ERA / Photograph by Patrick Bingham-Hall © All rights reserved
How does the project respond to its context, contribute to the public domain for example street or neighbourhood?
ERA is inspired by the idea of creating a loose fit, sustainable working and shopping environment that is light, sunny and breezy to increase a sense of well-being for its occupants and visitors – a breathing environment rather than sealed container. The work areas provide a SOHO-like environment - the amenity of home in a working environment - supplemented with a ‘basket’ supermarket, shops, restaurants and cafes for informal meeting and social interaction within the building. The ground level retail is accessed directly from the street and serviced from a basement loading and waste area with minimal impact on the street. An existing street level, three transformer substation, has been relocated to a basement chamber to allow space for street activation on Springfield Avenue.
ERA comprises two slim-line buildings running east-west, split by a through-site, public pedestrian way that steps up from Springfield Avenue to Llankelly Place, a rear pedestrian lane that feeds onto Macleay Street, a night-time entertainment street packed with bars and restaurants. ERA is a permeable pedestrian environment which provides pedestrian connectivity by extending the existing pathways, such as lanes, arcades and street footways. Disabled access through the public way is provided by a public lift which also accesses the supermarket.
The main urban design innovation is the arcade, a through-site way and breezeway, which transforms the traditional Sydney arcade. The arcade, which is an essential element of the passive design of the building, has gallery walkways for pedestrian access to the offices at each level.
The building is expressed as two elevated cubic forms, floating above a dark coloured and active street base. The breezeway, which cuts through the full width of the site, is screened from the adjacent street and lane by fixed aluminium screens which appear as metallic veils.
What problems did you have to solve?
The main design challenge was how to achieve conditions for passive design performance on a constrained infill site for small offices: specifically favourable orientation on an east-west facing site, cross flow ventilation for offices and natural light into the common circulation areas on a deep site.
A major site constraint on the design of the building was the upgrade and expansion of the above ground substation that was located on the Springfield Avenue boundary. The new tri-transformer substation required the above ground supply and exhaust ducts and grilles, multiple fire egress and access hatches for transformers on a constricted site with minimal street frontage.
What was the contribution of others, including engineers, landscape architects, artists, builders and other specialists to the outcome?
The project was a successful collaboration incorporating Aspect Sydney, BG+E Engineers, Cundall, JBA Urban Planning, Warren Smith + Partners, Traffic + Transport Planning Associates, City Plan Services, Caverstock, Richard Crookes Constructions and the client, Hayson Group.
How would you describe the value of design in relation to the cost of the project?
This project takes advantage of the site and its location and incorporates passive design and sustainability principles. These principles are evident in the dynamic spatial qualities of the building and have become integral to its identity.
What are some important sustainability aspects of the project?
The offices have access to a communal courtyard – a green space for relaxation, reading and conversation.The main climatic innovation is the central breezeway with gallery walkways for pedestrian access to the offices at each level which is located above the through site public way.
The breezeway, based on the design of Sydney arcades, is an essential element of the passive design of the building. The breezeway is a tempered semi-external space, which provides a sink of continually replenished cool air for cooling the offices at each level. The flow of cool air is induced into the offices through grills in the bulkheads over the galleries and ventilation louvres in the bulkhead above the glazed entry doors.
The breezeway is covered by a unique stepped and louvred glass roof whose shape is profiled to maintain air flow and protection from rain. The glazed roof profile allows the flow of cool, north-east breezes in summer from Elizabeth Bay and protection from rain-driven, southerly wind in winter. The breezeway also provides a filtered source of soft, glare-free, secondary light into the office modules through the glazed entry doors.
The office floor plan is typically based on a module of 60sqm plus 20sqm loggia. The typical office consists of an open plan work area extending onto the loggia; a service pod, fitted with kitchen, bathroom, communications dock, data hub, and space for recycling bin. The service pod is contained within a silver metallic clad box, adjacent to the entry. Office modules can be amalgamated to make a complete floor of 350sqm. The office component has achieved a simulated 4.5 star ABGR rating (5 star NABERS) based on a C02 emission of 90kg/sqm per annum, modeled by Cundall.
The green star rating has been achieved by providing high solar performance glass to the exterior of the building, shading to areas of the external glazing where solar penetration could be high, mixed mode ventilation to reduce energy consumption when the external conditions allow: the strata offices are provided with opening glass doors, dedicated ventilation louvres in the bulkhead allowing natural ventilation for 30-60% of the occupied time depending on orientation, limiting a highly efficient centralized VRV system to provide cooling and heating, providing all fans (where possible) with variable speed drives to reduce duty and energy consumption during loads and LED lights in the ceiling of common circulation area on walkways or galleries, activated by motion sensors.
What do you consider to be the benefits of the project for the client, users and the community?
ERA is finely integrated with the existing public domain of Kings Cross creating some unique public spaces and activating street life.
The main arcade is supplemented with other public spaces: a minor arcades which extend the arcade from Macleay Street and two forecourts: a triangular space on Springfield which is a meeting space outside the supermarket; and a small rectangular space on Llankelly Place which extends the width of the lane to consolidate an intimate seating area opposite existing shops. The Llankelly forecourt extends the seating of shops to create casual outdoor seating, planted with trees.
The public spaces are paved with honed granite, either Austral verde and nero, and reconstituted stone pavers, and lit at night with uplights. The weathered steel courtyard boundary screens is extended into the public domain to define the Llankelly forecourt and Springfield Avenue footway.