After 11 years, over 1000 entries and almost 130 winners, Architecture & Design celebrated its annual Sustainability Awards by rocking the Harbour City last night and showing the build, design and construction industry just how good sustainability can look.

This year, from an original pool of 158 entries, our esteemed judging panel whittled that down to 53 finalists – from which the 13 winners were chosen.

And as if on-script, the controversy, much like the past three years, was not far behind.

I am of course referring to the Best of the Best Award, which this year was taken out by David Barr Architects for their Gen Y Housing project.

Although officially submitted in the Multiple Dwelling category, in some ways, this winner thoroughly encapsulated the entire awards this years – modern, stylish, flexible – and yes, very much a desirable aesthetic that would not look out of place in any one of the more upmarket suburbs in our capital cities.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. By its own description, the architects themselves realised they were on a winner long before they submitted the project to these awards.

According to David Barr Architects: "The Gen Y Demonstration Housing project, located in Western Australia’s suburban White Gum Valley, is a practical demonstration of sustainable, flexible and affordable housing that suits 21st century lifestyles. With a design strategy of ‘small and raw’ units that are well located and well-priced, the project attempts to conceptualise what is achievable when community, sustainability and cost are prioritised equally."

In technical terms, the architects noted that the project "features three, single bedroom apartments within a compact two-storey footprint on a small 250sqm suburban block. Increased density is not at the expense of livability for inhabitants and neighbours – each apartment has private and communal external areas, clever storage, generous ceiling heights and high sustainability credentials. While small, the apartments reflect changing Australian demographics and a future in which single person households make up the fastest growing household type."

As mentioned, it would not be a true Sustainability Awards without the usual bout of controversy and like most years, the Best of the Best category always seems to attract a disproportionate share of the gossip and gets tongues wagging on the night.

Last year, 88 Angel Street, a multi-residential project in Sydney by Steele Associates Architects was the talk of the night while itself managing to continue a trend set three years ago by being the third multi-residential project in as many years to win the top prize.

In 2015, it was an Indigenous aged care centre in Western Australia by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects which grabbed both the quips and the honours, while in 2014 Breathe Architecture’s The Commons apartments got the top gong, although no raised eyebrows from what I’ve been told.

With the Gen Y Demonstration Housing project winning the Best of the Best category last night, it looks like the multiple dwelling category is a very happy hunting ground for those looking to also win the penultimate category.

However, this also makes perfect sense.

If you can design a suitable development where large groups of people need to co-exist and thrive in close proximity over extended periods of time in a sustainable and an attractive way, that is pretty much half the sustainability battle won as you have effectively decreased your ecological footprint.

For cities like Sydney, this is now increasingly important since vertical is more and more becoming king.

There were also a couple of brand new categories this year in the form of Achievement of Merit and Innovation and Application.

The former is all about honouring those that have worked long and hard and have now very much become icons in the industry, while the latter gives a nod to new and innovative technologies coming to the fore.

Other changes for 2017 included splitting the single dwelling categories into two – the first that looked at the addition or alteration side of things, while another that highlighted new builds in the single dwelling sector.

Lastly, after a long time, landscape and urban design has finally received the recognition it deserves with its own category – and not a minute too soon if we look at what’s going in in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in terms of urban renewal.

All in all, this year the balance of categories was pretty much spot on and as some of our judges commented, these 11th Sustainability Awards were truly reflective of where the industry currently sits.

On the subject of our judges, a big thank you must be shouted out to all seven judges: Dick Clarke (Head Judge), Steve King, Rory Martin, Kate Harris, Caroline Pidcock, Elizabeth Watson Brown and David Palin.

Without this highly experienced and multi-skilled judging panel, the job of sifting through the 158 initial entries would have been excruciating, while picking the winners, perhaps near impossible.

We must also acknowledge our sponsors, without who there could have been no awards.

Our awards Event Partner for this year was Zip Water, while our 2017 Category Partners were Gerard Lighting, Hager, HP, Innowood, NSW Architects Registration Board, Premium Hydropavers, Premium Floors, Stormtech, Tarkett, Weathertex, Woven Image and Zego Building Systems.

Of course, a big thank you goes out to our events and sales teams who worked their collective backsides off to ensure the event went off smoothly, as well as the entire editorial department who made certian that everything was reported promptly and correctly.

Lastly, due to the proximity of scores for some of the category finalists, Highly Commended awards were given out to:

Leadlease for International House Sydney (Commercial), Steffen Welsch Architects for Continuum (Interior Architecture), Randwick’s Permaculture Interpretive Garden, Randwick City Council (Landscape and Urban Design) and Smart Home by Green Sheep Collective (Single Dwelling Alteration or Addition).

