Alain de Botton is a modern day philosopher with a knack for revealing extraordinary truths often concealed by their ordinariness. One of these is that a significant source of our happiness and misery is as a result of the environment we’re surrounded by. Dreary surroundings can feel soul-shattering, while beautiful, vital settings are “an eloquent reminder of our full potential.” De Botton wrote an entire book on this subject, The Happiness of Architecture, which I highly recommend for its approachable, thought-provoking central thesis: Where we are heavily influences who we can be.
If you’ve read any of my previous musings, you’ll know that this sounds a lot like the philosophy that guides the Frasers Property Australia approach to design and sustainability. Our touchstone is always: “Life’s best experiences are created by people connecting in memorable places.” Which for us means making places that transcend the sterility and sameness of the average cookie-cutter retail centre, and instead actively drive the design of healthy, living spaces that foster enjoyment, familiarity, togetherness and dare I say...happiness.
One of the ways we do this is through using the principles of biophilic design, and by incorporating this philosophy into every project we develop.
Indoor and outdoor landscaping, non-toxic materials, natural patterns and processes, light and space, recuperative zones, sensory variability and a community connection to nature are all elements of the approach. It works because humans are hardwired with an affinity for nature, and when we have access to it there’s an observably positive effect on mood and wellbeing. The concept is powerful in its simplicity, but you’d be amazed at how often it’s overlooked when it comes to modern-day placemaking.
The World Green Building Council published a study called: ‘Health, Wellbeing & Productivity in Retail – The impact of green buildings on people and profit’ (2016) which bears out the positive effects on retail employees and the general public. Healthy environments lead to productivity gains, better retail metrics and happier people, which in turn reinforces that our approach to our centre design is the right one. As the report notes we need to remember that buildings are fundamentally for people and that if they don’t work for people then they have failed to deliver no matter what their sustainability credentials may be.
You can see biophilic principles at work in the design for Burwood Brickworks, a retail destination that’s also vying to obtain something never before done in any retail context anywhere: achieve Living Building Challenge certification - the built environment's most rigorous performance standard for sustainability.
In addition to being net positive in water and energy, 20% of the site will also be given over to food-producing urban agriculture, including a 2,000sqm rooftop urban farm that will grow produce to be made available to the food and beverage tenants in the centre as well as for direct sale to the public. In keeping with the urban farm theme, much of the northern facade of the building will be covered in potted plants, which besides providing food, will also provide sun protection to the northern façade as a passive design initiative. And with an ‘eat street’ that opens out onto an alfresco dining plaza, Burwood Brickworks sets new standards for a 21st-century super-neighbourhood shopping centre and public place that strives to connect people to light, air, food, nature, and community.
A number of our other retail properties around the country are showcasing these principles too. For example:
We believe our approach fosters sustainability on every level - social, environmental and financial. True triple bottom line. That’s because biophilic design taps into our species’ need for nature as a tonic to a highly urbanised world of concrete and glass. Healthy, pleasant places encourage us to take our time, spend more time, share with friends and family and breathe a bit easier. And of course, a retail environment that’s a pleasure to spend more time in is likely to be a profitable and vibrant destination by attracting people.
We believe in doing good, but it must be more than a tokenistic nod to appearing green for green’s sake. This last point is perhaps most important of all. To work, to really be powerful, our places must encourage people to visit often and stay longer because they love being there. Designing a centre with access to an abundance of natural light, fresh air, and living greenery just makes smart business sense, supporting our retailers and happy shoppers alike. For us it is about creating a place that’s worthy of an ‘Instagrammable moment’ recognisable to others in the local community so that people can say they have visited a memorable destination and not just gone shopping at the local supermarket.
Biophilic design may be based on ancient wisdom, but it’s more relevant to our modern times than ever. I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress as we strive to create places that are genuinely alive on every level.
We believe that life’s best experiences are created by people connecting in memorable places. Our leasing team makes this happen, right across Australia.
Scott West holds a BA of Arts (Architecture) and a BA of Architecture. He has over 20 years experience in the industry and is a Green Star Accredited Professional. Scott has been involved in numerous high profile projects with a sustainability focus, delivering Australia's first retail centre to receive a 6 Star Green Star — Retail Centre Design v1 rating at The Ponds and working alongside the Burwood Brickworks team to deliver 'The World's Most Sustainable Retail Centre'.
Jack Davis is a Development Manager responsible for new retail and mixed use development opportunities, having worked on projects in VIC and WA at Frasers Property Australia. With an interest in destination and experienced based retail centres and a desire for innovation in design and sustainability, Jack is currently leading a team striving for the title of 'The World's Most Sustainable Retail Centre' on the Burwood Brickworks development. Jack holds a BA Property & Construction and a BA Commerce, majoring in Finance and has a strong background in development, delivery and stakeholder management on large and medium scale projects within the retail and commercial sectors.
Living Building Challenge Manager
Stephen Choi holds Masters degrees in both architecture and sustainability. He concurrently acts as Frasers Property Australia's Living Building Challenge Manager and the Living Future Institute of Australia's Executive Director. Stephen has unique experience in both single buildings and environmentally-driven masterplanning, with several of his projects achieving industry recognition for progressing green building. His work has included the development of environmental assessment methods, ultra-low consumption retrofits and writing sustainable development into educational curriculum.