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GPT’s new timber showpiece above Melbourne Central aims to be a memorable project

GPT’s new timber showpiece above Melbourne Central aims to be a memorable project
GPT’s new engineered timber office The Frame, Melbourne

The wellbeing of modern workers is the focus of recently unveiled designs for GPT’s new engineered timber office and retail development that will sit above the Melbourne Central shopping centre in the city’s CBD. 

Project architect ARM Architecture’s design director Neil Masterton said the choice of timber as a primary material for the 10-level tower is expected to promote psychological wellness and social cohesion.

“People really bond with timber – it’s part of the whole desire for the natural,” he said.

Engineered timber is becoming more commonplace around the world thanks to its strong structural properties and sustainability qualities, such as carbon sequestration. It’s also a building material that’s struggling with low awareness levels and concerns about fire risk and toxicity, and in Australia there’s been some teething problems at the local manufacturing level.

A supplier for the cross laminated timber for the tower extension GPT is calling “Frame” is still being secured. Multiplex have been appointed to cost the addition according to the AFR.

Engineered timber also still comes at a price premium, but according to another architect on the Melbourne Central redevelopment, ARM Architect principal Andrew Hayne, there are benefits that can help absorb extra building costs.

GPT’s new timber showpiece above Melbourne Central aims to be a memorable project

Critically, the material cuts construction time because it is prefabricated offsite and assembled onsite. The construction is also quieter and produces less waste.

Hayne told The Fifth Estate that another reason engineered timber was chosen was because it’s a new technology that GPT is “interested in exploring”.

“They are cognisant that it will provide them with a memorable building in the context of Melbourne’s architectural scene.”

Masterton says there’s a desire to stand out in the market place at the moment.

Despite the large amount of apartment building in Melbourne’s CBD, he says there’s not been much commercial development by comparison.

“This kind of represents something new, and there’s that desire to say ‘we’re at the seminal leading edge’.”

Engineered timber buildings in Australia have attracted high profile tenants, such as Accenture in International House Sydney in Barangaroo.

Genuine mixed use also a standout feature

Masterton says the wellbeing of occupants have been at the forefront of consideration throughout the project, with a WELL Gold Standard in its sights.

“There is the sense that the CLT and the mixed use aspects of the building provide a social context for perhaps new ways of thinking about sustainability in the way we live.

“There’s a social sustainability aspect inherent in the building.”

Elevated garden spaces and a rooftop retail and entertainment are a major part of GPT’s new Melbourne timber building

The designs feature a 19,400 square metre 10-level tower connected to elevated garden spaces and a new rooftop retail, entertainment and dining precinct at Melbourne Central.

There will be a skylobby on level five that acts as a third workplace with informal seating areas, wellness and food offerings, a shared library and a variety of outdoor spaces open to the public, including native and “wellness” gardens.

The building is above Melbourne’s third busiest rail station at Melbourne Central and next to two tram stops in the free tram zone.

According to Masterton, it’s not unusual to see on office tower perched on top of a shopping centre but what’s unprecedented is the level of integration between the two.

“Everyone talks about mixed use, it’s been bandied around for years and years, but it’s actually hard to achieve.

“The commercial and retail are not often connected and not connected to various transport modes.”

GPT’s head of office & logistics Matthew Faddy said the building “will deliver a superior level of amenity to any workplace in Australia.”

“It provides a fully integrated office, retail and cultural environment that offers more than just deskspace.”

The emphasis on occupant wellness filters down into other design decisions, including an abundant of natural light and a warehouse style environment where occupants are free from what Hayne describes as a “generic space full of white plasterboard.”

It’s also targeting a 5 star NABERS energy and water rating and 5 star Green Star. The ESD work was conducted by ADP Consulting. Key features include recycled water for the greenspaces and rooftop solar.

GPT’s new timber showpiece above Melbourne Central aims to be a memorable project

It will be an 18 hour a day, seven days a week precinct

Without residential there’s always the potential for developments like this to become ghost towns at night. But Masterton says this is unlikely in this instance.

Entertainment space feature prominently in the designs, including a large outdoor rooftop bar, which is expected to increase dwell time in the evening.

“It will be an attractor – a place to be.”

Masterton also believes the later hours kept by modern workers and the proximity to public transport hub will also keep the development alive at night.

“We imagine it will be quite an active place day and night in the way purely commercial won’t be nor the way purely commercial would be either.”

Hayne says GPT is aiming for an 18 hours a day, seven days a week kind of operation.

Colliers International is taking expressions of interest for the building with construction set to commence in early 2020 and the project scheduled for completion in late 2021.

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