Sustainability Awards Finalist: Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre

Sustainability Awards Finalist: Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre

Sustainability Awards Finalist: Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre

The Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre by Williams Ross Architects is one of the finalists in the Public Building category of this year’s Sustainability Awards.

Siniat is the proud sponsor of this category this year.

We spoke to director Stephen Maxwell about the project and achieving their sustainability goals.

Congratulations to you and your team for making the shortlist! Was sustainability always an important consideration in the design of this project?

Yes, sustainability was high on the agenda for Council from the beginning. Regardless of accreditation pathways, we always strive to implement those practical, common sense ESD principles such as passive solar orientation, high performance building envelope and thermal modelling. We know these simple considerations, embedded early in the design, reduce the energy consumption of any building.

The brief originally called for a 5 star green star designed building. During the design phase our client (Brimbank City Council) declared a climate emergency raising the bar for the project to achieve an accredited 6 star green star as built facility. The challenge was met head on by councils EDS department and equally by the design team and contractor.

What were the unique challenges you had to overcome with this project?

This project not only wanted to talk the talk, it needed to walk the walk. The as-built accreditation was difficult and very onerous to achieve. It required attention to details and meticulous recording of evidence. It was an unique challenge for an aquatic center of this scale. The shift mid-way through design from 5 star to 6 star was an opportunity and a challenge for the design team. The extra space required for heat pumps had to be considered – not to mention their height on a very exposed and visible site! The service yard fencing to the prominent corner of Main Street and Taylors Road became an opportunity for a strong architectural and graphic response at a good height to shield the heat pumps from view.

Future planning for the site was also a key consideration. It was a challenge to achieve a high quality urban outcome within the budget and advocate for building connections to future development to the north in particular. The design established a strong east-west link between existing uses and a north-south pedestrian spine aligned with the existing mature eucalypts that were able to be retained on site.

Being an aquatic Centre, the project has an inherent focus on people and wellness. Was “social sustainability” a consideration in the design?

Brimbank is located in one of the most culturally diverse communities in Melbourne, and it is also the second lowest Melbourne municipality on the SEIFA index for social disadvantage. Council saw the new centre as a way to improve health and wellbeing outcomes in the local community, through active participation, health and wellness services, education and social connection. So social sustainability was key part of the brief from the beginning. This aquatic centre had to be conceived of as a welcoming and inclusive community hub from the start.

Key community service partners are delivering services ranging from allied health, counselling, parenting classes and adult education from the centre. These not-for-profit partners were part of the design process from the beginning, helping to shape the design to consider the needs of their cohorts. We responded through the design by prioritising views to landscape, quality of acoustics, warmth of the material palette. We created spaces for community members to sit, linger and feel at home – for example the Lounge space off the main foyer and ample seating opportunities and ‘nooks’ on the first floor.

Sustainability is becoming a strong driver in architecture and the construction industry. Do you think suppliers and manufacturers are doing enough to deliver sustainable building materials that are also cost-effective to the market?

There has been a noticeable shift in the industry with components such as thermally broken double glazed window suite reaching mainstream production. 5 – 10 years ago could only be imported from Europe.

Suppliers and manufacturers are also realizing it makes good business sense as more and more architects and clients demand sustainability credentials prior to specifying products.

What will winning an Award with a sustainability focus mean for you and your team?

Winning this award would be fabulous recognition for the whole team from client through to contractors who shared and bought into the extra effort and passion required to make a difference and lead the way.

Aquatic centres are notoriously high energy and water users, and winning this award will demonstrate to Councils and their funding bodies the value of investing in quality design and construction.

Photography by Dianna Snape

Sustainability Awards Finalist: Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre
Sustainability Awards Finalist: Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre
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