The refurbishment of the 40-year-old office building at 500 Bourke Street in Melbourne saw the restoration of the existing structure, with the sustainability-led project setting a new benchmark for adaptive reuse.

Designed by global architecture practice Fender Katsalidis for property fund manager ISPT, 500 Bourke Street is the response to a challenge to reduce embodied carbon, waste, and cost by reusing as much of the building's existing assets. Therefore, rather than demolishing and building anew, the refurbishment of the 47,000sqm office building in Melbourne’s financial district restores the existing structure, leaving most of its concrete façade untouched, while the interior redesign places strong emphasis on visual, social, and environmental connection.

“Great design often comes out of engaging with the constraints, and the challenge from ISPT has given rise to a number of fantastic outcomes,” says Fender Katsalidis director Nicky Drobis.

“Building on the enduring robustness and strength of character from 500 Bourke Street’s 40-year history, our design integrates lush greenery and considered elements to address changes in the nature of commercial office spaces, providing a sustainable and wellness-centric alternative to the way offices can be used today.”

This focus on wellness extends throughout the build, with the architects incorporating mixed mode and biophilic design to enrich the interior environments. Direct connections engage with the streets and laneways on ground level, activating lively internal 'precincts'. Open-air courtyards in the lobby, as well as ISPT's Flex spaces increase the sense of openness and connection to natural amenity.

Considered investment in intelligent technological infrastructure and end-of-trip facilities enable tenants at 500 Bourke Street to experience a seamless and intuitive environment that is flexible to their needs and in line with ISPT’s vision for wellness.

A curated mix of spaces throughout the building reconnects tenants with the outdoors, with intimate environments provided to support social interaction.

Upgrades to the building’s infrastructure and systems have transformed the building into a PCA A grade office with a six-star rating for Green Star Design, Green Star As-Built and NABERS.

ISPT’s general manager, commercial services, Nicole Ward said 500 Bourke presented ISPT with a unique opportunity to repurpose rather than demolish an existing asset.

“We spent a significant amount of time studying the various uses and opportunities for the site. We know that the most sustainable building is one that’s already been built, and the bones of the property are solid and too good to waste.

“We saw this as a unique opportunity to treat the transformation as a new build, but with a vastly accelerated construction timeline, all while ensuring the embedded carbon in the shell remains undisturbed.

“We’ve thought long and hard about what organisations of the future want from their office buildings, so we are engaging and driving amenity and curated experiences to ensure we have the most inclusive, connected and sustainable community across 500 Bourke.”

Refurbishments at 500 Bourke Street are slated for completion in mid-2023.

Renders: Fender Katsalidis