Australian cities are among the world’s most sprawling and least affordable cities. Our continent is water scarce, and our grid one of the most carbon intensive in the world. Affordability – Density – Resource Efficiency – Amenity – these are interconnected foundational elements of successful cities of the 21st century. Cities must become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century; they must incorporate a view of resilience that includes not just the disasters – floods, earthquakes, fires – but the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day basis.

While livability in Sydney is rated one of the highest globally, the challenges of increasing density and maintaining amenity are substantial. Furthermore, our city utilities were never envisioned for the compact cities now required to remain globally competitive. As a nation and a city, new models of urban innovation are needed to enable the kind of renewal that will keep Sydney at the pinnacle of global cities.

The Central Park Project in Sydney seeks to provide a blue-print for addressing these challenges for urban Australia, servicing increased density with low-impact energy and water systems while improving public amenity and liveability. The new model for urban infrastructure implemented at Central Park, a mixed-use urban renewal project comprised of residential, student accommodation, commercial office, retail and public space components, can be a crucial enabler in addressing the scale and nature of urban renewal development needed across Sydney.

WSP was involved from the project’s conception and provided integrated services (with an environmentally sustainable design focus) that included: mechanical, electrical, hydraulics/plumbing, vertical transportation, fire safety and fire protection, and energy and water assessments.

The Project

Central Park (the former Carlton and United Brewery Heritage site) is in the central business district (CBD) of Sydney, anchoring a broader development site with the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). Delivered by Frasers Property Australia and Sekisui House Australia, the project demonstrates the developers’ aspirations to create an environmentally sustainable urban precinct through a combination of certified green buildings, green public domain, and sustainable district utilities infrastructure.

The Central Thermal Plant is the engineering heart of Central Park and a prime example of a project that provides strong benefits in three areas: sustainability, liveability, and resilience. It is a fully integrated thermal energy, electricity and water utility system, enabled by a ground-breaking precinct governance framework and financed by one of the first low-carbon environmental upgrade agreements (EUA) in New South Wales (NSW), and it has pioneered the delivery of district infrastructure in an urban regeneration context.

The precinct utility provides affordable, low-carbon energy and a reliable and sustainable source of non-potable water through a 20MW central thermal plant, 2MW tri-generation and 1ML/day district water recycling and re-use system.

Project Innovation

The Central Park utilities infrastructure is a complex engineering feat of electrical, gas, and thermal energy and potable, recycled and stormwater management. The integration of these systems with a complex, multi-user community is a first, and it has required collaborative innovation by the design, construction, and commercial teams:

  • Technical Innovation: The phased delivery of precinct thermal energy systems and the first low-carbon ‘green transformer’ tri-generation system in Sydney has developed new expertise in the design and construction sectors in Australia. Furthermore, constructing a utility hub within a spatially constrained urban precinct has proven an enabler for similar systems to be delivered more efficiently across the Australian market.
  • Governance Innovation: The implementation of shared thermal services has required innovation in governance frameworks to create a functional market for thermal energy between disparate ownership and stakeholder profiles including the developers, Department of Planning and Infrastructure, residents, and tenants (residential, commercial, and retail). Central Park provides for reform in the broader energy market to allow both thermal energy retailing and embedded generation.
  • Commercial/Financial Innovation: The financial innovation of the environmental upgrade agreement (EUA) process for infrastructure finance servicing multiple buildings (including complex ownership and heritage considerations) is a first and has revolutionized the urban infrastructure market in Australia. It has led to a much broader uptake of low-carbon energy funds from major financial institutions.