The Darling Quarter, Commonwealth Bank Place designed by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) has won this year's Large Commercial category.

The architects originally won a competition held by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) to develop the site with the idea to reconnect the Sydney city centre to the site and the wider precinct.

An important aspect of the project’s innovation and sustainability in design is the focus on occupant well-being and the 'creation of an enabling, supportive, human and ultimately inspiring place to work, generate and exchange ideas.'

The judges recognised the innovative way that fjmt had re-interpreted the workplace.

"Darling Quarter, Commonwealth Bank Place goes beyond standard ideas of a ‘building’. It is a new way of creating workplaces which embody a new way of working. It seamlessly forms part of a precinct wide initiative, the kind of big picture thinking which shows real sustainability."

The judges added: "It is cleverly built with the potential for adaptation to changing conditions in the surrounding environment, outside the normal workplace network. Through the innovative media wall and a building management system, the building speaks to and subtly teaches its occupants and users about how it works."

The building and fit-out are capable of achieving a 72 per cent reduction in carbon emissions in operation when compared to the average performance of typical existing office buildings in Australia.

It is envisioned by the architects that the timber elements will last the lifetime of the building. At the end of the building life, the solid timber elements will be able to be reused with minimal effort due to simple mechanical fixings and the protective clear finishes applied.


  • The building and fit-out are capable of achieving a 72 per cent reduction in carbon emissions in operation when compared to the average performance of typical existing office buildings in Australia.
  • A preliminary report by Arup monitoring data from October 2011 to February 2012 shows that Darling Quarter is on track to achieve a 65 per cent reduction when compared to a typical building.
  • The building envelope maximises the energy efficiency and thermal performance of the building, balancing the need for daylight penetration, external views, thermal comfort, glare and solar gain control. The high performance envelope enabled the use of chilled beams, a low-energy mechanical cooling system. The building also incorporates low carbon technologies such as tri-generation and solar panels for energy generation and efficient building systems.
  • Water efficiency is achieved through water efficient fixtures, water metering and leak detection systems. Rainwater is harvested through the roof and tanks sized to provide enough water for all WC flushing and irrigation in the public domain (saving 94 per cent potable water).
  • The Commonwealth Bank fitout was integrated with the base building design and construction to avoid material waste. There were also many sustainable innovations used in the fitout including Activity Base Working, a mini tri-gen system, media walls with sustainable data and low VOC                                             materials.
  • The building utilises virtually clear glass for west facing facades to achieve 62 per cent Visual Light Transmittance (VLT).
  • Blackwater system implements a fixed film (media based) biological treatment process, consisting of a moving bed bioreactor (MBBR) process combined with a membrane bio reactor (MBR). This is the first time this combined process has been implemented anywhere in the world.
  • The LED digital façade lighting is one of the largest interactive canvases in the world. Façade lighting is offset by solar panels on theroof and use the equivalent of 4 vacuum cleaners to run.
  • Dynamic media walls display sustainable data such as energy consumptions, tri-generation output and sale of reusable coffee cups, encouraging the building’s occupants to actively participate in reducing their carbon footprint.
  • All timber on the project was either FSC, PEFC or AFS certified. In particular, the solid timber elements internally and externally were FSC whilst internal veneers and panels were AFS certified. The timber blinds were PEFC certified.
  • Victoria.  Basalt also features crushed as railway ballast in the feature gabion walls, and as mulch.

Photography by John Gollings