By Tina Perinotto

10 August 2012 –When Anita Mitchell left her plum role at Jones Lang LaSalle as head of sustainability to take over a similar role with Lend Lease at the massive and emerging Barangaroo development, the choice was irresistible. It promised to be the biggest, most challenging sustainability gig in town.

Mitchell hasn’t been disappointed.

The development has had its share of challenges many times over. Not least of which have been the controversy and angry protests from demonstrators over changes to the original winning vision for the precinct, and the sudden appearance of plans for a hotel to be constructed in the harbour itself. Green Bans hero, Jack Mundey, led the crowd at one meeting.

The hotel still appears as a ghostly outline in Lend Lease images for the site, but discussions are underway to relocate it on land. A casino on site seems to be inevitable.

For Mitchell, it must have been tough: a far cry from the laudable status that sustainability chiefs normally enjoy in their day-to-day life as forgers of a better future.

Passion has helped.Mitchell says everyone involved in the project has a passion for the job.

“You can’t be involved in Barangaroo without feeling privileged about creating something for the CBD,” she says.

Two years into the job, Mitchell seems relaxed and happy. During our interview, she conveys the sense that major early struggles and challenges, if not yet fully resolved, have at least been identified and partly bedded down, and a path mapped out.

Barangaroo South: site works July 2012

Some of the fruits of the struggle are on view. From the highrise Kent Street building overlooking the development site, you can see workers moving about. You can see trucks and cranes, and massive pylons and pipeworks ready to be integrated into the foundations that need to be dug down 30 metres to find solid bedrock to support the towers.

This alone is a huge job. The site is partly below sea level so the job of keeping the harbour out of the basement is another big, expensive challenge. It will mean the basement, a single structure connecting all three towers, will be much smaller than you might normally expect. It will be only 10 metres deep, with space for only 550 cars, which is about half the number allowed.

So that’s the first sustainable outcome: less parking, albeit from necessity rather than choice. Another is light rail planned to connect to the site.

What else? Will Barangaroo rise to its potential to be a global star in sustainability?

Ten years ago Lend Lease rose to another challenge by building Australia’s first five-star Green Star building at 30 The Bond headquarters in Sydney.

The project stunned the market. It became Australia’s premier poster child for green buildings, and ignited one of the most outstanding competitive races in the world among Australia’s industry leaders to go green.

Mitchell certainly thinks Lend Lease can do it again, although maybe not in quite he same way.

Baranagaroo, “ghosted” harbour building included

Consider the way the world has changed in that intervening decade.

The commercial property world is in recession and the global economy is in crisis. There’s a major  backlash on climate change and even green sentiment, with conservative state governments dropping programs and implicit support at an alarming rate. The banks aren’t happy to lend and there have been cutbacks in budgets, jobs and failing building companies.

Yes, things may be about to turn; they always do, and this is a long-term project that needs to think for future decades.

Today the key driver is value, not values.

So what will it be?

Mitchell yields nothing on any downgrade of sustainability goals.

But there’s a key phrase in her talk-through.

“We want to be at the leading edge, not necessarily at the bleeding edge,” she says.

“It needs to be financially viable and it needs to be practical; it needs to work. In terms of this as a financial servicing hub, it needs to function.

“It’s also very much at the next stage of sustainability.”.

The project will boast a range of achievements.

As a Clinton Climate positive development, it has to.

First, it will be carbon neutral. It will have as many on-site solar panels as the 7.5 hectare site can manage, plus a new solar power plant off site to make up the balance of energy required. It will have a new technology chilled water reticulation system using water direct from Sydney Harbour.

It will be peppered with pocket parks, roof-top gardens, kitchen gardens and art. Its buildings will feature facades designed to maximise views and minimise hot western sun exposure, and they will be fitted with high-tech lifts that will send excess power back to the buildings’ electrical systems.

But the biggest achievements, Mitchell says, will be invisible.

Central will be legal covenants that will lock up the sustainability management of the precinct, long after the developer has left the site.

The idea is to put in place a sustainability plan that will continue beyond when the developer leaves the precinct, “a strategy that lives in perpetuity,” Mitchell says.

It’s a new concept.

“That’s an incredible intellectual challenge and has no legal precedent,” Mitchell says.

“What happens when the building is operational; how do you work through the legal framework that supports that?”

“We all have a role to play to achieve carbon neutrality.”

There are some big names invested in this site.

They include the Canada Pension Plan and Investment Board, which just poured a cool $1 billion into the project; Lend Lease managed funds, which poured in $500 million; and Lend Lease itself, with another $500 million.

Add in three more important stakeholders, anchor tenants KPMG, Westpac and Lend Lease.

If you’re going to tie this lot into environmental and broader sustainability outcomes, you had better get the forms right.

Another is the need for the project’s achievements to be replicable. In this competitive industry Lend Lease wants not just to ensure the achievements endure, but that others can learn from them.

It’s another big ask, and one for which the proof will be in the pudding.

Barangaroo South: Artist’s impression

Tenants and investors
The investors and tenants were of course drawn by the sustainability outcomes and the information that went to the market on Barangaroo South went well beyond the “tick a box” method of going green, Mitchell says.

