Building in Australia Shows Value of Refurbishing over Rebuilding

High-rise project in Sydney sees significant CO2 savings by upgrading an older structure.   December 19, 2022

By Dave Lubach, Managing Editor

New doesn’t always mean better when we’re talking about environmental impact on buildings. 

Demolishing high-rise buildings can create an overwhelming amount of construction waste and CO2 emissions launched into the atmosphere by the machinery required to take it down and clean up the debris. 

One successful example of upgrading a current building instead of tearing down and building new took place in Sydney, Australia, where one of the city’s tallest buildings from the 1970s was recognized as the World’s Building of the Year for 2022.  

The AMP Centre in Sydney was constructed in the 1970s but was beginning to see the end of its lifespan. Owners wanted something that was more energy-efficient that went along with the trend of buildings in the 2020s. 

During an architectural competition in 2014 to find the company to build them a new high-rise without demolishing the old one. 

The final result is what’s being called the first “upcycled” high-rise in the world. The tower is 676 feet tall and expanded to 49 stories by retaining two-thirds of the original structure that includes beams and columns, and 95 percent of the original core. 

“You can’t always retain everything. But if you can retain the structure, and that’s where the majority of your embodied carbon is, then you’re lowering your footprint,” says Fred Holt, a Danish architect who helped design the building, now named the Quay Quality Tower. 

The interesting process featured the construction workers erecting the new structure beside the old one and then “grafting it onto what remained. The design doubled the building’s floor space and increased occupancy from 4,500 to 9,000 people. 

Architects say the approach saved 12,000 tons of CO2 compared to a complete demolition and build from scratch. That’s measured to be enough to power the building for three years. 

Dave Lubach is managing editor of the Facility Market.


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