Pixel building

What is it?

An experimental green building completed late last year by builder-developer Grocon, architecture studio Studio 505 and sustainability consultancy Umow Lai on the Carlton United Brewery site in Carlton. It is being used as the site office for a major development on the site as well as acting as a showcase and testing ground for new sustainable technology.

Sustainable initiatives include photovoltaic panels and locally-invented wind turbines on the roof (the latter sadly stationary on the day we visited) to generate 100% of the electricity required by the building; recycled content in the concrete mix that halves its embodied energy; water collection and management facilities to provide potable water and reduce sewerage output; and a smart-facade that regulates the entry of sunlight into the building and permits natural cross-ventilation. Further information is available here.

What do we think?

The Pixel building is a good example of green commercial design, full to the gills with both passive techniques and active systems that reduced its impact on the environment during construction and continue to do so during use.

Thanks, we presume, to positive feedback from users and the general public, it has also paved the way for Delta (first seen in an Australian Design Review article, here), a 10-storey residential tower by the same design team and also on the CUB site to be built entirely from sustainably-harvested timber and further the best green practices initiated with Pixel.

What could we learn?

The Pixel building may be small and has been criticised for being little more than a run-of-the-mill office building adorned with some “green bling”, but this would be to underestimate its wider merit – that is, as a prototype pointing towards the future direction of Grocon buildings.

Its true value lies within the potential ripple effects it could have for the Australian built environment. Grocon is Australia’s largest construction company, with 22,000 employees locally and a further 100,000 overseas. It manufactures its own concrete, builds its own cranes and is even looking to put a ship on the water to move its equipment around the world. Should Grocon display determination in greening its development projects, there is a good chance that the rest of the industry will follow.

Author: Warwick Mihaly

I am an architect, writer, teacher and father.

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