More and more, we’re becoming aware that the resources we’ve used to build the societies we live in are diminishing and come at a high price. Not just in energy and materials, but in waste and impact on our health and wellbeing. It’s why, at Frasers Property Australia, we aim to take our industry into a new age of sustainability, with the new Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre lighting the way.
From homes to shopping centres to commercial premises, the construction of the buildings we live, shop, and work in are complex endeavours involving thousands of different types of materials. Whether highly visible – like flooring, paint finishes, carpeting or cladding – or the out of sight touches such as insulation, adhesives, cabling, and foundations, each material comes with its own origin story and its own environmental impact. Some good; some not so good.
Until relatively recently, the sum of these impacts was unknown in the Australian building industry. But a new resource compiled by the sustainability team at Frasers Property aims to change all that, with a searchable database of more than 1,400 building products, freely available to the public and construction sector.
Dubbed The , the list includes every product that was used to construct the Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, the first shopping centre in the world to receive the Living Building Challenge® Petal Certification. The world’s most sustainable retail precinct, Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre is a complete reimagining of what’s possible in green construction and design.
From its rooftop farm supplying fresh vegetables and herbs, to the spectacular saw-tooth roof that allows for natural ventilation into the centre, right down to the reduction of single-use plastics in its cafes and restaurants, everything at Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre is a meticulously considered approach to reducing environmental impact while creating a healthier ambience for shoppers and retailers alike.
This includes every fixing, every piece of timber, and every lick of paint.
Healthier materials, healthier habitats
Frasers Property Australia’s Living Building Challenge® Manager, Stephen Choi, says that The is a response to the growing body of evidence confirming that what goes into our homes and commercial buildings can directly impact our health.
“Transparency into a building product’s social and environmental effects is lagging in the construction industry”, says Stephen. “At the supermarket, you can pick up any food object, and you can see where it was made and what the ingredients are. But we aren’t quite as advanced when it comes to understanding what’s around us in the walls or floor of the we’re standing in. We wanted to find out what was good, what was bad, and create a resource that we can share, so that building healthier buildings becomes the rule, not the exception.”
Investing more than 20,000 hours into product research for The , Stephen and the team at Frasers Property uncovered an array of everyday products containing concerning toxic materials and brands that don’t responsibly source production.
“We deliberately looked at many mainstream low-cost products on the shelf because we wanted to know what people were really putting into their homes”, Choi explains. “We contacted every single supplier of every product we wanted to use to construct Burwood Brickworks and said: ‘what’s in it, where’s it made?’ And what we found is some products out there are very bad. But on the other hand, we also found a lot of good products. They simply weren’t labelled or marketed that way.”
After painstaking vetting and practical application, the list of products that passed the strict standards necessary to achieve Living Building Challenge® certification at Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre grew to more than 1,400. Products were examined by metrics such as place of origin, materials involved in its manufacturing, embodied carbon, waste impact, how responsibly it was sourced, and its impact on internal air quality. To create The , Frasers Property engaged a full-time materials coordinator to vet products at a highly detailed level, examining manufacturing ingredients down to the level of 100 parts per million of granularity.
Free to access by anyone with an interest in building greener, The , has already been accessed thousands of times, from major names in the building and construction sector right down to DIY renovators and home builders.
“We’ve had hundreds of people use this already to find things like glue, timber, and paint", says Stephen. “If you’re a DIY hobby kind of person or a builder, or you’re renovating your living room, painting a room, or building something from scratch, you can go on there and just type in a product or product category that you’re looking for. It might be lighting, concrete, or glass for a window, you’ll find all of the products that we’ve researched and used.”
Sharing a new standard
Like all new endeavours, the creation of the world’s most sustainable retail centre required many orthodoxies to be challenged and improved along the way. Not least a preparedness to freely share intellectual property with others in the industry. This, says Stephen, was key to creating a new standard with the capacity to affect a much larger change than what was achieved at Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre alone.
“Being first to do this kind of thing was never really the point. It was about making a change that could be replicated again and again, to the benefit of the entire industry and ultimately the people who work and shop in our buildings”, says Stephen.
Laura Hamilton-O’Hara, Chief Executive Officer of the Living Future Institute of Australia agrees.
“Such transparency and knowledge sharing demonstrates the type of corporate responsibility and action that will further facilitate real change”, she says.
“The generosity of sharing such intellectual property is also consistent with the spirit of the Living Building Challenge® – exceptional projects that lift the industry as a whole.”
As a blueprint for a better, healthier building standard, The lights the way.
Find out more about The at Burwood Brickworks Shopping Centre