So, without any more hesitation, the 13 winners of the 2017 Sustainability Awards in alphabetical order are:


Arnhem Lounge Range by Winya Indigenous Furniture

Winya is a majority Indigenous-owned furniture company and its Arnhem furniture range is a social and environmental collaboration with remote Northern Territory indigenous landowners that use an indigenous sawmill to provide waste timbers coming from mine-site clearing to produce custom-made soft seating.

Salvaged timbers that would otherwise be burnt (or even discarded) create indigenous employment both in remote areas and apprenticeships in cities. Timber is sorted and graded and cut to basic furniture components, then shipped to Sydney for finishing and manufactured into lounges in factories by Indigenous trainees on apprenticeships.

From the judges: The Arnhem range is a social and environmental collaboration with remote Northern Territory Indigenous landowners and a remote Indigenous mill to provide waste timbers off mine-site clearing to produce custom made soft seating. Salvaged timbers that would otherwise be wasted create Indigenous employment both in remote areas and apprenticeships in cities.


EY Centre, 200 George Street by Mirvac

This has been called the first of a new breed of innovative, sustainable and, for want of a better term, ‘smart buildings’ that use smart technology to maximise energy performance and workplace efficiencies. The building incorporates defining sustainability initiatives and achievements including a world-first closed cavity fa├žade system, a 6 Star Green Star Office as Built V3 certified rating and an Australian-first Gold WELL certification, as well as 6 Star Green Star Interior and As-Built ratings.

This submission showcases how Mirvac, working with its various partners has delivered one of Australia’s most environmentally advanced and sustainable buildings.

From the judges: "A gold shining beacon on the new Sydney skyline - it is a beacon for sustainability for planet and people. A well-deserved winner for its leadership in creating warmth and wellness through wood, natural light and more human forms. A building with beauty and brains

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Leadlease for International House Sydney.


Charles Sturt University School of Engineering by ThomsonAdsett

This has been called a new paradigm and a unique school with a bespoke curriculum and differentiating engineering experience that has a distinctive ‘character’ where creativity is embraced, relationships are fostered, and diversity, collaboration, agility and flexibility are all intrinsic qualities of what has been described as a holistically sustainable learning environment.

From the judges: A building with holistic sustainability leadership for students to create a spark for the next generation of thinking and learning. This honeycomb of learning will take our leaders into a positive future - we look forward to watching them come out into the world to create even more meaningful change.


Skipping Girl Vinegar Factory Conversion by ONE20 Architects

Built in 1890, the building was initially a bakery, then it was turned into a vinegar-making factory in 1900, later becoming known as the 'Skipping Girl Vinegar' brand.

The project has been designed to be sustainable down to the construction phase which involved a zero-waste policy, where no rubbish skips were allowed on site and where every material was re-used, recycled or re-purposed.

By using high performance windows, thermal mass, insulation, natural ventilation and shading, this project challenges the way we build things in a sustainable manner.

By re-using each material found onsite, it can be said that the building itself was totally preserved.

From the judges: "Adaptive reuse is a good thing, but repurposing every piece of old material in the process takes the Skipping Girl Factory project to a higher level of performance, and makes it an exemplar for so much of our urban renewal and revitalisation


La Trobe University Integrated Stormwater Management Project by CJ Arms & Associates

This integrated water cycle management strategy for La Trobe University incorporates water harvesting for non-potable use; extended detention and riparian revegetation for water quality improvement and enhanced biodiversity; attenuation of contaminant loads and peak stormwater flows; and opportunities for teaching, learning and research.

This project required well-planned engineering and scientific input and has resulted in significant water savings as well as becoming a place of natural beauty, native habitation, and a public outdoor amenity.

From the judges: "The physical and regulatory context of the La Trobe Stormwater Project set a very high bar for the project team, which they cleared in a most beautiful and restorative way."


Henry St House by Eugene Cheah Architecture

This project encompassed a number of elements including fabrication and construction methodology, material choice, internal environmental quality, energy use and the lifecycle of the building.

In keeping with the character of the original weatherboard cottage, this addition is modest in scale and budget.

The structure and cladding of the extension is made almost entirely of one renewable material – laminated hoop pine, which acts as a unifying texture.

From the judges: "Interiors that consider impacts well beyond the site itself in both geography and time are always to be commended. Henry St House holds up the beauty and sustainability of our noble indigenous Hoop Pine, and sets itself up for minimal impacts down through time when its working life comes to an end."

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Steffen Welsch Architects for Continuum.


Adelaide Botanic Gardens Wetland by TCL

The Adelaide Botanic Gardens First Creek Wetland has been described as a fusion of landscape architecture and mechanical and hydrological engineering to cleanse water for reuse.

