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Grocon will start construction of the first Carbon Neutral office building of its type in Australia, and possibly the world, later this year.To be located at Grocon’s Carlton Brewery site at the top end of Swanston Street, the Pixel building will become a project office for the duration of the $1 billion urban renewal program.

Supply of 100% fresh outside air at a rate three times the minimum Building Code requirements. This air will be distributed through the floor with an individual control at each work station, in much the same way as vents work on a car dashboard.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-Ben-Hosking-03-759x948 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking

The four storey building will be on the corner of Queensberry and Bouverie Streets. Other features will include:

Technology new to Australia to be imported from Europe in an absorption heat pump chiller, to be used to heat and cool the building. The chiller uses ammonia as a refrigerant and has no harmful ozone, global warming or legionella emissions.Very little potable (drinking) water will be consumed in the building with rainwater providing most of the water supply. In an Australian first, grey water will be recycled through a unique reed bed system that also acts to shade the windows.

The building will include exposed concrete ceiling slabs to be cooled via pipes embedded in the concrete and carrying cooled water. This will provide high comfort through radiant cooling while consuming very little energy.Metering will be installed on every floor, rather than just at one point in the building, to monitor all energy and water use – if an analysis shows any irregularities, the energy and water use will be fine tuned. More than 75 per cent of the building’s roof will be covered with native grasses in the form of a green roof. The grasses filter the rainwater and insulate the structure.

A detailed Environmental Management plan will be adopted for the project to minimise environmental impacts during construction, with over 95 per cent of construction waste to be recycled.A raised floor will be used to provide space below the floor for air distribution – it also provides excellent flexibility for future changes in tenant fit-out.Almost all of the floor plate will receive full daylight with external shading designed to limit glare.Materials used to build the office will be selected for low embodied energy and to avoid Volatile Organic Compounds and other off-gassing chemicals that can affect the health of occupants.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-Ben-Hosking-04-759x949 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking



Grocon has developed the Pixel Building as a project that is so environmentally advanced, it’s thought there is nothing presently like it in the world. In the current carbon constrained environment a greater focus will fall on energy efficiency in all that we do. As noted above, the building and construction sector is ideally placed to play a major role in this new world.Existing environmental rating tools do not yet place sufficient importance on the issue of carbon pollution emitted both by buildings and in the building process. Whilst there is an emphasis on energy efficiency, the main thrust of the tools is the environmental quality to be enjoyed by the building users. This approach has had a significant impact on decision makers concerned with staff retention and points of difference for the marketing of buildings. But the improvements offered by efficient buildings have not reached the Boardroom table as direct financial benefits. The constraints being applied to carbon pollution, and the costs of abatement, will soon change that situation.

Grocon’s Pixel Building is an attempt to deliver a prototype “office of the future” that tackles the issue of carbon head on. In recognition of Grocon’s core value of sustainability, Pixel targets the highest environmental rating ever achieved for buildings using the US, UK and Australian rating schemes – and we believe it can achieve those ratings.In anticipation of the worldwide move to buildings carbon neutral in their operations, Pixel has been designed to generate more energy on site than it uses, thus off setting carbon generated to run the building. But further, over time it will offset all of the carbon emitted to build it and become carbon negative by giving the energy it generates back to the grid. We believe no other building in the world can claim that outcome. Whilst undertaking the design and cost estimating, care has been taken to quantify the costs of the various systems and approaches designed into the building. This provides Grocon with a platform to talk about the implications of various approaches to the environmental design of commercial office buildings, both now and into the future. This paper provides an insight into these issues, and provides a status update on the Pixel project and the issue of carbon neutrality in the building industry.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-Ben-Hosking-06-759x607 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking


In 2008, Grocon appointed architects studio505, sustainability experts Umow Lai and structural engineers Van Der Meer to design a building to be located in the north-west corner of the Carlton Brewery site. The site is bounded by Queensberry Street to the north, Bouverie Street to the west, Shamrock Lane to the south and an existing 19th Century warehouse building to the east.
During the design process it became apparent that not only could the building be designed to achieve a 6 Star Green Star rating, but that in fact it was, given the specific conditions of the site and parameters of the brief, possible to deliver a 100% Green Star score – a feat never before achieved in Green Star ratings.

Pixel is a prototype of the ‘office of the future’.We believe all new commercial office developments in the carbon constrained environment will include some of the Pixel systems.

