720 Bourke Street, Melbourne

The prestigious 16-level commercial tower at 720 Bourke Street, Melbourne, was part of a major cultural change programme for Australia’s largest health insurer, Medibank. The firm wanted to align the building with its core purpose and create better health outcomes for its members, employees and the community. 

Making Wellbeing and Biophilia Central to the Design

Its flagship commercial tower in Melbourne Docklands incorporates Health Based Working (HBW), an enhancement of Activity Based Working (ABW) which makes the promotion of mental and physical health an important facet of the design.

The tower was developed by and is owned by Cbus Property, and it is located in the South-East Stadium Precinct of the Docklands area of Melbourne. The main tower sits atop a four-level podium which incorporates retail spaces and a park, providing activation at multiple levels along the stadium concourse and at Bourke Street level.

Completed in 2014, the building features A-Grade office facilities including a gymnasium, multipurpose court, extensive landscaping, relaxation areas and easy access to and from local transport hubs and entertainment precincts. It has one of the city’s fastest vertical transportation systems and boasts community gardens.

720 Bourke Street, is the first existing building in Australia to be awarded the coveted WELL Gold certification for core and shell. It has also earnt a 6 Star Green Star – Office As Built V3 rating from the Green Building Council of Australia and 5 Star NABERS Energy rating.

WSP provided design and construction services and fit-out review services, including mechanical, electrical, communications, fire protection, hydraulics, environmentally sustainable design (ESD), acoustics and fire, civil and structural engineering. We also provided comprehensive base-building acoustic advice, with key achievements including control of noise through a central open atrium and mitigation of impact noise from a basketball court above a medical tenancy.

We developed an innovative trigeneration energy system that enables the production of electricity and heat with a single power source. The system uses natural gas to produce low carbon electricity, chilled water and hot water.

Health Based Working with focus on the employee mental and physical health

The integrated fit-out for the tenant (recommended as part of the base building design) was an important element of this project to ensure functionality for current and future needs. Spaces can be adjusted to a tenant’s requirements easily thanks to features such as the Raised Access Floor systems with underfloor distribution of data, communications and electrical services that enable easy customisation of the office space, a key advantage for possible leasing. Floor tiles can also be easily moved around to fit different needs; and each floor can be split into different zones, temporarily or permanently.

At the heart of the design brief was the wellbeing of employees and the concept of ‘biophilia’ was adopted leading to the inclusion of green facades and gardens to provide clear links with nature. The full height atrium brings natural daylight to every floor and the central inter-floor staircase promotes communication amongst employees. Workers can tailor their individual spaces through having some control over airflow and lighting. Wellbeing is further enhanced by an air-conditioning system that provides increased amounts of fresh air, and a CO2 sensor that monitors the air quality.

Working in different areas of the office is encouraged and employees can choose between many types of work settings including standing workstations, quiet spaces, balconies and collaborative hubs, all Wi-Fi-enabled. As a result, 79% of employees reported they worked more collaboratively in their new office and 66% felt they were being more effective.