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Sustainability takes centre stage at new Deer Park Station

Sustainability takes centre stage at new Deer Park Station

As part of the Western Program Alliance (WPA), McConnell Dowell Constructors (McConnell Dowell) has successfully completed the level crossing removal on Mt Derrimut Road in Deer Park, delivering a new rail over-road bridge and a new Deer Park Station for V/Line rail services. Raising the bar for sustainable infrastructure design and execution, the project is a testament to the outcomes that can be achieved through effective collaboration and innovation.

The WPA is one of the five ongoing program alliances established by Victoria’s Major Transport Infrastructure Authority (MTIA) to deliver the Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP), under Victoria’s Big Build. Led by McConnell Dowell, the WPA comprises design partners ARUP, Mott MacDonald, rail authorities Metro Trains Melbourne and V/Line, and the LXRP. On the Mt Derrimut Road project, the WPA also collaborated with architects DCM and Hassell.

The major infrastructure upgrade program involves the removal of 110 level crossings across metropolitan Melbourne, including the one on Mt Derrimut Road.

As the constructor and leader of the WPA, McConnell Dowell commenced work on Mt Derrimut Road in late 2019, placing a significant focus on sustainability throughout the project’s lifecycle. Now, as the project reaches completion, it stands as a remarkable achievement, showcasing a harmonious blend of innovation, sustainability and positive community impact.

Bo Christensen, sustainability manager of the Western Program Alliance at McConnell Dowell. (Image: McConnell Dowell)
Bo Christensen, sustainability manager of the Western Program Alliance at McConnell Dowell. (Image: McConnell Dowell)

As the sustainability manager of the WPA at McConnell Dowell, Bo Christensen sheds light on the transformative journey of Deer Park Station.

“Before the commencement of this project, Deer Park Station embodied a typical railway station, prioritising functionality over commuter experience and aesthetic appeal with extensive asphalt and limited weather protection,” says Christensen. “Today, it is a beautiful piece of infrastructure, featuring a brand-new station, 150 new and upgraded car parks, a multi-bay bus interchange and pick-up/drop-off zones, as well as stunning and widespread landscaping.”

“The LXRP goes beyond eliminating dangerous level crossings; it aims to deliver infrastructure that enhances the community. The Mt Derrimut Road project, in particular the approach to design, has surpassed expectations, with its commitment to sustainability a defining feature that resonates throughout the entire project.”

Driven by its goal to “deliver sustainable infrastructure that continues to support safe and healthy Victorian communities into the future”, the LXRP adopts a sustainability policy to ensure the principles of environmental, social and economic sustainability are integrated in all its projects. This includes self-assessment methodology, requiring projects to target positive outcomes from the areas of highest materiality from the Infrastructure Sustainability Rating from the Infrastructure Sustainability Council (ISC) and/or Green Star Rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

Guided by this methodology, the WPA spearheaded various sustainability initiatives on the Mt Derrimut Road project. Christensen emphasises the strategic emphasis on key areas such as reducing materials and energy consumption, constructing climate-resilient infrastructure and designing environments that enhance overall liveability.

“At the top of the pile is materials and energy, because of their huge impact on climate change,” says Christensen. “Throughout the construction phase, we devoted significant efforts to reducing energy consumption, also exploring avenues to diminish the operational energy footprint of the infrastructure.”

To decrease energy consumption during the construction phase, the WPA employed 100 per cent Greenpower for all site compounds, aligning with McConnell Dowell’s commitment to using Greenpower across all its sites on the grid. The team installed a temporary 40-kilowatt relocatable solar system to further power the main site compound and a permanent 65-kilowatt solar array split between two continuous bus shelters in the car park, feeding directly into the Deer Park Station building. This will offset nearly 4,000 megawatt hours of electricity over the asset’s lifetime. As a permanent part of the design, the solar array enabled the WPA to exceed all energy targets for the project.

“As a new piece of infrastructure that consumes energy, we’ve significantly reduced its operational impact on the grid,” says Christensen.

Further, the station features highly efficient LED lighting and dimmed car park lighting, reducing lighting energy use during ‘After Last, Before First’ scheduled train services – another operational energy-saving measure. Sensors have been installed throughout the project to dim lights when the space is unoccupied.

“We also successfully trialled an electric excavator on the site as part of McConnell Dowell’s ongoing initiatives to electrify plant machinery,” adds Christensen.

Building upon the comprehensive efforts to address energy consumption, the WPA’s commitment to sustainability extended to a meticulous focus on recycled materials, supported by the recently introduced Recycled First Policy.

“This policy greatly assisted the WPA in advocating for the inclusion of recycled materials in the project,” says Christensen. “Substantial effort went into the pre-design, design, procurement and delivery processes to identify innovators willing to partner on the Mt Derrimut Road project, join the journey, and, in some cases, take calculated risks.”

