Mirvac has today (Thursday) launched its 220-apartment One Planet Living development on the old Marrickville Hospital site in Sydney’s inner-west.

Named Marrick & Co, it sounds more like a fancy butcher than a housing development, though Mirvac promises that behind the odd name there’s a meaty sustainability story.

This will be NSW’s first One Planet Living community, a rating system that insists developments fit within the bounds of the planet’s capacity to support life. This is done by aligning to 10 principles covering Zero Carbon, Zero Waste, Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Materials, Local and Sustainable Food, Sustainable Water, Land Use and Wildlife, Culture and Community, Equity and Local Economy, and Health and Happiness.

The Common and Library

One Planet Living communities must aim to produce just 0.8 tonnes of carbon a year per person by 2050, and an ecological footprint of 1.25 global hectares per person by 2050.

Marrickville Council, now Inner West Council, has been trying to find the best way to develop the former hospital site for more than 20 years, purchasing the land in 1995 with the goal of developing a library and community centre, though this stalled due to it being cost prohibitive. It has since been looking to partner with a developer to produce something that will not raise the ire of the local community, which is perhaps why it has taken so long.

To this end, part of the deal struck with Mirvac has been that the developer will include the new library and community hub, designed by BVN, in its development, as well as guarantee four per cent affordable housing, which is admittedly a figure that pales in comparison to the 15 per cent the council has been lobbying the Greater Sydney Commission for in recent months.

Five Liveable Housing Australia gold star accessible apartments will also be provided and 20 per cent of apartments will have silver level accessibility.

Focus on community and place-making

Mirvac’s focus for the development seems to be on place-making and community cohesion, on which it said it had been working closely with council.

“The collaborative way in which both council and Mirvac have approached this project is a game-changer for future development,” Mirvac’s general manager of residential development NSW and major projects Toby Long said.

“The needs and wants of the community have been put first and foremost in the design and provision of both public and private amenity.”

He said beyond environmental sustainability, the development would be “an exemplar of the way in which we can design happy, healthy and connected cities”.

The design team comprises Kim Bazeley from Mirvac Design and Tim Greer and Ksenia Totoeva from Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects, who all live in the inner west and worked to reflect the local character.

“Marrickville is this wonderful, eccentric place where residents feel a deep sense of belonging and commitment to their local community,” Mr Greer said. “That was a feeling that we wanted to expand upon and continue at Marrick & Co.”

This has largely been done by creating what Mr Greer terms “outward looking” apartment design, where buildings overlook a common internal green space.

“Being at the centre of the site means that the buildings around the perimeter open on to a beautiful landscaped space, which is not only about enjoyment but also has a role to play in the collection of rainwater as part of the water filtration for the site,” he said.

The design had been done in reference to Marrickville’s industrial heritage, with an aesthetic “drawn from the diversity of building styles”. The project has also attempted to reduce bulk at street level out of regard for neighbours, starting at two-storey terrace homes, with six storey apartments set further back and the top levels recessed further.

Sustainability features

Mirvac’s Kim Bazeley told The Fifth Estate the One Planet Living framework had been chosen over others because it expanded upon traditional environmental rating tools to cover things like local economies and health and happiness.

Not that there aren’t environmental features.

Bazeley said there would be recycled water delivered to each of the apartments for things like toilet flushing. Water sensitive urban design principles had been used, which meant rainwater was captured and treated in a bioswale system. The large amount of deep soil and open space meant a lot of opportunity to incorporate permeable and non-reflective surfaces, helping reduce stormwater run off as well as lessen the urban heat island effect.

Energy-wise LED lighting has been incorporated, along with low energy appliances and facades that promote cross-ventilation and minimise heat gain. While solar has not been fitted, the wiring and systems have been developed such that the eventual building owners can install it easily.

Bazeley said materials had been chosen not just on aesthetics and longevity but embodied energy too, using a lifecycle approach. This has factored in the source of materials, looking at things like travel miles and preferencing local manufacture, businesses and products.

Transport has also been considered with car sharing, electric car charge points and bike storage facilities.

It is in features like community gardens, though, that Bazeley said that the environmental sustainability of the project “touched lives”.

“It’s not just a big picture vision, it’s a critical part of people having a sustainable life and environment,” she said.

“We’ve spent a huge amount of effort to work in these aspects, which will make it a great place to live.”

Other community touches include a shared street library, tool shed and a rooftop terrace with BBQ facilities.

Can One Planet goals be met though?

However, without technologies like onsite solar and battery storage that feature in other One Planet Communities like White Gum Valley in Perth, it could be a bit of a challenge to meet some of the One Planet Living standards, particularly around carbon and energy.

Of particular concern is average thermal performance standards at just 5.5 star NatHERS, which would be below minimum requirements in other states.

Mirvac must provide a publicly available action plan detailing how it will meet the One Planet Living goals over the long-term, though this is not yet available on the Bioregional Australia site, which administers One Planet Living here, and Bioregional Australia did not respond to requests for comment before deadline.

The first section of the development – The Livingstone – will be on sale soon with one, two and three bedroom apartments, as well as terrace homes, available. Prices range from $615,000 for the smallest one-bedder up to $1,975,000 for the largest terrace house.

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