Image of Campbell Hannan

Campbell Hanan

Head of Office & Industrial

Campbell Hanan joined Mirvac as the Head of Office and Industrial in March 2016.

Smart precincts shaping the cities of the future

31st July 2019

The way we work is rapidly changing and across the world city shapers are facing the same challenges of rapid business disruption.

People want more from where they work and how they work. They want connection; both people and digital, and they want to be able to work and live in a sustainable urban environment. They expect better from their bricks and mortar – they want clever spaces that encourage the flow of ideas and bring people together.

At Mirvac, we are seeing the evolution of the ‘smart precinct’ emerge in response to this demand and I believe that this movement will shape the future of our cities.

So …. what is a smart precinct?

Placing people at the very heart of design, it’s a digitally enabled precinct that combines the latest technologies with new property strategies, creating diverse spaces that bring together different enterprises, partnerships and social groups. An essential building block to the creation of smart cities; smart precincts need to link to other precincts, to orchestrate the flow of people, knowledge and resources within them to foster collaboration, creativity and innovation.

So … why is this important?

Ultimately, the design and development of our cities impact upon our economic prosperity, health and wellbeing, cultural development and quality of life. Smart precincts are emerging as a new urban form within our cities that will support and fuel business, benefit our environment and strengthen our communities.

"These three trends, in particular, underpin the evolution of smart precincts"

What’s driving these new urban environments?

There’s a range of factors driving the need for new approaches to developing urban environments including changing societal demographics, sustainability, shifting ways of working and advances in technology.

For me, these three trends, in particular, underpin the evolution of smart precincts.

Human centricity – Striking a balance between the human experience and the rise of technology is key to the success of these precincts. Gone are the days of developing a building in isolation from the people who use it. We now take a ‘consumer-driven’ approach to development and placemaking, where the occupants' needs are at the centre of our work, ensuring precincts support a rich human experience. From ground plane design, placemaking strategies and super-experiences, to enhance the vertical and social integration of communities at each precinct, Mirvac is creating new, diverse places that meet the needs of the people who interact with them.

Historically, it was the building that came first; now it’s the people. Our South Eveleigh development, formally Australian Technology Park, in inner Sydney, is a great example of bringing these three trends together, in a location that celebrates both the past and the future. Mirvac worked closely with anchor tenant Commonwealth Bank of Australia to co-create the precinct and their new workplace to ensure it suits their specific needs.

"Historically, it was the building that came first; now it’s the people"

Innovation – AI, robotics, smart devices and the internet of things (that’s a system of interconnected computing devices for the uninitiated) are hot topics regardless of whether it is at the watercooler, the boardroom table or over video conferencing. At Mirvac, we believe that Australia’s future economic growth is intrinsically linked to advances in technology and innovation.

We must have environments that support the growth and success of start-ups in order to future-proof our prosperity. Smart precincts are more than just good design: they are cleverly designed places that support and cultivate entrepreneurialism and innovation, they are the spaces where one brilliant concept turns into reality, they are the incubator for the ideas of the future that will drive Australia.

Smart precincts offer flexible places where large and small organisations can rub shoulders, collaborate and learn from one another to ultimately better their businesses and future. For example, The Old Vinyl Factory site in London is now a shared hub for makers, inventors and entrepreneurs to collaborate together called The Central Research Laboratory.

Technology – With a continuous pipeline of new projects Mirvac has been able to use these to continue to elevate the level of intelligence within our buildings, working cutting-edge technology to bring all operating systems and services under one central control. These systems help us to better understand the use of spaces, creating a constant feedback loop that allows us to save energy, and foster creativity and productivity. For example, Mirvac’s headquarters at EY Centre 200 George Street employs market-leading technology to monitor air quality, sunlight, power and water usage, adjusting the internal environment according to the needs of the building and its occupants, allowing for efficiency improvements to be made in real-time.

For visitors, smart precincts are also geared up towards the sharing economy, with digital platforms providing access to various services which enable people to perform at their highest level or simply relax. Technology needs to help people through creating a simplified experience, providing real-time information and convenience through access to the services needed such as pre-ordering food, coffee or local mobility such as e-scooters for short trips.

Smart precincts also integrate technology into the public domain such as digital wayfinding, wifi, and street furniture with phone charging ports. For example, South Eveleigh has energy-saving smart lighting poles with sensors that brighten the lights when people are nearby. Across the globe, the City of Toronto has plans to create snow-melting sidewalks and automated awnings to mitigate the harsh Canadian winters through innovative technology initiatives.

South Eveleigh – bringing it together

At South Eveleigh in Sydney, Mirvac is working with our partners to establish a world-class smart precinct that will foster collaboration and exchange, bolstering our standing as a global city.

Scheduled for completion in 2020, South Eveleigh will provide over 90,000 square metres of office space, extensive public domain and be home to approximately 18,000 workers with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia as an anchor tenant.

We set out to push the boundaries of design, construction and smart precinct design with our partners. I’m proud to say we have created a truly unique destination with a number of Mirvac and Australian ‘firsts’ including:

  • Mirvac’s first Integrated Communications Network (ICN) allows the capture information which will shape the environment to support the health and wellbeing of the community across the entire precinct.
  • Australia’s first-ever Indigenous rooftop farm and Aboriginal cultural garden, in partnership with Yerrabingin, provides unique and authentic cultural heritage experiences and educational tours focused on celebrating and remembering Aboriginal culture. Importantly educating people on how to grow healthy, local and native food.
  • An innovation hub bringing together Mirvac’s Hoist – a curated innovation co-working space - alongside the already existing technology community at the precinct made up of Data61, CSIRO and Cicada Innovations. This activity brings together various communities, corporate partners, incubators and accelerators aiming to lift the innovation ecosystem in Australia.
  • A public art strategy that will see a number of significant cultural commissions installed at the site, sparking conversations, imagination and genuine connections. Mirvac worked with Carriageworks to curate the strategy and align the two neighbouring precincts through public art. Mirvac will also provide an activations program to bring South Eveleigh to life by encouraging workers, visitors and the wider community to engage with the precinct for the long-term.

South Eveleigh is a smart precinct that we have created not only for the workers who will use it every day but for the surrounding local community and wider Sydney to enjoy. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area and I look forward to sharing more details as the final stages of the project are completed.

Ultimately, smart precincts are becoming the testbeds for urban innovation and workplace trends right across our industry. They are providing us with insights into how our environment will be shaped in the next 20 to 30 years. Based on our observations, it’s a bright, connected and collaborative future!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on smart precincts and examples of your favourite examples of successful precincts from around the world.

You can read more about smart precincts in Mirvac’s latest whitepaper on the topic here: https://insights.mirvac.com/intermix/