Central Park – The best building in Sydney?

Sydney’s architecture is well known around the world. The silhouette of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Centre Point Tower are easily recognised and they have graced countless postcards, been the subject of tourist itineraries and inspired designs all around the world. The newest edition to the Sydney skyline, however, has a range of characteristics that might just make it the best building in Sydney.

Located in Chippendale, Sydney’s One Central Park (Feature image above) building was a $2 billion urban renewal project that sought to revitalise an old derelict, brewery site. The project, designed by architect Jean Nouvel and developed by Frasers Property Australia, pushed the boundaries of civil and environmental engineering and has won a number of national and international awards along the way. Last year for example, One Central Park was awarded the ‘best tallest building in the world‘ by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

The project’s focus on sustainability is perhaps One Central Park’s most outstanding feature. Indeed, this was recognised in 2014, when One Central Park was given the ‘best sustainable development of the year award‘ by Leading European Architects Forum. So what makes Central Park one of the most sustainable buildings in the world? Firstly, the high-density building has 2100 apartments and nearly 900 student accommodations, plus a number of shops and businesses which reduces the need for urban sprawl. The site’s close proximity to Central train station and the Central Business District encourages the use of public transport.

Secondly, during construction, over 90% of the demolished materials were recycled on site. There was some controversy during the development phase in 2011 when Greenpeace found that the project was using rainforest timber sourced from Malaysia. With Greenpeace activists suspended from cranes attracting media attention, Frasers Property Australia immediately responded to the protests, initiated a strict audit of all timber and promptly switched to using Forest Stewardship Council certified timber.

One Central Park has its own tri-generation energy system (Figure 1). The natural gas that is used has a lower carbon footprint and is twice as efficient compared to conventional energy systems. With just the one system, the precinct will be able to produce heating, cooling and electricity (hence the ‘tri’). According to One Central Park’s website, over its 25 year lifespan, the tri-generation system will prevent nearly 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The precinct has its own water recycling plant which utilises Membrane Bioreactors (Figure 2) to filter and recirculate water to the residential and business operations. A ‘membrane bioreactor’ works in two general stages; the first uses fine membranes to filter the waste water and the second uses a biological agent to further filter and clean the water before it is recycled.

The exterior of the building is dominated by two outstanding features which promote the overall sustainability and architecturally groundbreaking design. The first is the cantilevered, heliostat, which is a series of mirrors that reflect sunlight into the public spaces between the buildings below as well as provide natural heating.

The second outstanding feature of One Central Park is the vertical garden, which is stunning to behold on a nice, sunny day. Aside from aesthetics, the vertical garden which has over 30,000 native and exotic plants also acts as insulation, creates a micro-ecosystem which is good for attracting pollinators, creates shading and reduces the run-off of rainwater. For those living and working in One Central Park, the vertical garden appears to be a great catalyst to reconnect with nature.

Personally, One Central Park’s vertical garden is my favourite feature. Despite the use of exotic plants, the vertical garden is a stark and beautiful reminder of how nature and a functioning ecosystem can be re-introduced into an urban environment, through the use of roof-top, balcony and hanging gardens. Overall though, the groundbreaking features in terms of sustainability and architectural design might make One Central Park the best building in Sydney.

Figure 1: Tri-generation system operating at One Central Park. Image reproduced from ‘Central Park Sydney’ website.
Figure 2: Simplified diagram showing how the Membrane Bioreactor operates. Image reproduced from ‘Central Park Sydney’ website.

Images belong to the author, unless otherwise stated. In the above case, Figures 1 and 2 (tri-generation system and membrane bioreactor system) belong to One Central Park. 


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