As far as COVID-19 passion projects go, deciding to revolutionise Australia’s commercial workspaces by proving it was affordable to create healthier, better buildings, was a doozey.
Add the restrictions of the pandemic, escalating material and construction costs, and even a work-from-home revolution that called into question the ongoing viability of office spaces, and it was a project that came with more than its share of challenges.
The result, a building called CORNERBLOCK that has just opened on Queensland’s Gold Coast, is a building like no other.
It is the world’s first commercial building to pursue the trio of the Passive House standard for energy efficiency, the Green Star standard for the sustainable design, construction and operation of the building, and the WELL Building Standard for how the building impacts the health, well-being and comfort of its occupants.
It boasts 18 electric vehicle chargers and bike racks with EV charging.
It can collect and store 132,000 litres of rainwater onsite that is filtered and UV treated before being pumped back to all tenants as potable water.
It has 30kw of solar power supplying the building, with provision for up to 160kw.
With controlled internal humidity and temperature, the spaces require minimal energy for heating or cooling, the air is filtered to remove very fine dust particles including soot, pollens, mould spores and bacteria, and nightly automated irradiation lights kill or inactivate microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, moulds and other pathogens in the air and on surfaces.
All internal and external lighting is energy-efficient LED, while internal circadian lighting mimics the brightness of the sun.
All construction and design materials have also been chosen according to the sustainability of the raw materials, the maintenance they would require, and architectural aesthetic.
It means external facades are made from non-toxic and fully biodegradable Accoya wood, kitchen benchtops and bathroom splashbacks are silica free and made from 100 per cent recycled glass, and interior coatings and finishes all meet low or no volatile organic compound ratings.
It was also built on a budget less than 30 per cent higher than the cheapest comparable building on market.
Now, with tenancy requests starting to pour in, it is set to smash its return on investment, and showcase how commercial buildings across the nation can be better.
Gold Coast-based creator Ben Sinclair wants as many developers as possible to pick up the lead in order to establish a “new normal” office block model based on the CORNERBLOCK blueprint.
“The project was a labour of love,” Sinclair said.
“Someone has to be passionate about it and be really keen about it and drive it.
“It’s also about proving it’s possible, not some model that’s been made out of cardboard and sits on someone’s desk.
“This is a real-life building, it really works, you can walk into it and feel the temperature, you can see how much electricity it is using. This is real and achievable and doesn’t have to be a $100 million building.”
Sinclair, a finance graduate who launched into the project with no background in design or construction, said he chose to develop the building during the pandemic in a bid to transform the ‘low cost-maximum return’ equation of commercial development.
He said his goal was to create a building for a reasonable price while meeting elite industry and sustainability benchmarks.
“In the current development in Australia, no one’s building these buildings. There’s this perception that to be green costs more,” he said.
“I guess the irony is that unless we break that stereotype, no one’s ever going to build better buildings, no one’s going to build more sustainable buildings, no one’s going to build buildings that are healthier for their occupants.
“And if they don’t get built, they just stay as theoretical paperwork or expensive concepts that only universities or governments build and that’s never going to change the landscape for how buildings are built. And the people who need access to them never get the chance.
“So, it was really about pushing the boundaries in lots of areas, but it quickly became about saying, ‘if I can do it, why can’t others?’
“I wanted to create an example for developers to show that it’s not that hard, and for tenants to come and start saying that they want something better, so they drive change in the industry.”
Sinclair said the scope of the CORNERBLOCK build expanded during construction, with the completed 2256-square-metre space at Arundel on the Gold Coast costing around $6 million.
He said it was vital that CORNERBLOCK not only met the three building standards and was affordable, but also looked appealing.
“You can have the most green, eco-friendly building in the world, but if it doesn’t look good and have an emotional connection to it, no one cares,” Sinclair said.
“It was really important to get that architectural aesthetic, to get the emotional connection, and then tell the story about all the benefits.”
He said having achieved the build and preparing to open CORNERBLOCK for lease, he aimed to make the plans available for other developers.
“This is an open source approach. If anyone comes, I’ll tell them exactly how we built this building, what products we used, and where we got them from, so that someone else can go and do it,” he said.
Article source: www.smartcompany.com.au