The Commons

The Commons is a sustainable urban development that is focused on maximising the environmental, social and economic performance of the building it’s located in.

The project occupies the site of an old industrial building in the heart of Brunswick, an inner urban area of Melbourne. The main development and project team include developer and project manager Adam Borowski from Small Giants, an organisation that aims to help and support businesses and projects that are focussing on creating a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable world, and architect Jeremy McLeod who heads up Breathe Architecture, an award winning architecture firm known for sustainability projects. The project team has aimed to demonstrate that best practice sustainability outcomes can be delivered on relatively ‘small and challenging’ sites.

The Commons aims to set a high bar for the rest of the development industry, especially for small to medium scale development projects. This benchmark is achieved by incorporating a range of social initiatives, for residents and the surrounding community, alongside the environmental sustainability outcomes set for the project.

Key initiatives and vision

The development of The Commons features key initiatives, such as a zero car policy for residents and high levels of social connectivity, as well as an integrated package of measures that paid close attention to reducing the impacts of energy, water, materials and waste. It will become an exemplar demonstration site for the industry, with the team at Small Giants continuing their involvement with the building once construction has been completed.

Various sustainable technologies and initiatives are in place to help reduce the overall footprint of the building, including:

  • Solar power for all apartments within the building, as well as solar hot water systems and hydronic heating throughout
  • Thermally broken aluminium windows help to keep the dwellings naturally cool in summer, and retain heat in winter for minimum cooling/heating appliance use
  • The materials used in the building envelope have been carefully chosen to contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds, and are recycled where possible, namely the bricks and floorboards (Moreland Energy Foundation, 2010)
  • PVC alternatives have been used where possible

The Commons will not only be focused on the technical side of sustainable living, but will also act as a demonstration project, showcasing how sustainable communities can be delivered, both now and in the future.

Project team and One Planet Living

During the construction documentation stage of the project, the One Planet Living principles were analysed and cross-referenced with the existing sustainability strategy in order to see if all aspects were covered. Many of the principles had already been met through the involvement of the Moreland Energy Foundation and Breathe Architecture at the town planning stage. It is the community and food aspects of One Planet Living that are being employed in the operation stages of the project, with current residents excited by the biologically productive rooftop, which in itself is creating a rich sense of culture and community.

Small Giants got involved in the project once the planning permit was granted. Adam Borowski said “It’s clear that people have been more drawn to The Commons because of its sustainability focus, with the community having sold all of the apartments prior to completion of construction during a real estate market where many non-sustainable products struggled”.

Building and Environment

The project is located at 7-9 Florence Street, Brunswick, about 6km from Melbourne’s CBD. The new mixed-use apartment building is positioned in the rapidly emerging transport corridor between the Upfield Railway Line and Sydney Road, and is less than 50m from Anstey Railway Station.

The building sits on approximately 700m2 of old-industrial land and is home to 24 residential apartments, two retail spaces, three artist studios and a café. The design/project team were involved in assisting Moreland City Council complete a land-use planning zoning amendment, which will see the industrial district, between the railway line and main road, become part of a new residential district promoting connectivity to the local area.