[+] Adaptive Reuse: Eight of the Best Australian Projects


The rising architecture approach of adaptive reuse continues to offer fresh ways to breathe new life into historic structures while delivering development that is economically, socially and environmentally responsible. 

In the pursuit of sustainable development, communities have much to gain from adaptively reusing historic buildings. Bypassing the wasteful process of demolition and reconstruction alone is just one of the huge environmental benefits of adaptive reuse.

Those environmental benefits, combined with energy savings and the social advantage of recycling a valued heritage place, make the adaptive reuse of historic buildings an essential component of sustainable development.

Of course, major challenges remain. The technology to remove embodied carbon—from concrete and steel—is in its infancy. Lifting standards, even when the solutions are simple, is however proving a tough ask.

Buildings, in construction and operation, use 30-40 per cent of global energy, depending on the metrics. The production of steel and concrete accounts for around 15 per cent of global carbon emissions but much work is being invested in reducing the load.

Looking ahead, adaptive reuse could play a central role in reducing the embodied carbon in materials used in Australia’s building and construction sector and help significantly slash Australia’s overall carbon emissions.

Fender Katsalidis director Nicky Drobis told The Urban Developer well executed adaptive reuse projects went far beyond preserving the original facade of a building.

“It is important to understand how an entire building's history relates to its context and community—exploring how people have interacted with it in the past and how they will continue to engage with it in the future,” Dobris said.

“A good adaptive reuse project will fuse the heritage with new built forms to create growth, renewal and enhanced urban design outcomes.

“By adding to the surrounding built environment in a considered way, we are able to frame these heritage-listed buildings in a new light, honouring their architectural significance.”

WA Museum Boola Bardip, Perth

The $400-million WA Museum Boola Bardip in Perth has renovated a group of heritage buildings and stitched them together with a protruding metal-clad structure.

The museum project had been mooted for more than a decade, originally as a $500-million project at the site of the East Perth Power Station in 2008. 

In 2012, the WA government announced plans for a new museum at the Perth Culture Centre and, in late 2014, invited expressions of interest for a managing contractor. Hassell, OMA and Brookfield Multiplex were appointed in April 2016.

The existing museum site includes five heritage buildings with the oldest dating to the mid-1800s. 

The redevelopment, completed in late 2019, combined heritage and contemporary with an innovative new build that connects all five heritage buildings for the first time in the museum’s history.

This top-heavy form was developed to establish a “unique architectural identity” for the museum that simultaneously embodied the diversity of its contents.

The new museum is now four times bigger than the old museum, featuring nearly 7000sq m of exhibition space including a 1000sq m special exhibition gallery.

The historic buildings that form part of the museum include two mid-19th century structures called Old Gaol and Jubilee Building, and the early 20th century Art Gallery, Hackett Hall, and State Library reading room.

Their ornate facades, which have all been preserved, are contrasted against the new exhibition spaces that are wrapped by contemporary perforated-metal cladding and vast areas of glazing. 

Below where the cantilevers of the new structures meet old buildings, Hassell and OMA have landscaped a large sheltered plaza.

Named the City Room, this space is the museum’s centrepiece and will be open for public events and activities hosted by the museum and other institutions in Perth Cultural Centre.

The museum’s name features the words Boola Bardip, which means “many stories” in Noongar—a First Nations language of the Noongar community in Western Australia. 

The name was selected in collaboration with the WA Museum Aboriginal Advisory Committee and the museum’s Whadjuk Content Working Group to pay homage to the heritage of Australia’s First Nations.

271 Spring Street, Melbourne 

Industry superfund-backed developer and investor ISPT’s 271 Spring Street in central Melbourne weaves together office spaces with historic and contemporary architecture within the context of a highly successful urban precinct.

The 16-storey, 15,600sq m boutique office building was completed in 2019 and is now tenanted by Australian Unity on a 15-year term.

The tower, designed by Arup and John Wardle Architects and constructed by Probuild, combines impressive heritage elements with modern end-of-trip facilities, flexible function spaces and a rooftop terrace with views over north and east Melbourne.

