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One of the last buildings to go up in an established precinct outside the CBD, this low-rise commercial tower has a strong identity, with a distinctly urban edge

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A lack of building sites in the CBD has given rise to many new developments on the fringe of our larger cities. These locations are often more cost effective, but there is another spin-off – a new urban architecture has evolved, whereby buildings are more hard-edged and a lot less conventional.

This new commercial building in Green Square Close, on the fringe of Fortitude Valley in Brisbane, is a good example. Cottee Parker Architects won a design competition for the building, which was intended as a flagship project for the developer, the City of Brisbane Investment Corporation.

Architect Adam Pope says for this reason, the building needed a strong identity.

"While the design needed to have a commercial CBD feel, this building was never going to be a big glass box," Pope says. "It had to be more detailed, and it needed to have more of an urban edge that would reflect the fringe location, next to a major railway corridor."

The architect says it was also essential to make other aspects of the building appealing to future tenants. The gross lettable floor area had to be maximised; the floorplates needed to be unobstructed, and have the potential to be linked with open internal stairs; and the building needed to achieve a 5 Star Green Star rating.

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To this end, solar screens and blades articulate the exterior, responding appropriately to their respective orientations. The design avoids monotony by mixing vertical blades with horizontal precast concrete shades and smaller bright orange screens that wrap the windows in an r shape. This wraparound motif reappears in various forms throughout the building – even the roof canopy wraps down the side of the building on the south-facing facade. This elevation features bands of textural precast concrete, chosen to present a suitably robust face to the rail corridor. The concrete also provides acoustic insulation.

"On the other side, we ensured that the screens are positioned to block the direct sun, but not to obstruct the views back to the city," says Pope. "We were also mindful that the southwest side of the building is overlooked by a residential block. So we added vertical blades for privacy, and planted a green wall – plants climbing up a trellis help to soften the view for the neighbours."

The design team also introduced a human scale to the lower three levels, which are wrapped in Alpolic aluminium panels so they resemble a podium. Maintaining a strong connection with the adjoining public plaza was another key consideration – the main entry is aligned with an axis leading directly to the plaza. And provision has been made for hospitality and retail tenancies to activate the street frontage.

The entry canopy repeats the asymmetrical wraparound motif, with the soffits lined with Prodema wood veneer panels. Within the lobby there is another living wall, and timber fins on the ceiling pick up on the exterior aesthetic, albeit in an abstract way.

To meet the 5 Star Green Star requirements, 15 Green Square Close has double glazing, rainwater harvesting, and energy-efficient lighting. Natural light is maximised by a central core and unobstructed floorplates.

"The building also provides end-of-trip facilities for cyclists," says Pope. "In most buildings, these are in the basement, but we have placed the showers and bicycle racks on the ground level, providing access directly off the street. This means cyclists are not mixing with the cars, and it creates a better amenity, with plenty of natural light."

The architect says the building, which has now been sold to The GPT Group, is nearly fully tenanted. Some of the larger companies have opened up the floors with stairs to connect the different levels as anticipated.

First published date: 27 May 2014

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Credit List

Project 15 Green Square Close, Fortitude Valley, Qld
Developer City of Brisbane Investment Corporation
Architect Cottee Parker Architects, Brisbane
Construction company Adco Construction & Building Australia
Civil engineer Robert Bird Group
Mechanical and electrical engineer; fire consultant Norman Disney & Young
Quantity surveyor Gray Robinson & Cottrell
Landscape design Jones Flint & Pike
Cladding Precast concrete panels; Kingspan trapezoidal wall panel
Roof Stramit Longspan
Curtain wall and window systems Permasteelisa
Lift services Kone
Heating and air conditioning CoolMaster