GE's Springfield HQ

Springfield, Queensland is using high building sustainability standards to attract major corporations to the masterplanned city’s commercial office precinct, according to Congrad Gargett project architect Annissa Farrell, and GE’s $72 million headquarters is a great example.

The Springfield Land Corporation held a design competition for the site, specifying that the outcome needed to be a 5 Star Green building with a 4.5 star NABERS rating, and CG and Kane Constructions were the successful team.

Farrell says the project was initially a spec design and build, with GE signed as an anchor tenant only after the initial concept was selected.

“The Springfield Land Corporation put the idea together, and then put it out to the market.”

Making sustainability core to new buildings is a way the land corporation can align itself with national corporations who have strong environmental, social and governance policies, she says.

The project was fully developed in Revit, with all the various teams including structure, services and architecture collaborating on the modelling, including whole-building modelling of water and energy.

Architecturally the design approach was to “start with the building first and then think about technology”.

There was a strong focus on orientation and considering the site’s context, which is opposite the Orion Water Park and has extensive green views over Robelle Domain. This was the foundation of the design approach, she says.

Farrell says that by going back to “really basic building design principles” it was possible to achieve multiple sustainability ticks such as access to daylight and views across the floorplates.

In total the building has 12,500 square metres of A-grade net lettable area over six levels, and is currently a base for about 500 GE staff.

Outdoor balconies were added to each level so staff can look out over the park, and the two wings of the building both have an outlook onto the full-height naturally ventilated atrium and internal courtyard, which features trees and plants, seating, cafes and restaurants. The building also has an on-site childcare centre.

Break out spaces such as the internal atrium courtyard and views of it and the park from workstations give workers a way to “disconnect” during downtime, Farrell says.

The elements of natural light, fresh air and views in spaces like the atrium “compliment what the base building is doing”.

“It was about providing really great amenity for the people who work in there,” Farrell says.

The sustainability consultants for the project were Umow Lai. Their contribution included an innovative, energy-efficient HVAC system that gained the project innovation points from the Green Building Council of Australia.

Farrell says that because of the way the floorplates were set up, the Woods Bagot-designed fitout allowed for an element of “free range” work zones.

The project also gained points in the transport category. It is in walking distance of Springfield train station, and has end-of-trip facilities and cycle parking.

The building’s glazing is an alternative solution, Farrell says, with shading elements such as blades and careful consideration of the angling of shading to reduce the impact of sun on the glazing during the heat of the day.

The foyer features TV screens that display real-time information on building performance, including energy and water use.

Timber has been used extensively, including the cladding of the lift core in recycled timber. The fitout for GE also utilised recycled wood extensively.

Farrell says that Kane’s contract was a design and construct, a contract structure that in her experience often means that high quality ESD features in the initial design are “taken out.”

However, when the teams came together after the competition win and the core purpose was stated of delivering a strong building with premium space to match a global company, she says Kane were “so invested in quality and ESD”.

“Throughout the building schedule, [we both] made it known to all the subcontractors and suppliers that Green Star was the driver of the project,” she says.

“We hosted an innovation workshop, and sat down with Kane and the subcontractors to decide what innovations could be incorporated.”

The finishes include low-VOC paints and carpets, and formaldehyde-free materials including partitioning. The carpets are 100 per cent PVC-free, and have an environmentally friendly backing.

The ceiling tiles contain 81 per cent recycled content, and green concrete was used for the structure.

The building has a symphonic rainwater harvesting system and two tanks underneath the building with the water reticulated to the amenities.

There are 228 car parking spaces, and 84 cycle spaces and end-of-trip facilities. Farrell says there was an aim to install electric vehicle charging points at one stage to gain innovation points, but this was discarded due to lack of certainty they would be utilised.

The building is the base for GE’s Australian call centre and also its Queensland power and water, mining, healthcare and transportation business units. It won the best commercial building over $5 million at the 2015 Brisbane Master Builders Awards.