“A lot of the tenant reps and sophisticated tenants are knowledgeable enough to ask, what does it mean for the interiors fitout, can I achieve a Green Star rating of my own, supported by the base building?”

Certainly for investors, the ability to future-proof the buildings is important; this needs to stand the test of time.

Social sustainability
A big element that’s new to the sustainability horizon is social sustainability, and this project intends to break the mould.

First, the precinct is a pilot for the Green Star Community rating tool.

This will translate as big investments in skilling and employment. Barangaroo, says Mitchell, will become almost an academy.

At its peak, the site will employ up to 3000 workers. The point here is to address – and redress – the industry’s poor record in upgrading skills in its workforce.

“It’s an enormous opportunity to upskill,” Mitchell says. In particular, with indigenous workers.

Another angle is its newly announced sponsorship of the Sydney Theatre Company, linking with its ambitious sustainability programs initiated under Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton’s period as artistic directors.

“This is a new cultural precinct,” Mitchell explains. The point is to green the area from Barangaroo to Walsh Bay.

“We’re trying to extend a kind of [broader] thinking. Part of that is a big focus on indigenous engagement, a cultural strategy and a public arts strategy.”

The public arts strategy is partly mandatory, under developer contributions rules, but Mitchell says Barangaroo will go beyond the minimum, with integrated art, such as street furniture and digital art that can work with buildings and provide changing installations, inspired by Vivid Sydney.

Mitchell says the focus is on human and community development, culture and “life-long learning” opportunities.

The site will be designed to encourage physical activity and healthy living. It will include a “green travel” plan, and local food production, rooftop gardens, pocket parks and kitchen gardens.

Tree planting along the foreshore promenade will create an attractive link right along Barangaroo from the headland park to Walsh Bay.

Lend Lease is using the Headland Park architect Peter Walker for this work, to ensure continuity, Mitchell says.

Hardware and construction
Key sustainability features will include a chilled water loop similar to one that exists in Singapore, and use of harbour water for heat rejection.

Façades will come in for special treatment. The design is for the “skinniest” facades to face west so that the orientation maximises light but minimises heat gain.

What’s interesting is that, “every single individual panel of the façade has been modelled to minimise glare and maximise views – where to place the fixed shading, the moveable shading,” Mitchell says.

The lifts are also a key part of the outcomes.

Mitchell says that not only will the project be carbon neutral, but it will reduce the embodied carbon of the precinct with a range of materials substitution. Materials will also undergolife cycle analysis, the results of which will be shared with the industry.

“That was part of the strategy, to help inform,” Mitchell says.

Key suppliers have signed up to these commitments.

Another element at Barangaroo was the Building Information Management system, or BIM.

But as Mitchell points out, “there are two types of BIM, there’s design and there’s operations”.

Handling this, as development manager operations Barangaroo, is James Peterson, hired from Jones Lang LaSalle in Hong Kong.

Mitchell says Peterson’s first question was: “That’s all fine, but how are you going to operate these buildings?”

Anita Mitchell

The idea is to work from the long-term management perspective backwards.

“The key leverage in design and procurement is to get long-term agreements in place for material replacements – how do we work through material and replacements?”

The team has learnt a lot from Peterson, Mitchell says.

“It was foresight from Lend Lease to bring a full-time employee with building management expertise on as a resource,” Mitchell says. It would ensure that what the company was doing would endure the test of time.

“So many investors have learnt the lessons from expensive design errors that need a lot of retrofitting to get buildings to operate correctly.”

Dock management, for instance. You need to make sure the buildings can work effectively and efficiently on day one.

On site will be 1 megawatt of solar photovoltaic cells, but the reality is that this will provide just 2-3 per cent of total needs, Mitchell says.

“Where solar access is more viable is rooftops, and at the end of the day we’re a 7.5 hectare site, so we’re looking at trigen and co-gen,” she says.

To achieve carbon neutrality, Lend Lease will fund development of a solar power station somewhere off site.

In the end, Mitchell says, Barangaroo will amount to a small suburb, complete with 800 residents, and a vast array of retail outlets to complement the commercial residents.

It needs to pull its weight to achieve sustainability, and if Mitchell has anything to do with it, it will.

At a glance

Barangaroo South, is only one third of the whole 22 hectare Barangaroo site.

It will have three towers named, for now,after the Excel spreadsheets on which they were initially mapped out:

  • C3:  49 storeys; net lettable area 100,000 square metres; 401 bike spaces; 183 car spaces. Completion due 2016
  • C4: 42 storeys tall; NLA 88,000 sq m; 720 bike spaces; 126 car spaces. Completion due 2015.
  • C5: 38 storeys; NLA 78,000 sq m; 326 bike spaces; 153 car spaces. Completion 2015

The project is one of 17 projects globally that are part of the Clinton climate positive program.

Key Sustainability features include:

  • Chilled water reticulation
  • Optimised facades
  • Metering and monitoring
  • Commercial towers are designed to achieve a minimum 5 Star NABERS Energy rating and 6 Star Green Star Design As Built rating v3 with residential designed to achieve a 5 star Green star rating under the Multi unit Residential tool v1
  • Onsite low carbon and renewable energy generation
  • Ultra energy efficient buildings
  • Offsite renewable energy
  • Bike lockers and storage for sustainable transport
  • Commuter Carbon Emissions Offset

See also