A new global design competition, aiming to reimagine retail centres, has been launched this month by the Living Future Institute of Australia. The Brickworks Living Building Design Competition calls on designers, environmental experts, architects, students, and even schoolchildren to assist Frasers Property with ideas on how to make its new retail centre in Melbourne’s Burwood East a leader in sustainability. As well as stores, the 12,000 sq m development will incorporate a 4,800 sq m supermarket, a childcare centre, a gym, a pharmacy and a medical centre.

Stephen Choi, Vice-Chair of the Living Future Institute of Australia, says, “We’re asking designers to come up with ideas on how to create the most sustainable retail centre in the world on a particular site. We’re asking if it can be done. The answer is we don’t really know, and we don’t know how it will be done – which is exactly why we’re doing a design competition.”

Choi says the competition has been launched to try to improve the green credentials of Australia’s retail industry, which is “regrettably grounded in excess and waste.” Sustainable performance is key to the $15,000 cash prize, with designs for the building needing to produce more energy than it consumes. Requirements include: net zero water, leveraging water harvesting to treat as much water as is used onsite, exporting cleaner water to surrounding sites, having zero construction waste, and offseting all building emissions.

In the Whitehorse area, a separate competition is also running for primary school children to imagine what the most sustainable shopping centre in the world would look like, encompassing both water and energy harvesting. The winning school will have a solar installation built on site.

“You never know,” Choi says, “they’ll probably come up with some amazing stuff, as they’re not burdened by what we think reality is. And that’s what the competition is about … imagining.”