Melbourne Convention Centre, winner of Banksia Built Environment Award, 6 Green Stars and a string of environmental achievements

CASE STUDY: The Melbourne Convention Centre won not only the Built Environment Award in the 2009 Banksia Awards, announced in July, but it was also the first convention centre in the world to be awarded [the equivalent of] a 6 Star Green Star environmental rating by the Green Building Council of Australia, setting a global benchmark in environmental design.

The development is a Victorian Government private public ownership project developed by a Plenary Group Consortium which also included builders Brookfield Multiplex and joint venture architects Woods Bagot and NH Architecture.

WSPLincolneScott and its specialist services company Advanced Environmental and Vision Design provided all building services, ESD and architectural lighting.

ESD highlights include the largest use of FSC certified timber in Australia, an integrated water cycle design, one of the largest black water plants in Australia, a heated slab system and solar panels. MCC’s Plenary Hall can be divided into three acoustically separate theatres and is supported by an innovative low energy underfloor displacement ventilation system which enables the movable design. The integrated water cycle design harvests rainwater form roof areas and recycles black water. Other features include a heated slab system to provide energy efficient thermal comfort and reduce air conditioning; solar panels to provide hot water for 100 per cent of public amenity and 40 per cent of the commercial kitchen; and building sensors to detect the natural light and adjust lighting to conserve energy.

This AUS$500 million project reveals a number of design ideas which make it a leading project in contemporary world architecture and is just one part of a PPP between the Victorian State Government and Plenary Group, which is delivering a $1.4 billion revitalised riverside precinct incorporating a new Hilton Hotel, an office tower, 60,000 square metres of retail and a rejuvenated river promenade.

Situated on the banks of the Yarra River the MCC is integrated with the adjoining Melbourne Exhibition Centre through an enclosed glassed walkway becoming the largest exhibition and convention facility in the southern hemisphere.

The development completes the vision for the rejuvenation of the river corridor established by the Southbank development 20 years earlier and offers a fulcrum into the newly expanding Docklands precinct to the north.

In response to this urban context the triangular figure of the plenary building acknowledges three figurative axes – the colonial city, the developing city and the speculative city to come.

Indoor environment quality has a direct impact on the health and well being of building occupants. The project team has addressed this concern by having 90 per cent of the gross floor area incorporate alternative/non conventional ventilation solutions including displacement ventilation, chilled beams and mixed mode.

Furthermore 90 per cent of the GFA airconditioning systems are either 100 per cent outside air with no recirculation or with CO2 sensors.

The building has been designed so that 30 per cent of the GFA achieves a daylight factor of not less than 2.5 per cent as measured at floor level under a uniform sky.  It will also achieve a thermal comfort PMV level of -1 to +1 for 98 per cent of the year.

Blackwater mining is another example of proven technology being used in a new environment.  This is the first time a blackwater mining solution has been used in a public area of this scale, creating significant water savings.

The project incorporates AAAA rated fittings waterless urinals and recycled water to offset 100 per cent of the toilet flushing demand.

Water meters are installed on all major water consumers including bathrooms, cooling towers, irrigation and wash down, water recycling and hot water services and are in turn connected to the BMCS for leak detection. Outside landscape watering has been addressed through the use of recycled water provided by the black water system and efficient subsoil drip irrigation.

The project also achieves a significant reduction of CO2 emissions. This is accomplished through a number of initiatives including the incorporation of highly efficient chillers, pumps and fans in the design, having an average power density of 3w a square metre per 100 lux; setting up a solar hot water array to entirely offset the energy consumption associated with occupant amenity hot water and sub metering all substantive energy uses.

Light spill from the site will be eliminated by ensuring that no direct beam of light is directed beyond the site boundaries or upwards without falling directly on a surface with the explicit purpose of illuminating that surface.

Furniture has been selected for its low environmental impact; painted surfaces and floor coverings use low volatile organic compound materials. Even the large usage of natural timbers such as Australian spotted gum was sourced from accredited sustainable forests, the project sponsoring the first sustainable forest accredited supplier.

Contained within the triangle is the 5000 seat Plenary Hall, in essence a building within a building.

Conceived as a landmark element, the auditorium is defined by a dynamic enclosure reinforced by its independence from the outer skin of the building. Clad in timber, the sculptural shapes of the Plenary walls reflect the textural qualities of the maritime history of the Yarra River.

The crafted hulls of clipper ships, the cranes, working platforms of the docks and the engineered structures of the railways are all clues to the genesis of the architectural language.

Serviced by a 270 degree foyer, the hall has been designed to meet the multi-modal and concurrent requirements of the facility. These include multiple public entries, with integrated links to the existing Convention Centre; self contained population flow at the southern circulation foyer with circulation able to occur concurrently within the northern public foyer; and exhibition events can be staged whilst Plenary Hall events are taking place simultaneously.

As part of an explicit need to reduce operating and recurrent costs, and to offer a distinctive venue with a competitive advantage, the Plenary Hall is designed to incorporate gala venue automated seating.
The use of this system will allow the seating arrangements to transform into an almost unlimited range of configurations and capacities.

Location:Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Developers:Plenary Group
Builders:Brookfield Multiplex
Architect:Joint Venture Architects Woods Bagot and NHArchitecture
Building services, ESD and architectural lighting: WSPLincolneScott and Advanced Environmental and Vision Design
Client:State Government of Victoria
Completion:January 2009
Photography: Peter Bennetts

Additonal consultants:
Aspect Studios Pty Ltd – Landscape Architect
Blythe Sanderson Group – DDA Consultant
CJ Arms – Hydraulics Consultant
Gala Systems Inc – Operable Auditorium Seating
Golder Associates Pty Ltd – Geo Technical Engineers
GTA Consultants – Traffic Engineers
John Mullen & Partners Pty Ltd – Civil Engineers
Lake Young and Associates Pty Ltd – Fire Safety Engineering ConsultantsMadigan Surveying – Land Surveyor
Marshall Day Acoustics Pty Ltd – Acoustic Consultant / Theatre Systems Consultant
McKenzie Group Consulting – OH & S Risk Consultants
PLP Building Surveyors & Consultants Pty Ltd – Building Surveyors
R-Co (Aust) Pty Ltd – Wayfinding and Signage
Urban Futures Consulting – Urban Design Consultants
Vipac Engineers & Scientists Ltd – Wind Consultants
Vision Design Studio – Lighting Design Consultants
Winward Structures – Structural Engineering
WSC Planning Pty ltd – Town Planing Consultants