Image credit: Frasers Property Australia

The newly opened Burwood Brickworks shopping centre in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is set to become the most sustainable retail development in the world.

The community-based shopping centre, which boasts a 2,000 square metre rooftop urban farm, opened its doors in December and has already received a six-star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia for its design and construction.

But the building’s owner, Frasers Property Australia, is striving to achieve the Living Building Challenge certification, which is the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment.

The shopping centre will produce more energy than it consumes annually, retain and recycle all the water it uses, and dedicate 20 per cent of the site’s footprint to growing food.

The building will source 40 per cent of its energy needs from a 1-megawatt solar array on the property and secure the additional power from off-site solar and wind farms.

Image credit: Frasers Property Australia

“Initiatives like a predominately naturally ventilated mall via operable windows in the sawtooth roof, re-using all water within the building and generating almost half of the energy needs from the rooftop solar, all imply an outgoings saving,” said Jack Davis, senior development manager at Frasers Property Australia.

“However, in reality, each of these initiatives require human maintenance, so the utility savings are in part offset by the labour component to keep them running efficiently.

“Nevertheless, we believe that designing a more comfortable centre, with access to an abundance of natural light, fresh air and living greenery, while connecting our occupants on a visceral level through texture, scents and sounds, will increase the dwell time and frequency of visitation, ensuring our retailers are more productive and our shoppers enjoy a positive experience.”

The centre will be occupied by Woolworths, Dan Murphy’s, Reading Cinemas, and Acre Farm and Eatery, as well as a range of specialty stores.

It will also be home to a 102-place childcare centre and a medical centre to serve the growing local community.

Image credit: Frasers Property Australia

Peri Macdonald, executive general manager of retail at Frasers Property Australia, said there were many lessons to take away from the project.

“One of the early lessons we learned from the Burwood Brickworks experience is that the current planning framework is not equipped to support or encourage a development like this,” he said.

“We believe there is scope for local and state government planning frameworks to provide incentives for developers to undertake these types of forward-thinking projects.

“Even a commitment from planning authorities to assess the permit application within a more reasonable or accelerated timeframe would encourage more progressive and aspirational projects in their jurisdictions.”

Mr Macdonald said one of the biggest challenges was requiring all shop designs and fitouts to comply with the red list of materials under the Living Building Challenge.

While these requirements added pressure to tenants’ costs and programs amid already challenging retail conditions, their tenants elevated their fitouts and operations to comply.

“The innovations at Burwood Brickworks will translate to greater foot traffic and the longevity of the asset, through a higher conversion of the available retail spend,” Mr Macdonald added.

Burwood Brickworks was designed by Melbourne-based NH Architecture, with input from Russell & George and environmental pioneer Joost Bakker, and Hacer Group was appointed as the principal contractor.