An apartment featuring flooring, wall tiles, kitchen and lighting features, and furniture and artworks, all made entirely from waste glass and textiles, offers an optimistic view into the future of residential building.

Unveiled recently at the Sydney Olympic Park, Mirvac’s industry-first apartment made using waste materials has the potential to revolutionise home construction, sustainably reduce waste in the building industry as well as transform waste into a valuable resource.

Behind the ‘green ceramics’ used for the first time as a construction material at the Pavilions apartment, is a collaboration that began in 2019 between Mirvac and the UNSW Centre of Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) led by global pioneer in waste technology, Professor Veena Sahajwalla.

At the unveiling attended by NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean, Mirvac CEO and managing director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz told the gathering of property, construction, design and sustainability leaders that it was time for the industry to find a more sustainable way to build.

“Every year, an estimated 11 billion tonnes of waste are sent to landfill globally; 92 billion tonnes of materials are extracted, with buildings responsible for around 50 per cent of global materials used,” Lloyd-Hurwitz said.

“In Australia, the building industry is responsible for around 60 per cent of the waste we generate. At Pavilions, we have been able to demonstrate a better way to build, using reformed waste, which not only helps our industry but provides a valuable second life for the mountains of glass and clothing, much of which would otherwise find its way to landfill.

“Our collaboration with Professor Sahajwalla’s team at the SMaRT Centre, makes a valuable contribution to our Planet Positive strategy to send zero waste to landfill by 2030.”

Professor Sahajwalla was impressed by Mirvac’s commitment to sustainability and their readiness to take risks to find new ways and purposes for materials that could end up in landfill.

“Mirvac is a true industry leader and I commend Sue and her team for being part of the journey to help society create a materials revolution where we start to think of, and treat and reform waste as a renewable resource,” she said.

“These very stylish and functional furnishing and products made in our UNSW SMaRT Centre green ceramics MICROfactorie show what can be done when science, technology and industry vision and commitment come together.”

NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean observed that the Pavilions partnership between Mirvac and the UNSW team not only demonstrated the commercial potential of these ground-breaking ‘green ceramics’ but could also be the blueprint for sustainable development in the future.

“Diverting the large volumes of waste generated on construction sites from landfill to create quality finishes and furniture is not only good for our environment but good for the economy,” he said.

According to Lloyd-Hurwitz, Mirvac, as one of the largest property companies in Australia, is in a unique position to take bold steps that pave the way for others.

“We have an innovation culture that aligns well with the SMaRT Centre whose brilliant scientists and engineers have produced an entirely new built environment material from waste.

“The importance of this collaboration cannot be overstated. To get the green ceramics from the lab to the marketplace, it is imperative to first get the product right and also establish that there is a market. To this end SMaRT Centre provides the science and engineering smarts and Mirvac contributes expertise in design, development, construction and marketing.”

In 2019, Mirvac and the SMaRT unveiled furniture and artworks in a display apartment at Marrick & Co, the first One Planet Living residential community in NSW. The positive market response not only revealed the potential for green ceramics but also led to an expanded project scope at Pavilions, with green ceramics used for the first time as a construction material in a residential setting.

Comprehensive testing was carried out to ensure compliance of the material with the Building Code of Australia, passing tests for slip and fire resistance and acoustics as well as to meet Mirvac design standards, proving its ability to stand up to normal household wear and tear.

At the Pavilions apartment, green ceramics made from yellow bin glass and textiles have been applied to the flooring, kitchen splashback and island front, shelving, feature walls, artwork, light fittings and furniture.

The Mirvac-SMaRT Centre collaboration will next explore opportunities to establish a MICROfactorie to enable local sourcing and manufacture of waste into green ceramics.