Two existing buildings—the Church of England’s Mission Hall built between 1894 and 1913, and the Elms Hotel, built in 1924—were preserved and celebrated with both buildings now connected via a dynamic entryway on Spring Street. 

An existing building between the heritage buildings was demolished and replaced with a double-storey entry.

During construction, the building had to navigate both existing heritage buildings, as well as an underground substation, two electrical easements and two double-stacked City Loop rail tunnels beneath the site. 

The project included the use of a steel structural frame, reducing the building’s weight, and a creative approach to foundation design, minimising the building footprint, excavation zone and pile depths.

The 6-Star Green Star building features a large solar PV panel array of 70kW on the roof to reduce energy consumption and operational expenditure as well as lower carbon emissions—an estimated 500 metric tonnes a year. 

The Lonsdale precinct was first anchored by Casselden in the 2 Lonsdale Street building acquired by ISPT in 1999. 

The precinct was then doubled in size with ISPT’s development of 50 Lonsdale Street and Madame Brussels Lane, the retail heart of the precinct in 2006.

Locomotive Workshop, Sydney

Mirvac’s $450-million heritage conversion of the Locomotive Workshop in Eveleigh encompasses 31,000sq m of A-grade infill office and bespoke retail space.

It is part of the 14ha Australian Technology Park precinct on the edge of Redfern—just 5km south of Sydney’s central business district and a short walk to Redfern train station.

The development, completed in 2021, comprises a two-storey sandstone and brick structure and has heritage features including cast iron columns, wrought iron trusses and heritage artefacts.

Sissons Architects were engaged by Mirvac as lead architects to undertake the project.

The practice collaborated closely with Buchan for the retail interiors and heritage specialists Curio Projects to ensure the integrity of the building’s heritage features. The project was documented by Mirvac Design.

The 135-year-old workshop was of high heritage significance prior to its redevelopment and as such Mirvac was encouraged to preserve and celebrate the building’s existing fabric, collections and blacksmith activity and has since created an industry-leading example of adaptive reuse and heritage interpretation.

Artefacts such as the Davy Press will be preserved, showcased and integrated into the design of the building. Tours of the historical space will be conducted.

The Australian Technology Park, now known as South Eveleigh, is owned by a Mirvac-led consortium of AMP Capital, Sunsuper and Centuria Property Funds. 

Midway through 2021, super fund Sunsuper parted with $230 million for a half stake in the redeveloped workshop.

Tenants include fintech company Quantium, Post Op Group and OMG, a major marketing company, while The Grounds and Romeo’s IGA are two of the key retailers.

Mirvac’s other signature heritage conversion in Sydney, the Tramsheds, is an adaptive reuse of the Rozelle Tramway Depot at its Harold Park project.

Midtown Centre, Brisbane

In an architectural first in Australia, the Midtown Centre in Brisbane’s CBD was developed through the amalgamation of two existing office buildings into a single high quality A-Grade commercial office building with the 13m gap between them filled.

The $700-million development, completed in 2021, was spearheaded by Sydney-based financial house AsheMorgan and DMANN Corporation. 

The project combined and joined two old Queensland government buildings—Health and Forestry House—from two 17-storey buildings of 26,600sq m into one 46,000sq m, 26-storey development with oversized floor plates.

To connect the two buildings, the precast panel facade was removed and new post-tensioned floor slabs with new supporting columns were constructed in the 13m that separated the existing buildings.

Fender Katsalidis designed the tower with a 1000sq m outdoor garden on level 20 along with a full restoration of Charlotte Street heritage facade and improved streetscape, including a publicly accessible and retail activated laneway connecting Charlotte and Mary Streets.

The development also includes 3000sq m of space dedicated to activated greenery across outdoor terraces, double-height sky gardens, mixed-mode atriums and balconies.

The new floor plates range from 1750sq m to 1950sq m while at the podium level, there will be 2400sq m to 2500sq m campus-style floor plates.

