20 Sep 2023

Barangaroo: sustainability trailblazer

People On Park Bench Barangaroo House

Taking pride of place on Sydney Harbour is the remarkable urban redevelopment project, Barangaroo . Home to some of the most sustainable buildings in Sydney – and indeed the world – this hallmark project has changed how we think about urban design.

Barangaroo’s ambitious targets – achieving carbon neutrality, becoming water positive and diverting 80% of operational waste from landfill – have garnered global attention. As Australia’s first certified carbon-neutral precinct, Barangaroo has set the sustainability bar high.

 Three Towers Looking Up

Its three signature commercial office buildings, International Towers, are the first real estate development in history to achieve a flawless 100% GRESB resilience score, a measurement that assesses climate risk and resilience in the built environment.

Since the redevelopment of the Barangaroo site commenced in 2012, it has become a thriving hub of financial and professional services along with retail, commercial and residential premises, where groundbreaking ideas in sustainable development and placemaking  have been put to the test – with unprecedented success.

An exterior view of the award winning Barangaroo House which offers three levels of dining, drinking and entertainment Destination NSW

Leading the world in sustainable design

Barangaroo’s commitment to sustainability began with a visionary outlook. Its designers understood the precinct’s capacity to ignite change and embarked on a mission to establish a space where human activity could coexist harmoniously with nature.

Anita Mitchell, Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW, led the environmental and social sustainability strategy for the $6-billion Barangaroo South development from 2010 to 2016. She says sustainability was always at the forefront of the design process.

Anita Mitchell, Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW Anita Mitchell, Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW talking about the Barangaroo precinct

“Everything from the orientation of the buildings and the design of the shading structures on the outside to keep the buildings cool, to how we generated energy, was carefully considered. A centralised harbour water cooling system services all the buildings in the precinct and we also constructed a recycled water treatment plant in the basement The precinct also harvests rainwater – with a 90,000-litre rainwater tank in each tower – to further reduce our water usage. These measures collectively ensure that Barangaroo minimises its energy and water usage and leaves a light ecological footprint.”

Anita Mitchell

Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW

Ms Mitchell also shares that most of the tenants at Barangaroo are part of a committee which was established to collectively share knowledge and expertise about what can be done to continuously improve the sustainability of the precinct.

Aerial Of Balconies Rooftops Darling Harbour

The sustainability wins of Barangaroo

Barangaroo boasts some big wins in its quest for sustainability. It was awarded 6 Star Green Star for sustainable design, health and wellness across the entire precinct and International Towers and 5 Green Star for its residential buildings.

The following sustainability wins highlight Barangaroo’s dedication to setting new benchmarks for responsible urban development.

Carbon neutral

The first certified carbon-neutral precinct in Australia, Barangaroo is setting an inspiring example for other developments worldwide. The onsite energy generation includes more than 940 kWp of photovoltaic solar panels, with still more to come. And by 2040, Barangaroo aspires to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions stemming from its business activities, striving for Absolute Zero.

“It’s about being ultra energy efficient, producing as much renewable energy onsite as we can. We have also introduced a long-term community carbon fund, which makes sure that the whole site is powered by renewable electricity, both from onsite and a combination of onsite and offsite solutions in perpetuity.”

Anita Mithcell

Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW

Aerial view of Barangaroo Reserve

Living sea wall

A shared goal to enhance the marine habitat at Barangaroo South led to a collaboration between Lendlease, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), and Infrastructure NSW to install a living sea wall that mimics natural marine structures, including coral and sponges. The result is a thriving underwater habitat.

“Nothing can thrive on a cold, hard, flat, concrete wall. As soon as you provide a multitude of ecosystems, nature comes back and thrives. There’s now a whole range of fish and seawater creatures with some massive reductions in invasive species and a complete reintroduction of the species that are native to the area.”

Anita Mitchell

Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW

Sustainable fast food packaging

Recognising the environmental impact of single-use plastics, Barangaroo has taken a proactive approach to drive change in the retail industry. By requiring all retail operations within the precinct to use sustainable packaging, Barangaroo has sparked a shift towards more eco-friendly alternatives, with a zero plastics commitment.

“If you want to become part of our community, you’ve got to sign up to the sustainability and green lease clauses. That means that you have to do your part, which is no plastic bags and no plastic packaging,”

Anita Mitchell

Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW

Bustling photo of Barangaroo precinct at night

LED lighting

Barangaroo uses LED lighting throughout the entire precinct, with custom-designed LED chandeliers in the lobbies of the International Towers. With a total of 30,000 LED globes, it’s one of the largest LED lighting installations in Australian history.

“At the time, it was a big investment. Now, LEDs are everywhere. But back then, going full LED wasn’t something other people were doing.”

Anita Mitchell

Chief Executive of Placemaking NSW

Recycling Zero Waste Cardboard Recycle Plant

Zero waste

A key initiative in action is the precinct’s movement towards zero waste. At Barangaroo, waste is diverted and recycled via 19 different waste streams, including organics, mixed recycling, paper and cardboard, dry waste and e-waste.

The precinct aims to reach an 80% diversion rate from landfill and is already recording an impressive diversion rate of around 78%. Prevention strategies, including education across all businesses, help to reduce waste production, encourage compostable packaging, and promote a plastic-free environment.

A model for global precincts

With its vibrant atmosphere and dedication to sustainability best practice, Barangaroo has achieved its aim of establishing a new financial and professional services precinct, attracting prominent companies, investors and visitors who want to be part of this progressive development.

Over half the site is open public space, including a spectacular 2.2-kilometre foreshore walk. When spending time at Barangaroo, workers, residents and tourists alike can enjoy the recreational area of Barangaroo Reserve, hugging the foreshore to the north and adding much-needed green space to the cityscape. It features 75,000 native plants chosen to replicate the pre-colonial landscape of Sydney.

Barangaroo Reserve water with buildings in background

Barangaroo’s enduring legacy

Barangaroo has set a new standard for sustainable urban design that creates a healthy environment for people to live, work and play, inspiring other urban planners around the world to follow suit. To learn more about Barangaroo‘s achievements, download the eBook  and discover the remarkable journey it has taken towards a greener future.