CASE STUDY – 14 December 2009 – The tension between the preservation of heritage buildings and sustainable outcomes often leads to a minefield. But at the The Victorian Railways No.2 Goods Shed in Melbourne’s Docklands, Lorenz Grollo’s Equiset and VicUrban, the Building Commission and the Plumbing Industry Commission have proved that excellent outcomes are possible on both fronts.

The State Government’s sustainable urban development agency VicUrban, has a new home – the Victorian Railways No.2 Goods Shed, Victoria’s first heritage-listed building to receive a 5 Star Green Star Rating for Office Design from the Australian Green Building Council.

In December, VicUrban was joined by the Building Commission and Plumbing Industry Commission, the three government agencies “proudly demonstrating their commitment to innovative architecture and environmental design, in an era where solutions on how refurbish our cities to meet the environmental challenges of the future are being increasingly demanded,” the group said.

The work has involved turning the northern half of the Goods Shed, one of the oldest buildings in the area, built in the late 1800s, into fully restored quality sustainable office space, with prominent new entrances in Collins and Bourke Streets.

VicUrban CEO Pru Sanderson says she was determined from the beginning to ensure this project set examples.

“As the state government’s sustainable urban development agency and master developer of Docklands – it was very important for us when choosing a new home to make a choice that was environmentally responsible, reawakened a significant part of Docklands’ history and reinforced Dockland’s growing credentials as a great place to do business,” she said.

“As tenants, we insisted on the building being delivered to a 5 Star Green Star standard, which is no small feat when dealing with heritage constraints.”

The Building and Plumbing Industry Commissions’ Tony Arnell, who also chairs Australia’s Green Building Council and the World Green Building Council, was equally motivated to demonstrate leadership.

“We know that the built environment is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but equally we are aware that built or refurbished sustainably, buildings can be a major part of the solution,” he said.

“It is important therefore that Victoria’s building and plumbing regulators – together with the sustainable development agency – lead by example, particularly with the sustainable refurbishment of an existing building; in this case a piece of Melbourne heritage.

“Major beneficiaries of sustainable buildings are the people that work in them, and this will be the case at the Goods Shed North, with the employees of all three Government agencies enjoying improved indoor environmental quality, leading to better health and wellbeing.

“There is no doubt that developers and investors will take note of the refurbishment of the Goods Shed North and understand that sustainable outcomes in heritage buildings are achievable,” Mr Arnel said.

The work took a team of dedicated and even brave experts to embrace the challenge and make it happen.

Equiset was awarded development rights to the building in 2008. Managing director Lorenz Grollo described the challenges of attempting to create a state-of-the-art development while maintaining the appearance of its original condition.

“Sections had to be dismantled brick by brick and reconstructed, again, brick by brick to preserve the original structure,” he said.

“Also a new mezzanine structure, expanded the Good Shed North’s original floor area from 6200 square metres to 10,000 square metres for office and retail space. In this configuration, the building provided a large flexible floor plan with grand interiors over two levels.”

Architects Elenberg Fraser designed the base building.

“The Goods Shed North presented a number of unique construction obstacles, which were a natural result of a building’s original design.

“But we saw this as an opportunity to create a uniquely flexible interior,” director of Elenberg Fraser Callum Fraser said.

A significant level of restoration work was required before the new internal work could begin.

Around 4000 glass windows were painstakingly replaced, the clerestory windows providing extensive soft light into the central galleria, which has a 12 metre high clearance providing a “unique and collaborative workspace,” Mr Fraser said.

BVN Architecture was responsible for all three tenancy office fit outs.

Principal of BVN Ninotschka Titchkosky said reflective materials were chosen to make optimal use of the natural light.

“The challenge for us was to insert new components into the space that complemented the existing fabric of the building as well as giving it new life and functionality. We worked with a palette of natural timbers and some reflective materials to bounce the light from clerestory windows around the space.” she said.

Many of the building’s original features were also incorporated into the office fitout, such as old doors and slate from the roof to decorate feature walls, as well as old railway lines incorporated artistically throughout the building.

However, it is the ecologically sustainable design features that really set this heritage building apart the building’s team of converters attests. This includes:

An Under floor services trench that forms the new spine to the building housing key services for distribution through the shed

The central trench is also used as an underfloor displacement system, which provides the building’s heating and cooling. The aim is to allow a portion of the internal heat gain to drift up and out the building using the central pitched roof.

An active chilled beam system to provide cooling and ventilation to the bulk of the building and is located on both the mezzanine and ground floor levels while hydronic heating via skirting heaters located around the perimeter of the Goods Shed provides additional heating.

All this is powered from the roof plant and equipment room, housing a tri-generation system comprised of four micro gas turbines coupled to an absorption chiller to produce electricity and heating and cooling.

These initiatives provide for a high level of indoor air quality and further enhance the working environment.

Other green design features include:

  • VOC Minimisation with the various finishes meeting the benchmarks for low VOC.
  • Potable water efficiency with all taps, urinals, toilet pans and shower heads being efficient fittings.
  • Grey Water collection from some basins and showers, treatment and re-use for toilet flushing.
  • A water efficient irrigation system comprising of subsoil drip systems and automatic timers for the landscaping.
  • Recycled content of concrete used in the building construction has a significant component of industrial waste product.
  • Recycled content of steel, with 60 per cent mass of all steel in the design having a post-consumer recycled content greater than 50 per cent.
  • PVC content cost is minimised for major services elements, by replacing the PVC materials with alternative materials where possible.
  • A Rainwater Harvesting system that collects rainwater from the roof, stores it within an underground tank and then pumps it out for toilet flushing and irrigation purposes.
  • Cyclist facilities including dedicated bicycle storage, shower and change facilities for tenants.

All three government tenants are also registered with the Green Building Council of Australia, allowing them to apply for Green Star certification for their office fitouts.

VicUrban will also be conducting case studies, in order to measure the effectiveness of the sustainable office design on employee health, well-being and effectiveness.

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