During construction, Hutchinson Builders recycled existing materials from the previous government buildings to save 11,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to running the building carbon-neutral for four years.

The tower infill achieved a 231 per cent cumulative impact reduction across all environmental indicators, including a 37 per cent carbon reduction compared to a new build.

Mining giant Rio Tinto now occupies about half of the building after relocating from Albert Street.

Rio Tinto’s office fit-out, designed by Cox Architecture, began before the pandemic in early 2019 and was designed for 1200 employees to facilitate flexible ways of working.

Midtown Centre is now a 5-Star Green Star rated building, receiving 4 and 5-NABERs water and energy ratings, respectively.

The project was a multiple finalist in this year’s The Urban Developer Awards of Industry Excellence.

Irving Street Brewery, Sydney

A $120-million-plus adaptive reuse of a century-old brewery into an efficient tri-generation power plant at Chippendale in Sydney has created a contemporary solution while amplifying the existing building’s architectural design by integrating its historic contexts.

The brewery precinct at 5 Central Park Avenue, which dates from the early 20th century, is in the centre of a 6ha site, now known as Central Park. The building is on about 2400sq m of freehold land. 

The building is the last of the former Kent Brewery sites that once lined Broadway, established by Tooth and Company in 1835. It was purchased by Carlton in the 1980s before closing in 2003 after 170 years of operation.

The state significant development was marked to be the first stage of the $2-billion scheme by Frasers Property and Sekisui House on the site, which will also include shops, a hotel and student housing as well as a public park.

Instead, the heritage property was sold to Melbourne-based IP Generation for $16.5 million in late 2019.

Local studio Tzannes reimagined the former brewery, designing an energy plant to provide hot and cold water as well as electricity for over 2200 apartments that will be built along Irving Street.

The metallic trigeneration towers—so-called for their ability to heat and cool water as well as provide electricity—contrast the old red brickwork of the brewery, which closed in 2005.

Much of the 20th-century brewing site was cleared to make way for the scheme, but the red brick boiler room is retained to pay tribute to the Carlton and United Breweries company, which last occupied the building. The brewery’s giant faceted coal scuttles stores were also retained.

Close to 6400sq m of commercial space has been built providing office space for up to 250 people.

Sub Station No 164, Sydney

Investment manager Nuveen’s Sub Station No. 164 is the ambitious revitalisation of two adjacent historic Sydney buildings. 

The A-grade, 8000sq m office tower at 183-185 Clarence Street in Sydney’s CBD  pushes the boundaries of heritage redevelopment in Sydney with a seven-level sculptural glass extension creating an iconic new silhouette on Sydney’s skyline.

The 16-storey development, completed in 2020, includes the restoration and refurbishment of seven floors in the existing heritage Shelley Warehouse—built in 1909, and the adjoining former electrical substation—built in the 1930s.

The adaptive reuse development was designed by fjmtstudio, developed and delivered by Built, with fitouts by fjmtinteriors.

Built acquired the disused and derelict site for development before Nuveen Real Estate purchased it in 2018 on a fund-through basis for $180 million.

Built had to excavate 12m below this site to provide structural support for the new 60m office space floating above, introducing concrete plunge piles with ground anchors welded to existing building columns to transfer the loads.

Built is now the anchor tenant of the building pre-committing to lease four floors for its new Sydney head office to showcase the group’s experience in development, construction and managing complex heritage sites. Procore occupies two floors of the building. 

This curved triple-glazed abstract glass “bubble” sitting atop the heritage buildings now houses an open-plan, tech-focused interior.

Nuveen maintained the original brickwork, warehouse floors, windows and original features such as the early hydraulic lift, as well as the reimagined substation “machine hall” with 12m ceilings that will be used as an event space.

As well as keeping its embodied carbon down through re-use, by 24 per cent, the building also has an energy-efficient design, including high performance glass for the bubble-like facade on the extension and has achieved a 5-star Green Star and 5-star NABERS Energy ratings.

