Sustainable Design: Slavin HQ / by rebekah barnett

ABC's current program War on Waste makes for uncomfortable viewing. A few of the cringeworthy stats include the $3 500 of food the average household throws out every year, the tram-full of coffee cups Australians discard every half hour, and the fact that our country is the 5th largest producer of waste in the world. 

As a holistic architectural practice, we view the problem of waste with a wide lens. We're particularly interested in designing with sustainability in mind, so that sustainability measures are inbuilt rather than a bandaid afterthought.

Several years ago we had the pleasure of designing our own purpose built office building, which enabled us to implement for ourselves many of the sustainable design features we’ve been implementing for others over the past 30 years. We firmly believe that if you're going to preach it, you'd better practice it! 

Floor to ceiling windows make the most of the natural light at the Slavin Architects office.

Floor to ceiling windows make the most of the natural light at the Slavin Architects office.

In designing from scratch, there are so many opportunities to make sustainable choices. We've broken the considerations into some key areas below...

Location, location
The Slavin Architects building puts to commercial use remnant land that is not suitable for residential living. Situated on the train line and Tydeman road, proximity to heavy traffic routes that would be a drawback for residents is of benefit to Slavin employees who choose to ride, walk or catch public transport to work. Slavin encourages this by providing end of trip facilities (shower, change room), bike racks and public transport travel passes. 

Remnant land now put to good use in North Fremantle.

Remnant land now put to good use in North Fremantle.

From the ground up
A tank beneath the building captures rain water, which is used for our toilets and reticulation. Our worm farm along the west wall of the building is sustained by the office coffee grounds and food scraps, and this healthy soil in turn promotes the growth of deciduous vines creeping up the wall. In summer, these vines perform an insulatory function, absorbing some of the hot afternoon sun, while in cooler months the leaves fall away, allowing the afternoon sun to warm the building. 

Worm farms dotted along the west side of the building promote vine growth.

Worm farms dotted along the west side of the building promote vine growth.

Climate control
The Slavin Architects building is constructed in part from insulated concrete panels, ensuring effective thermal regulation in peak summer and winter conditions. Operable louvres, which are rare in corporate office buildings, allow for natural airflow, and our Climate Wizard air conditioning uses 80% less power than conventional systems.

Concrete panels are lowered into place during construction. 

Concrete panels are lowered into place during construction. 

Let there be light
Floor to ceiling windows on the north and south facing sides of the building let natural light flood in, though blinds can be drawn down for shade. Low energy LED lighting is used throughout the building as a much more efficient alternative to halogen lighting.

LED lighting uses considerably less energy than standard alternatives.

LED lighting uses considerably less energy than standard alternatives.

We give a crap
Architects use a lot of paper, so we make sure to use every inch before recycling - paper must be printed on both sides before being discarded. In fact, printing is a last resort, only if on-screen viewing isn’t an option. All waste is separated into one of three categories: recyclable, compost or regular. Our tap fixtures are water-saving, the water is solar heated, and even our toilet paper is eco-friendly. Who Gives a Crap makes toilet paper from recycled paper instead of fresh pulp and donates 50% of profit to build toilets for those in need.

Who gives a crap? We do!

Who gives a crap? We do!

The future
Ultimately, Slavin Architects wants to get off the grid. Our carport has been designed to have the provisions and correct orientation for installation of solar panels, which will (with the batteries) eventually take our external energy requirements to zero.

Our office building is a drop in the ocean of waste reduction measures that need to be taken in Australia today. We commend like minded sustainable architecture practices for their part in the War on Waste and we are excited about continuing to work with clients who view designing for sustainability as non-negotiable.