Its unusual placement on Victoria Harbour Promenade at Melbourne’s Docklands precinct isn’t the only unique thing about Library At The Dock.

As Australia’s first public building to achieve a six star Green Star rating, it immediately blazed a path towards more sustainable public designs when it opened its doors in 2014.

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Photography by Dianna Snape

The City of Melbourne were clear with their intentions from the outset — Library At The Dock was always going to be green.

As you would expect, this commitment posed a series of challenges for the design partnership between Clare Design and Hayball.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for them was the simple fact that they were the first:

“The six star rating was difficult at that time because not many furniture and fitout companies had the right sustainability approvals, and as the first public building with this rating in Australia, we weren’t able to rely on what others were doing, ” explains Kerry Clare, Director, Clare Design
Strength through passive design

Some of the project’s most innovative sustainability techniques are passive design strategies — designed to reduce the Library’s environmental impact by harnessing the site’s natural lighting and ventilation opportunities.

Natural light and ventilation

By making use of air buoyancy using the Stack Effect, the building features natural passive ventilation and daylighting via a series of central skylights, which act as ventilation chimneys.

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Photography by Dianna Snape

Along with promoting a healthier and more productive indoor environment for users and staff, this results in reduced energy consumption.

Heating and cooling

The ground floor boasts impressive floor to ceiling windows with climate controlled air vents.

Library At The Dock Wharf Min

Photography by Dianna Snape

In addition to capturing natural light, by using a thermal chimney in the central stair atrium, these windows assist in regulating temperatures during hot days and nights.

Complementary design

In an ideal world, passive design techniques would solely solve all the challenges presented in the sustainable design of a building — but sometimes it takes two to tango.

Library At The Dock carefully employs a partnership of techniques where the active serve to enhance the passive.

Library At The Dock Books Min

Photography by Dianna Snape

For example, the natural ventilation system on the ground floor and level one is supported by mechanical operational louvres on each side of the building enabling them to be opened in suitable conditions.

“A well planned passive design will work as best as it can, so when you incorporate active, it shouldn’t be compensating for but rather servicing the passive,” notes Lindsay Clare, Director, Clare Design

A significant part of engineering sustainable buildings is understanding what active methods can serve passive ones, and Library At The Dock is no exception.

The first of its kind, this project is an excellent example of how a committed client and the right design team can set the bar in sustainable public design.

Download our report to read more about other leading sustainable public designs from Australia and across the globe