Burwood Brickworks, which developer Frasers Property says is set to become the world’s most sustainable shopping centre, is now open in Melbourne. 

Designed by NH Architecture and interiors as a collaboration between Russell & George and NH Architecture, Burwood Brickworks goes against the ‘mega-mall’ trend with its compressed plan and small land footprint. Unique to Australian shopping centre design, it includes a significant urban rooftop farm with up to 11,000 plants and a quail coop.

Other sustainable features include rows of lemon trees in the carpark, skylights and operable windows throughout. The building also uses renewables to generate 40 percent of its own energy and recycles its own water. 

The design team is currently working on achieving the most advanced measure of sustainability, the Living Building Challenge. 

“The project shows how smaller footprint shopping centres have a place in the Australian retail landscape and that the commercial property model behind this can work,” says NH Architecture managing director Roger Nelson. 

“Sustainability and retail don’t generally go hand-in-hand and we are proud to play a role in breaking the paradigm of what traditional retail centres offer in their design and output that facilitates sustainable consuming. 

“It’s easy to lose touch with the physical and natural environment when you are in a shopping centre, in terms of the temperature, smell, air and lighting, and our work seeks to bring this back. What’s outside really is inside in this instance.”

Further adding to the centre’s unconventional design is that it doesn’t have a car park right by the road, nor does it have a defined front and back but rather a 360 degree design. 

“Our design solution involves original ideas that are steeped in fundamentals,” says Nelson. 

“We placed orientation first and the result is a sinuous shape to allow for more natural light and airflow into the centre.”

Burwood Brickworks render

The build largely used ethical products and Declare labels, which are transparent ingredients labels for building products. According to the project team, Burwood Brickworks is now the largest project in Australia to use these labels across all aspects of the build. 

“By using the Declare labels for every product and material, we are ensuring we are having the best possible impact whether it be through the manufacturing process or the resulting human exposure,” says Nelson. 

“Burwood Brickworks has enabled us, along with the builder and developer, to work together like never before in a bid to procure materials and manage a supply chain that requires the highest of sustainability standards.”

The build uses concrete made of recycled bricks, with the site also using reclaimed timber, reclaimed bricks (from the former brickworks) and recycled and reclaimed finishes throughout. 

“Our focus was on a quality build and honest narrative rather than aesthetics and trends,” adds Nelson.

“Retail is the toughest building use to make sustainable but we are hoping that the initiatives implemented at Burwood Brickworks will encourage others in Australia and around the world to persevere and continue to find new solutions.”

Pictured: Hamish Lyon and Roger Nelson of NH Architecture. Photography by Daniel Pockett