The Wetland creates an environmentally sustainable precinct, as well as an immersive, educative, sensorial landscape that provides a greater understanding to care more deeply about our present and future use of one of our most precious assets – water.

From the judges: It's easy for east coast people to forget about how water-dependent the rest of Australia is, and Adelaide especially, being at the tail-end of the Murray-Darling Basin. So, a wetland in that environment that invites participation, and elegantly and creatively thumbs its nose at those who show scant regard for the health of the river system, is a project for all Australian's to be very proud of.

HIGHLY COMMENDED:  Randwick’s Permaculture Interpretive Garden, Randwick City Council.


Gen Y Housing by David Barr Architects

Much like in previous years, the west of the country is setting the trend. The Gen Y Demonstration Housing project, located in Western Australia’s suburban White Gum Valley, is a practical demonstration of sustainable, flexible and affordable housing that suit the evolving modern century lifestyle.

The project features three, single bedroom apartments within a compact two-storey footprint on a what is a relatively small (250sqm) suburban block.

What is important with this project is that firstly, it looks to the future of housing.

Secondly, it shows that increased density does not have to be at the expense of liveability, with each apartment maximising its private and communal external areas, clever storage.

The apartments reflect changing Australian demographics and a future in which single-person households make up the fastest growing household type.

From the judges: "We would expect some great exemplar projects to arise from the White Gum Valley precinct, and Gen Y does not disappoint. It challenges some conventional notions of living space, without compromising liveability and utility."


Sunshine Coast University Hospital by Lendlease

The much-lauded 450-bed Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) has set a new benchmark in green healthcare. Described both as a state-of-the-art health facility and the largest single green rated development undertaken by Lendlease in Australia, the hospital has achieved best-practice in sustainable design principles and construction.

Opened in March of this year and designed to reduce its impact on the environment, the design was deliberately geared to enable the hospital to adapt to future demands of what is a fast-growing region while also increasing the buildings’ effectiveness, long term operational efficiency and of course, overall sustainability.

From the judges: "The importance of buildings in promoting and sustaining health cannot be underestimated - this hospital shows how this typology can be leaders in providing places of wellbeing."


Cheese House by Positive Footprints Pty Ltd

The Cheese House combines a 7.9-star passive solar design, water collection, re-use and phase change thermal mass, low embodied energy construction materials, extensive environmental specification, a retrofit of the existing structure, a new connection with the rear yard and is an example of using a renovation to sustainably modernize an existing house.

From the judges: "Retrofitting our existing housing stock is essential in creating a positive living future - this delightful project showcases many ingenious ideas for how to do this."

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Smart Home by Green Sheep Collective.


Downsize Up(Grade) House by Positive Footprints Pty Ltd

The Down Size Up House is a 162sqm 8.8-star home built that quite literally butts up to an old double storey stable which was converted at the same time into a garage and art studio.

Using passive solar design, rainwater capture (14,000 litre), grey water reuse, environmental and healthy material selection, the architects have come up with a house that is very cheap to run and that has a low ecological footprint.

From the judges "Providing appropriate housing for our aging population that is comfortable, enjoyable and located in peoples' established ecosystems is fundamental to being able to thrive and enjoy retirement."


Breathe Architecture and the Nightingale team

Breathe Architecture has built a nation-wide reputation for delivering high quality design and sustainable architecture and as a firm, is focussed on designing highly-sustainable urban projects that also deliver more affordable urban housing.

The Nightingale Project managed to address many facets of sustainability, and would not have been possible without the support of ArchitectureArchitecture, Austin Maynard Architects, Clare Cousins Architects, MRTN Architects, Six Degrees Architects, Wolveridge Architects and The Robin Boyd Foundation

From the judges: "Breathe Architecture and the Nightingale Team are inspiring industry change and creating genuine market demand for a new way of living. In doing so they are creating communities that demonstrate people, planet and profit need not be at odds with each other."


Gen Y Housing by David Barr Architects

The project features three, single bedroom apartments within a compact two-storey footprint on a small 250sqm suburban block, where each apartment has private and communal external areas, clever storage, generous ceiling heights and a range of high sustainability credentials.

The Gen Y Demonstration Housing project, located in Western Australia’s suburban White Gum Valley, is a practical demonstration of urban sustainability with the inclusion of ‘small and raw’ units that are well located and well-priced, and highlight what is achievable when community, sustainability and cost are prioritised equally.

From the judges: "Tackling the hardest issues: social sustainability and land use. Distinguished by taking on social sustainability: demographics and density."

And that’s it for 2017—see you all in 2018!