A Brookfield site shed

9 April 2014 — Brookfield Multiplex is using the construction team site sheds at Wetherill Park in south western Sydney as a living laboratory for sustainable work spaces and modular buildings, according to Brookfield Multiplex sustainability manager Lauren Haas.

Ms Haas told The Fifth Estate that with 80 per cent of the company workforce spending the majority of their working lives in and around site sheds, it made sense they should be sustainable spaces.

The company is piloting a range of green initiatives in terms of workspace design, indoor air quality, lighting and energy efficiency, bringing to the task the same sustainability thinking that has informed some of their Green Star achievements like One Shelley Street in Sydney.

“The onus with site sheds is on efficiency, as they are only on site for one or two years, but in terms of someone’s career that can add up to an entire working lifetime,” Ms Haas said.

“We lease the sheds, so the question becomes, what can we do with what’s on the market, and how can we influence change in the market.

“We are looking at the lifecycle of the site sheds, energy efficiency and social efficiency. In our buildings sustainability measures are tested and evidence-based and lead to better outcomes – now we are trying to impact our own people the way we do for our clients.”

Some of the practical measures implemented at the sheds include the use of low-volatile organic compound paint, installing skylights, improving natural ventilation, using energy-efficient chillers and ensuring there is an effective auto shutdown.

The company is also working closely with University of Western Sydney and engaging with the Nursery and Garden Industry of Australia’s 202020 Vision campaign, through developing a plant plan that uses an evidence-based approach to select the best species for the indoor environment in terms of positive effects on human wellbeing.

Unlike the traditional closed and separated spaces of a traditional site office, an open office and activity-based working approach has been taken, with spaces for informal collaboration. The kitchen was identified as a social hub, so couches, ping pong tables and a dining table were installed, and a deck added so staff can flow in and out.

Ms Haas said the interior layout for workspaces revolves around hubs rather than offices, for example, there is a design hub where all the key design team members work, and this space links to the drawing rack.

“[The design hub] means consultants and trades can come in, access the appropriate drawings and have decisions made on the spot by the design team. This saves a significant amount of time,” Ms Haas said.

The project is being used as a “living laboratory”, with Ms Haas based at the site instead of corporate headquarters as part of the experiment.

She said the empirical data from the pilot will be used to develop the concept further across the company’s other sites, and also potentially have positive implications for all modular and temporary buildings, including schools, mining accommodation and disaster response accommodation.

Ms Haas said Brookfield were also currently developing an Australian benchmark for modular indoor environments in collaboration with BOSSA, as no standard for occupant measurement of these environments currently exists.

“If we get this [pilot] right, it states the business case in a very strong way for how this kind of high performance building can be done on a very tight budget,” she said.