The ability for 100% Green Star score

The original brief called for the design to be carbon zero, meaning that all of the carbon generated annually in running the building was offset by renewable energy. Early in the design process, an investigation was undertaken into the building’s capacity to be carbon neutral. Carbon neutral is a terminology now taken to mean that all of the carbon that is used in running the building, and all of the carbon that is embodied in the materials that make up the building, are offset through the use of renewable energies. As that offset applies to materials used to construct the building, a period of time needs to be deemed appropriate for the offset and in this case a 50 year life cycle has been assumed. We are advised that this is consistent with industry practice.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-John-Gollings-02-795x1200 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking

At the conclusion of the design development period, the project is able to achieve:

  • Carbon Zero operation annually
  • Carbon Neutral, offsetting all embodied energies
  • The highest environmental score yet achieved under the American LEED environmental rating scheme
  • The highest score yet achieved under the UK BREAM environmental rating scheme
  • Please note that in both the LEED and BREEAM ratings, the assessment has been undertaken against newly introduced and much more stringent rating systems than those previously applied.

“All new commercial office developments in the carbon constrained environment will include some of the Pixel systems.”

“Grocon’s Pixel delivers carbon neutrality on a building utilising reasonably traditional commercial building materials and delivers that carbon neutral solution on a 250sqm site without requiring the provision of offsets from off site.”

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-Ben-Hosking-07-759x495 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking


The design for Pixel has paid particular attention to the issue of carbon. This emphasis recognises the increasing level of government interest and the imminent regulatory framework for management of carbon pollution. A review of worldwide literature on carbon neutrality indicated that this is a very immature part of the market but one where a significant, and growing, body of interest exists.

In its 2008 budget, the UK government stated that all residential projects will be carbon neutral by 2019 and further that “the government’s ambition is for all new non- domestic building to be zero carbon from 2019”. It is noted that zero carbon is the offsetting of carbon in operation but that it doesn’t include the offsetting of embodied energy – a lesser goal than Carbon Neutral. In California the requirement is for “all new construction in California to be zero net energy by 2030”, again a lesser standard than carbon neutral.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-John-Gollings-03-759x492 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking

The rest of US is somewhat behind the UK and California positions – however in 2008 the US Department of Energy moved to partner with innovative companies to pursue what are called Zero Net Energy Commercial Buildings. The Americans use the term Zero Net Energy to describe carbon zero. With the Obama administration leading the US to a new environmental policy platform, it can be contemplated that America will soon reach the same position as the UK in terms of a mandated requirement for carbon zero commercial buildings. In Australia the position in relation to carbon and the commercial property sector is less clear. The Federal Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) aims to deal with carbon by making very significant improvements at the source via imposts placed upon the polluter. This puts into question the steps that downstream users of energy may take. The complimentary measures proposed by the government with the CPRS produce targeted measures to address energy efficiency. These measures will lead the construction industry towards carbon neutrality. Pixel is a response to that future condition.

The statutory requirement for organisations to report their carbon footprint means that in one way or another the property sector will need to deal with the utilisation of energy (and hence carbon pollution) as a consequence of the carbon reporting obligations of tenants and clients.

Worldwide interest in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings is very high. There are innovative carbon zero projects in America, the UK and Germany. While Pixel achieves carbon neutrality on its own urban site, these other projects are achieving their low carbon positions on the basis of some very, very unusual and particular off-site provisions. For example, the solutions in Germany use very large photo voltaic arrays which cover more than the site of the building, and at least one of the solutions in America offsets its carbon through carbon sequestration in an adjacent forest. Grocon’s Pixel delivers carbon neutrality on a building utilising reasonably traditional commercial building materials, and delivers that carbon neutral solution on a 250sqm site without requiring the provision of offsets from off site. To the best of our knowledge, that achievement would be the first time it has been delivered anywhere in the world.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-Ben-Hosking-01-759x949 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking


In early 2009, Grocon commissioned Umow Lai to undertake an assessment of Pixel utilising the environmental rating tools common in the US and the UK. A report on the outcome of this process received in March 2009 includes the comment;

“The Pixel Building is capable of achieving the highest credit score of any equivalent project to date within each of the LEED Version 2.2, LEED 2009, BREEAM Offices 2008 and GBCA Green Star Office V3 ratings tools.“

The LEED scheme is adopted throughout the United States and is applicable in Canada, China, the UAE, South America and India. The BREEAM rating tool is utilised within the UK and throughout Europe and Hong Kong. When consideration is given to the Asian spread of the GBCA Green Star rating tool, it is evident that these three rating tools together cover a significant proportion of the developed and the developing world.