The developers also made last-minute pandemic-safe alterations, including contactless automatic doors and sanitary fixtures to bathrooms, access control lifts and space for temperature checking in office lobbies.

Tonsley Innovation District, Adelaide

The Tonsley mixed-use redevelopment was Australia’s first project to be awarded the 6-Star Green Star–Communities certification by the Green Building Council of Australia. 

The urban renewal and adaptive re-use project set a benchmark for sustainable urban regeneration and now symbolises Adelaide’s transition from a manufacturing to a knowledge economy.

The site of the former Mitsubishi car factory, which closed in 2008, has since been transformed into a vibrant knowledge precinct supporting clean technologies, sustainable industries, advanced manufacturing, education, and research.

The project, completed in 2015, was led by the state government, the Department of State Development and Renewal SA. The development represented an investment of more than $250 million which is forecast to attract more than $1 billion in private investment.

The repurposing of the main assembly building, which saved 90,000 tonnes of embodied carbon, is the work of global architecture studio Woods Bagot, with Adelaide-based Tridente Architects. 

The former assembly building was retained as the central town square incorporating retail outlets, eateries, meeting areas and education spaces. 

The “umbrella” of the existing factory structure has been restored to create a unique public destination and delivers a clear layout with a highly flexible work environment. 

Up to 70 small and medium businesses within the 47,000sq m precinct now use a “pod” approach that is adaptable, flexible and highly functional.

There are also four urban forests inside the main assembly building providing naturally shaded green spaces to cool the air and reduce the sun’s thermal load on the roof. As well, a 4mW solar array on the roof produces affordable and sustainable energy for tenants.

Bringing together leading research and education institutions, established businesses and start-ups, as well as government and community groups, Tonsley will one day be home to around 1200 residents in 850 dwellings across 11 hectares. 

Meanwhile, education and research remain the cornerstones of the Tonsley masterplan, with Flinders University and TAFE SA signing up as anchor partners in the development.

Olderfleet, Melbourne

Diversified developer and fund manager Mirvac’s $880-million-plus redevelopment above the historic Olderfleet Buildings on Melbourne’s Collins Street is one of the largest premium-grade buildings to be delivered in the city for 25 years. 

The 40-level, 58,000sq m building at 477 Collins Street uniquely integrates a modern commercial tower with one of Melbourne’s most important pieces of heritage architecture, the Olderfleet buildings.

Designed by Grimshaw Architects, the tower is set back from three heritage-listed buildings delivering a new precedent for adaptive heritage and workplace integration in Australia. 

The Olderfleet heritage buildings, which line Collins Street, were built between 1887 and 1889 and are stunning examples of Victorian architecture in the “Marvellous Melbourne” era.

They became the focus of the burgeoning heritage movement of the 1970’s in the campaign by the National Trust to save the Gothic streetscape of Collins Street. 

Lovell Chen worked with Mirvac and Grimshaw to sensitively restore the buildings, creating boutique office and retail spaces within. Carr Design was responsible for the interior design of the building.

The development includes a terrace wrapping around the rear and side of the building, allowing sky-high views over Melbourne, along with a 30m-high atrium just off Collins Street—creating a dramatic arrival experience and capturing natural light throughout the day. It also includes a 1000sq m childcare centre and small co-working hub.

The tower was the first in Australia to achieve a Platinum Core and Shell Well Pre-Certification and has achieved a 6-Star Green Star, 5-Star Nabers energy rating and 4-Star Nabers water rating.

Mirvac sold a half stake in the landmark development to Singapore’s Suntec REIT for $414 million in mid-2017, ​​while it was still under construction.

The tenant-focused design incorporates a vertical village concept, with the tower split into three separate neighbourhoods responding to specific tenant requirements.

Anchor tenant Deloitte moved into their Victorian headquarters in late 2020 taking 28,000sq m of space. Other tenants include Norton Rose Fulbright, Lander and Rogers over 5000sq m and Urbis.

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Article originally posted at: https://www.theurbandeveloper.com/articles/adaptive-reuse-property-development-projects-construction-australia