City of Sydney Mayor, Clover Moore: “This Centre will hopefully be the starting point of a green rating system for public buildings.”

by Lynne Blundell

The City of Sydney’s recently opened Surry Hills Community Centre is expected to set new standards for integrated sustainable design for Sydney’s public buildings.

Designed by architecture firm fjmt, headed by Richard Francis-Jones, the building integrates innovative environmental systems into a flexible state-of-the-art community hub.

At present no recognised environmental performance ratingsystem has been developed specifically for public buildings. The design team has used the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) Green Star OfficeDesign Rating Tool V2 as an objective guide to best practice.

An upgrade to the Collins Street Park, next door to the facility, is also part of the project and includes the installation of a 60,000 litre underground rainwater tank to service the facility.

Innovative environmental systems and sustainable design philosophies are integrated into a flexible state-of-the-art community hub that includes a library over two levels, community centre and child-care facility.

Spanning four levels the centre includes:

· a two-floor library with an expanded collection, research room and computers

· a 26-place child care centre

· flexible meeting rooms including a large public meeting room available for the community

· a commercial kitchen

· a café

· an arts and craft space.

The energy systems of the building have been designed to achieve significant savings in mains power requirements. This has been achieved through the use of independent energy generation, passive systems and an integrated response to the primary power draws of air-conditioning and lighting.

The project also includes significant rainwater harvesting, storage, treatment and re-use systems with air cooled plant and water-efficient environmental control systems to significantly reduce water use. This will potentially save 680,000L of water per year.

Another primary objective of the designers was to achieve measurable increases in the indoor air quality. This is achieved through an integrated filtration, treatment, cooling/heating and circulation system composed of roof mounted mechanical plant, elevated outside air intakes, environmental atrium with bio-filtration, thermal labyrinth and six layers of both passive and active air filtering.

Air is drawn in at the top of the environmental atrium to maximise access to clean air and is then circulated downward through the Atrium, passing through specially selected plants, which help to filter the air.

The temperature of the filtered air is then further conditioned by the thermal labyrinth, which is made up of a series of high thermal mass gabion baskets. The air then returns to the environmental atrium for distribution to the floors above.

Given the experimental nature of the system the City of Sydney and design team have identified an opportunity to provide the industry with real time results from the project. As part of this they have committed to test various aspects of the indoor air quality over a long period of time, varying the plants and conditions to assess and quantify the benefits of such a system.

As a public building, durability was a key factor with materials carefully selected to ensure longevity and reduce maintenance.

As a public building, durability was a key factor with materials carefully selected to ensure longevity and reduce maintenance

Waste management strategies and recycling were adopted during demolition, construction and occupation (these strategies include a centralised collection and sorting facility).

Key sustainability features

  • an internal glass bio-filtration atrium where specially selected plants filter the air before it is naturally cooled through an underground labyrinth and recirculated throughout the building. Air is naturally cooled under the building, reducing the need for artificial cooling by some 50 per cent
  • green roof which helps cool the building in summer and insulate it during winter
  • photovoltaic solar cells to power the building’s equipment
  • rainwater tanks for collection and re-use
  • use of recycled materials
  • sophisticated building management systems which will control the internal environmental conditions, artificial lighting and external sunshade shutters and monitor water and energy consumption
  • geothermal cooling bores to passively temper water
  • rain screen cladding systems to insulate the thermal mass of the building from direct solar gain
  • solar tracking louvres to minimise solar gain and glare
  • automated window blinds and high efficiency glazing
  • high efficiency light fixtures and zoning systems

Sustainable material use includes:

• Post-tensioned structural system to reduce use of concrete

• Maximised recycled content in structural concrete to minimise the embodied energy and resource depletion

• PVC minimisation through alternate materials for plumbing and electrical services

• Finishes that have low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde content. Such as low VOC paints, carpets, adhesives, furniture and reconstituted wood products

•Timber products sourced from sustainable forests. Only reused timber products or timber that has certified environmentally responsible forest management practices was employed in the development.

The City of Sydney agreed to undertake detailed energy modelling for the building which suggested the building would perform at a 30 per cent improvement over equivalent Building Council of Australia 2007 Part J requirements.

The Council has reported that the ESD initiatives have cost between 9-12 per cent of the total project budget.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that the centre would lead the way in sustainability possibilities for the City’s public buildings.

“The Surry Hills Library and Community Centre has been designed to achieve excellence in sustainable design and set new benchmarks in environmental performance for multi-purpose public buildings.”

“Governments at all levels have a responsibility to take leadership by incorporating sustainable elements into planning and development and this building will showcase the possibilities,” Ms Moore said.

“This Centre will hopefully be the starting point of a green rating system for public buildings. It will be an innovative example of design and sustainability possibilities for future developments.”

“We have raised the bar in terms of merging complex environmentally sustainable design with the delivery of a highly useable community facility.”

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au