by Lynne Blundell

GPT’s 111 Eagle Street features an organic structural frame and high performance fully glazed facade

FAVOURITES – 1 October 2009 – The construction of GPT’s sustainable office tower at 111 Eagle St Brisbane is another vote of confidence in the ability of premium sustainable buildings to attract tenants in difficult economic times.

The building, touted to be one of Australia’s most sustainable office developments when it is completed in 2011, is one of a handful of major developments to have gone ahead during the global credit crunch. It is one of the very few to go ahead without pre-commitments.

Its sustainability credentials will ensure its success, say its owners.

Designed by architects Cox Rayner with engineering company Arup, the building is targeting a 6 star Green Star rating.

It features an organic structural frame and a high-performance fully glazed façade, maximising the Brisbane River views. Another key feature is the building’s flexible floor plates.

GPT is developing the site jointly with the GPT Wholesale Office Fund and an existing external capital partner. The three partners are jointly funding the development to completion, at an estimated total cost of approximately $600 million (including the land).

Leighton Contractors was awarded the design and construction contract and began construction in May 2008, with completion expected in late 2011.

According to Tony Cope, head of office with the GPT Group, a key consideration for going ahead with such a development in the current market is whether the owner/developer is investing for the long term, or not. Another is the building’s positioning, both geographically and in terms of building quality.

GPT is a long term investor, says Cope, and in proceeding with 111 Eagle Street, is counting on the worldwide flight to quality, sustainable buildings.

The building’s location in Brisbane’s so-called Golden Triangle is a key factor. Currently there are only three premium grade buildings in the Brisbane CBD – Riverside (also owned by GPT), Riparian and Waterfront. All have 10 year leases and around one per cent vacancy rate.

Tony Cope: “Brisbane still has the fastest growing population and a shortage of land in the CBD for development – it will be desperate for another premium, sustainable building in 2011.

And while the vacancy rate for the commercial sector nationally is forecast to be 10 to 11 per cent next year, for premium buildings it will be much lower, says Cope.

“We are looking through the cycle to the other side. There is very little premium stock available and Brisbane has the demographics to support more. The CBD is also geographically restricted regarding expansion so over supply is unlikely.”

The project is GPT’s only speculative project in the current market. Other projects the company completed recently include Workplace6 fully leased to Google and Accenture as tenant, 545 Queen St in Brisbane (redeveloped by APH Properties) with 2,100 sqm left to lease out of 39,000 sqm, and 28 Freshwater Place which is 80 per cent leased. All of these, says Cope, happened when “the bottom fell out of the market.”

One major benefit of constructing during a downturn, says Cope, is lower prices for both labour and materials and much better service from contractors and consultants.

GPT has also been careful not to overestimate the rents it can achieve when the building is released to the market in 2011. This is crucial to ensuring the project’s financial viability during uncertain economic times, says Cope.

The company is anticipating a gross face rent in the mid $700 range per sqm. This compares to recent rents for premium buildings of $1100-1200 and current rents of $1,000.

“Our financiers were confident to back it. Brisbane still has the fastest growing population, it has a shortage of land in the CBD for development and it will be desperate for another premium, sustainable building in 2011.”

Key features

  • 63,000 sqm of premium space over 54 levels, plus ground floor lobby, plant and basement levels
  • large unrestricted side core campus-style floor plates up to 1,500 sqm
  • river views
  • external glass lifts
  • parking for over 100 cars
  • approximately 200 sqm of retail space

Sustainability features

The building has been designed to achieve a 6 star Green Star rating. Key environmental initiatives include:

  • chilled beam technology
  • temperature control zones
  • large amounts of natural light through full height glazing and floor-to-ceiling heights of three metres at the perimeter
  • high efficiency glazing to control glare
  • high efficiency, low brightness light fittings with automatic dimming based on levels of natural light
  • significant reduction in the carbon footprint through the use of co-generation using waste heat from the generator to produce chilled water via an absorption chiller
  • significant water savings through the use of river water for heat rejection from the air conditioning system, instead of cooling towers
  • potential inclusion of a grey water treatment plant

Owner – GPT, GPT Wholesale Office Fund and external partner

Architect – Cox Rayner

Engineer – Arup

Construction – Leighton Contractors

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au

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