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Aerial view of Tonsley innovation district featuring the roof of the MAB.

It’s a dazzling, drone’s eye view – 7,400 solar panels on the five-hectare roof of a former car factory, gleaming bright in the southern Adelaide sun.

This solar array at Tonsley Innovation District is one of Australia’s biggest and it’s lighting the way for sustainable development and renewable energy in South Australia and the nation.

The panels power Tonsley’s district-wide energy scheme, providing renewable, locally-generated energy to business tenants and residents of Tonsley Village.

The scheme, run and owned by Enwave Australia, also serves as a practical demonstration of South Australia’s leadership in renewable energy and Tonsley’s role as a national hub for research and development in this sector. The company is set to invest $40 million over a 50-year period for battery storage, photovoltaics, smart technologies and electrical assets.

Tonsley is being redeveloped by Renewal SA on behalf of the state government. Five years ago, it became Australia’s first redevelopment to achieve the coveted 6 Star Green Star – Communities rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), representing world leadership in high quality, sustainable urban renewal.

Tonsley is now undergoing re-certification with GBCA and the District Energy Scheme is just one of many initiatives under consideration. Others include Australian Gas Network’s pioneering facility to produce hydrogen with renewable energy, the provision of green open spaces, use of recycled water for irrigation and trialling of new technologies such as driverless buses.

Satellite panels in Tonsley District.

Over 7,000 solar panels were installed on the roof of Tonsley’s Main Assembly Building as part of the District Energy Scheme.

In December, the 6 Star Green Star – Communities rating was awarded to Lot Fourteen, the state government’s ideas and innovation neighbourhood that’s growing rapidly on the site of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital.

And in February, the International WELL Building Institute announced Lot Fourteen as the first development in Australia to pre-certify for a WELL Communities rating.

Four of Lot Fourteen’s six heritage listed buildings have been refurbished as modern workplaces with work now underway on two more. Such adaptive reuse retains captured carbon and the state’s rich heritage, while reducing loss of materials to landfill.

These elegant assets from another age offer cross-ventilation, plentiful natural light and enriching views, and will be surrounded by extensive landscaping for working, socialising and exercising outdoors. Lot Fourteen has also been designed to utilise shared heating, cooling, waste, energy and transport services, rather than providing these on a building-by-building basis.

“Lot Fourteen is leading Australia in the application of both sustainability and wellness principles,” says Deborah Davidson, director of dsquared Consulting, which specialises in built environment sustainability.

“This integrated approach encompasses all aspects of working at or visiting Lot Fourteen, including place-making, social integration and opportunities for exercise and relaxation.

“These qualities are highly sought after by prospective tenants seeking to offer appealing workplaces for valued staff.”

People walking in the courtyard and grass area outside Plant Four Bowden.

Bowden’s walkability and shared spaces foster a sense of community. Photography by Dan Schultz.

Integration is also key at the sought-after, inner-city neighbourhood of Bowden. It offers a sustainable, low-maintenance lifestyle with a reduced reliance on cars, as seen in its pedestrian and cyclist-friendly streets, and enviable proximity to the train, tram, buses and Outer Harbor Greenway (bike path).

Bowden’s rich manufacturing past is honoured with the adaptive re-use of heritage buildings and recycled materials, which create a sense of place and community character.

Like Tonsley and Lot Fourteen, Bowden has a 6 Star Green Star – Communities rating and is being developed by Renewal SA on behalf of the state government. Bowden also requires that every building achieves a minimum 5 Star Green Star – Design and As Built rating, through features such as deep set windows, broad eaves, moveable sun screens, wide balconies, tree canopies, rooftop gardens, and flooring that absorbs heat from the sun.

“The aspects of Bowden that make it sustainable also make it a great place to live,” Deborah says. “You can walk to the shops, meet up with your neighbours, buy local produce or even grow it in the communal garden. It’s a place where the community and people are thriving.'

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