Whilst there is always an element of risk in relation to the actual achievement of points in a rating process, the work done to date and the nature of this project is such that it provides us with a very high degree of certainty as to the outcome once this building is fully assessed.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-Ben-Hosking-05-759x607 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking


The building is already registered under the Green Building Council’s Green Star rating system to enable that assessment to commence. The assessment undertaken by Umow Lai for LEED and BREEAM has concluded that it would be possible for the project to be formally assessed against those rating tools, notwithstanding that it is not geographically located in the areas in which those tools are commonly used.

  • 100% Fresh Air System
  • Ammonia Refrigeration
  • Chilled Structure
  • Green Roof
  • Photo voltaic and Wind
  • Power Generation
  • Reed Bed Water Treatment
  • Reliance on Natural Daylight
  • Openable Windows
  • Green Concrete
  • Gas Fired Absorption Chillers
  • Extensive Recycling
  • Task-Based Air

“The Pixel Building is capable of achieving the highest credit score of any equivalent project to date within each of the [LEED Version 2.2, LEED 2009, BREEAM Offices 2008 and GBCA Green Star Office V3] ratings tools.”

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-©-John-Gollings-01-759x506 Pixel Building / By studio505

© Ben Hosking


Located on a key urban site at the former CUB Brewery, Pixel is one of Melbourne and Australia’s most significant and ambitious projects.

Scoring a perfect 105 Green Star points and 105 LEED points, Pixel is Australia’s first carbon neutral office building, generating all its own power and water on site.

Pixel is a ‘Future Office’ – a prototype of the commercial buildings that will emerge when a carbon constrained environment demands a greater focus on energy efficiency. As a prototype, it enables an analysis of the ongoing implications of new technologies in the commercial building sector.

The most publicly visible element is Pixel’s colourful facade. A simple but intricate assembly of zero waste, recycled colour panels providing maximised daylight, shade, views and glare control.

The panels are supported by the Living Edge spandrels which create shading and grey water treatment as well as providing immediate personal greenery to every office floor. The facade wraps continuously around Pixel creating a vibrant and unique identity.

Pixel has achieved a perfect score of 100 under the Greenstar rating system, with 75 points the benchmark for 6 Star Greenstar. It gained an extra five points for innovation, equating to world leadership. Included in Pixel’s five innovation points were points for carbon neutrality, a vacuum toilet system, the anaerobic digestion system and reduced car parking.

Pixel has also achieved a perfect 105 points under the US LEED rating scheme making it the highest rating building of any yet certified for LEED anywhere in the world. It is aiming to exceed the highest score yet achieved under the UK BREEAM rating systems. To put that into context, there are approximately 40,000 buildings registered worldwide under those three rating schemes, and Pixel would be at the forefront of all of them.

Pixel-Building-By-studio505-elevations-759x536 Pixel Building / By studio505

elevations- © studio505

Project Data:

Project name: Pixel
Address: 205 Queensberry St, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
Coordinates: -37.804636, 144.962009
Type: Office Building
Gross Internal Area: 1,136 sqm
Status: Completed
Cost: AUD $6million
Completion Date/Year: July 2010

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Grocon Pty Ltd
Architect: studio505 – 1/395 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
Contractor: Grocon Constructors Pty Ltd


  • Structural Engineer: VDM Pty Ltd
  • ESD Engineer: Umow Lai & Associates
  • Fire Engineer Services: Aurecon
  • Acoustic Engineer: Marshall Day Acoustics


  • Building Services: Umow Lai & Associates
  • Landscape Design: studio505 and University of Melbourne
  • Carbon Analysis (Pixelcrete): RMIT University Centre for Design
  • Building Surveyor: PLP Building Surveyor & Consultants
  • Maintenance Access Consultant: Vertigo
  • Access Consultant: Blythe-Sanderson Group
  • Cost Planner: Slattery Australia
  • Town Planning: Meredith Withers & Associates Pty Ltd
  • Grey Water and Embodied Carbon Analysis: CSIRO
  • Builder: Grocon Constructors Pty Ltd

Text Description: © Courtesy of studio505
Images: © Ben Hosking, John Gollings, studio505


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