Christensen emphasises the broad impact of the LXRP program, providing substantial leverage to influence positive changes and fostering collaboration with businesses in the industry to implement such materials. This collaboration not only facilitates success for these enterprises but also encourages the next generation of new ideas and products. Actively seeking innovative solutions in the market, the WPA aims to set new standards for innovation in the projects they undertake, as demonstrated on Mt Derrimut Road.

“We’ve provided a gateway for innovators to enter a market that would otherwise be inaccessible,” says Christensen. “We serve as a valuable entry point for businesses struggling to penetrate the high bars set by the infrastructure or state government sectors.”

A prime instance of successful collaboration is evident in the Mt Derrimut Road project team’s partnership with Polyrok, Built Environs and Boral. Polyrok, a recycled plastic aggregate derived from post-consumer soft plastic packaging, was incorporated into a sustainable 40-megapascal 50 per cent supplementary cementitious materials (SCM) structural concrete mix, forming the foundation of the new station’s green roof. This combination of recycled materials in a concrete mix marks an MTIA/LXRP first in a structural application, resulting in an up to 40 per cent reduction in the carbon footprint of the concrete, compared to conventional cement concrete.

“The Low Carbon Concrete Working Group (LCCWG), overseen by the MTIA and ecologiQ, played an indispensable role in bringing this innovative solution to fruition,” explains Christensen. “The swift implementation of this solution owes much to the diligent efforts of this group.”

A 50 per cent SCM mix was also employed for the precast panels forming the earth-filled structures throughout the station, developed and supplied by Reinforced Earth (RECO) in collaboration with a major concrete supplier. Through the LXRP, the WPA successfully obtained approval from the Department of Transport and Planning for the structural application of this mix. This solution is now available as standard practice across the LXRP.

While conducting climate impact assessments on operational assets is standard practice for infrastructure projects, considering the climate impacts on the community resulting from their use of the newly created assets is an emerging aspect the project addressed. This led to another collaborative milestone with the successful integration of Coolseal, marking another first for the MTIA and LXRP. Coolseal is a finish on the surface of the car park that mitigates the ‘urban heat island’ effect. This innovation brings about a significant positive impact for commuters and other car park users, notably improving cooling and enhancing overall commuter comfort.

“In projects of this nature, there’s an abundance of concrete, asphalt and steel – materials that tend to heat up in warmer temperatures,” explains Christensen. “As a commuter, this can be quite uncomfortable.”

While the conventional solution to reduce heat in areas like car parks involves planting trees, Christensen acknowledges that for this specific project, reducing the ‘urban heat island’ effect needed more than just trees.

“While we did extensive tree planting, we also introduced Coolseal with its light-coloured bituminous coating,” says Christensen. “The efficacy of Coolseal lies not only in its colour but also in the intelligent technology within the mix itself.”

“It actively rejects heat, allowing infrared radiation to bounce off during the day rather than being absorbed, resulting in a much cooler and comfortable environment for commuters.”

Beyond the integrated energy and material solutions, the project distinguishes itself through extensive landscaping, augmenting its unique features and overall appeal. The station features a diverse palette of endemic and indigenous plants, ranging from grasses to trees. The WPA team approached the project with water-sensitive urban design (WSUD) principles on all design elements of the project. This included hydroseeding a rich native seed mix, expected to quadruple biodiversity compared to standard planting over its two-year establishment period.

“The ground-level landscaping is expansive, and the project team took steps to ensure native grassland and vegetation was preserved during construction,” says Christensen.

In yet another MTIA and LXRP first, the WPA introduced a green roof design to the main station building roof, continuing the landscaping onto the built form. This design not only enhances aesthetics but also provides irrigation through rainwater captured from the green roof and provides a further cooling effect for commuters on the elevated train platform.

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The curved ochre-winged roof adds to the distinctive green roof above Deer Park Station. (Image: Built Environs)
The curved ochre-winged roof adds to the distinctive green roof above Deer Park Station. (Image: Built Environs)

Reflecting on the multitude of innovative construction and design features integrated into the Mt Derrimut Road project, Christensen underscores the value of collaboration.

“Innovations are always hard work,” he explains. “Continuous, high-level engagement with stakeholders, involving them in the evolution of the process, ideas and products, ensures that everyone takes ownership of the success.”

“They say failure is an orphan, but success has many parents – we intentionally went into this trying to have as many parents as possible, and the outcomes unequivocally attest to our approach.

“The LXRP has facilitated extensive collaboration, fostering the development of processes and initiatives that extend beyond Mt Derrimut Road.”

The project exemplifies such collaboration, with the reinforced earth wall panels supplied and developed by RECO standing out as a prime example, given the newly approved specification now in place. This showcases the concerted efforts of multiple stakeholders – the WPA, LXRP, DTP and RECO – collaboratively driving forward an innovative process poised to benefit the industry well into the future.

“The new Mt Derrimut Road, Deer Park Station provides comfort, strength, functionality, innovation and sustainability throughout the building,” says Christensen. “Every element is intricately woven and interlaced.”

The project, he asserts, is not just a completed endeavour but a legacy of sustainable practices and continuous improvement that will resonate in future projects.

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