material. During the fitout of the tenancies, we provided bags for shopfitters to dispose of polystyrene packaging, with the material removed from site and melted down to be repurposed into photo and picture frames.
Where project sites permit the space, both these recycling options can be implemented on future projects, with a number of Hacer sites already providing dedicated waste bins for plaster. Typically, on all Hacer Group projects, a dedicated steel bin is provided and all uncontaminated soil relocated to nearby sites. Both of these practices were implemented at Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre.
TFE: Were any new suppliers or products introduced?
Hacer: Due to the need to avoid formaldehyde, we couldn’t use typical engineered timber for the toilet and shower partitions. Bamboo and HDPE partitions were used instead, supplied by two organisations that had not previously been involved in a Hacer Group project.
Additionally, with a requirement to install a number of “salvaged” items, we were exposed to a number of second-hand materials warehouses, including Whelan The Warehouse, which supplied the salvaged feature timber; Hughes Renovators Paradise for minor fixtures, including coat hooks; and, Egans for salvaged furniture (including desks and chairs) that were placed within the centre management office, community centre and parents’ room.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that a number of products we would typically use on our construction sites met both the Green Star and Living Building Challenge material requirements.
However, to meet the documentation needs of both of these frameworks, direct correspondence was required between Hacer Group, our subcontractors and the manufacturers of each product we used. This opened a dialogue between all of the links of the supply chain and provided a greater level of transparency from what we would normally be exposed to on a project that didn’t have these environmental frameworks.
TFE: Was this the most demanding project the company has undertaken from a sustainability point of view? What other green rating systems has Hacer worked with?
Hacer: We have undertaken projects that have implemented both the NABERS and Green Star frameworks during design and construction. However, the Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre was the first project we have been involved in that was designed and constructed using the Living Building Challenge. As the world’s most rigorous sustainability performance standard, the Living Building Challenge has been the most onerous sustainability rating we have implemented on a project.