Designing Sustainable Futures

Changing building standards, climate upheaval and a renewed sense of neighbourly community is influencing design’s take on sustainability. Design Show Australia discusses Australia’s sustainable future with practitioners who are leading the way.

Sustainability is an inescapable responsibility of our industries. Flooding and heatwaves are putting buildings under pressure. Scarcity of resources, excessive emissions and the huge amount of unsalvageable wastage created by construction makes it impossible to deny that a considered approach to what, how and where we build and furnish is needed, more than ever.

Earlier this year, the Australian Building Code announced plans to raise the standard energy efficiency requirements for new residences to seven stars from a previous six-star rating, adding at least one step-free entry per property to improve accessibility.

While the change ups the standards of energy performance and inclusive design, the standards are a rudimentary step towards the UN’s 1987 definition as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Ferrars & York, enabled by HIP V. HYPE, designed in collaboration with Six Degrees Architects and built by Ironside. Photography by Tess Kelly.

Boutique Melbourne property developer HIP V. HYPE believes that even seven stars is asking too little of the industry. Founder Liam Wallis is especially proud of the group’s most recent project, Ferras and York in South Melbourne, which boasts an average energy rating of 8.6 stars.

“There are many examples of commercially successful projects achieving more than 8 stars,” Wallis tells Design Show Australia. 

Ferrars & York, enabled by HIP V. HYPE, designed in collaboration with Six Degrees Architects and built by Ironside. Photography by Tess Kelly.

“In addition to achieving high energy efficiency ratings in our projects, our team undertake a detailed lifecycle analysis to account for the building’s carbon footprint. We purchase Climate Active approved carbon credits to offset embodied carbon, and we enable buildings that are 100% electric, set up to be carbon neutral in operation.”

Ferrars & York, enabled by HIP V. HYPE, designed in collaboration with Six Degrees Architects and built by Ironside. Photography by Tess Kelly.

It’s clear that our understanding of sustainability has evolved beyond environmental concerns. Now, sustainable projects address the long-term financial, social and even psychological impact. Properties are expected to maintain our planet and our quality of life, for longer and for more people, while they are being constructed, inhabited and after their usable life.

Melbourne-based practice Breathe Architecture has been embedding bleeding-edge practices into everything they build since 2001. The team is committed to staying ahead of the legislative curve and considering projects’ macro and micro impact.

“At Breathe, we recognise that building codes and policies can’t keep up with the impacts of global warming, and we rigorously consider solutions that are designed to withstand future conditions so that our buildings stay safe and relevant as the world around them changes,” explains Madeline Sewall, Director of Houses.

“We think about the impacts of every decision we make, from broad gestures like the orientation of the building and its impact on biodiversity, down to the specification of each material and fixture, and how these are assembled to ensure future recyclability.”

Breathe’s approach is guided by the understanding that buildings are the seedbeds for communities that might not have existed previously.

Nightingale Village. Visualisation by Fiona Turnbull

Completed in August 2022, Nightingale Village in Brunswick brings together Breathe, Austin Maynard, Kennedy Nolan, Hayball and Clare Cousins Architects to create a six building community driven by the Nightingale design model, which tackles social, environmental, financial and neighbourhood-led sustainability in unity.

The residences are fossil fuel free through Greenpower connection, made with low-impact, high-longevity materials and deliver a sustainable quality of life through daylight-filled, community-geared spaces.

Multi-disciplinary practice SJB is employing the same principles to short-term accommodation for women seeking crisis and financial hardship support in collaboration with Fresh Hope Care in New South Wales. 

“As designers, it’s our responsibility to try to design places that are socially sustainable,” comments studio associate Gabrielle Suhr, who speaks to the visionary power of design to influence how we live.  

Buying and building quality with scope for repurposing holds the key to part of Australia’s prolific wastage problem.

“The most sustainable building design is the design of a building that you don’t want or need to demolish,” reminds Suhr.

Fresh Hope Nightingale project by SJB
Union Street by Neometro. Photography credit: Derek Swalwel
Union Street by Neometro. Photography credit: Derek Swalwel

Jeff Provan, founder of Melbourne developer Neometro believes that engaging residents in their building’s future will only become more important as his B Corp certified business looks to futureproof its spaces:

“We work hard from the onset of a project to create a community within the building who ultimately become the caretakers, with the aim for them to understand the ongoing care the building requires.”

Union Street by Neometro. Photography credit: Derek Swalwel

Neometro’s Union Street development in Brunswick, Melbourne, a stone’s throw from the Nightingale Village was the recent recipient of the Sustainability Advancement Award at the Australian Interior Design Awards. It is also shortlisted for two IDEA awards, indicating that Provan’s approach is pushing boundaries in the right way.

Design Show Australia is backing sustainable futures by celebrating planet and people friendly innovation as part of its editor’s choice awards. This show also welcomes Global GreenTag and GECA as partners, who will be on hand to explain more about the certification and the range of supplier products available in Australia that meet its standards.

This article was provided by Design Show Australia’s content partner, Trout Creative Thinking. Trout is Australia’s only living brands agency—a creative agency dedicated to servicing businesses within the homemaker, renovation, build and construction sectors, to shape how we live and work. 

Clare Acheson from Trout is speaking as part of Design Show Australia.