How do you transform two heritage buildings created for another era (and purpose) into a modern sustainable development offering A-Grade offices, boutique retail and event spaces?

SubStation No. 164 at 183-185 Clarence Street in the heart of Sydney CBD is a standing example of what can be achieved when conventional thinking about heritage buildings is challenged.

The two historic Sydney buildings – a former 1909 spirit warehouse and the adjoining 1930s electrical substation – lay dormant and unused for decades until they were taken up for restoration and refurbishment. Based on the winning design by fjmt architects design director Richard Francis-Jones, the two buildings have been transformed by Built into one of Sydney’s most exciting office developments that not only pushes the boundaries of heritage redevelopment but also has become the benchmark for heritage restoration in Sydney.  

Working closely with fjmt and the City of Sydney, Built has restored and refurbished the seven floors of the heritage Shelley Warehouse and adjoining former electrical substation, and constructed a seven-level sculptural glass extension with a curvilinear form, anchored on the heritage buildings to create an iconic new silhouette on Sydney’s skyline.

SubStation No. 164

“We have taken two heritage buildings in the centre of Sydney’s Western Corridor that have sat in the too hard basket for developers in the past and worked closely with fjmt and City of Sydney, and used our own experience in complex refurbishment to work around the challenges and unlock the potential of these assets,” said Brett Mason, managing director of Built.

In reinvigorating the two vacant and deteriorating heritage buildings, the project retains and protects their key heritage elements, observed architect Francis-Jones. “Each building on its own would offer the opportunity to create a unique contemporary workplace, but by combining the two buildings, an even more dynamic and exciting workplace environment can be created across a range of spaces.”

In addition to 7,867 square metres of A-grade office space across 7 levels of refurbished heritage space and 7 levels of new high-rise contemporary office space, SubStation No. 164 also offers landscaped outdoor terrace spaces, 440 square metres of boutique retail space and quality end-of trip facilities. The 12-metre high Machine Hall in the former substation has been restored and converted into a cultural arts and community space.

According to Built, SubStation No. 164 is built to leading sustainability standards with lower embodied carbon and healthier materials. The reuse of the heritage buildings and much of the internal building fabric, including elements of both exceptional and high heritage significance, has not only helped preserve their heritage but also contributed to a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of the redevelopment.

By retaining the heritage façade, floors and column structure, the project has achieved a 24% reduction in embodied carbon compared to conventional construction.

SubStation No. 164 is targeting a 5 Star Green Star Rating and 5 Star NABERS Energy Base Building Rating. The project is headed for completion next month.