Five minutes with Professor James Murray-Parkes

26 Apr 2018

Imagine a building that’s powered entirely by human waste – skyscrapers that are completely off the grid and powered by the energy they produce.

That could soon be a reality in our cities, and it’s all thanks to research undertaken by scientists like Professor James Murray-Parkes, who founded the Brookfield Scientific Solutions Group (BSSG).

Walking around the BSSG office in Southbank, Melbourne, there’s a tangible buzz around the place and for good reason. More a laboratory than an office, it’s home to some of Australia’s most innovative scientists and engineers, all focussed on finding new ways to service Brookfield’s developments in the built environment.

“I was brought on by Multiplex CEO John Flecker in 2013 to spearhead the Brookfield Scientific Solutions Group. Our role is to find ways to become more efficient. That means generating more profit, while using less materials. We focus on reducing mass and by-products of building construction, causing less harm to the environment.”

Although this arm of Brookfield has only been in operation for just five years, James and the team have already lent their unique expertise to 256 projects around the globe, including Manhattan West, Australia 108 and Perth Stadium.

“There are so many examples of how physics can be applied to building construction to promote sustainable practices.

“Let’s look at the Australia 108 building here in Melbourne CBD, which is currently under construction. We managed to provide a significant saving on mass for a 100-storey tower by reducing the extent of concrete outriggers and belt trusses to maximise usable floor space and ultimately speed up construction time.”

The result? A $23 million saving.

As for Perth Stadium, which is set to achieve a Green Star – Design & As Built rating, James explains how the team successfully came up with an alternative design using less materials in just four weeks.

“BSSG led a re-design of the 40m roof trusses, in which efficient connections were designed to eliminate potential issues with alignment and tolerances.

“Redundant material was taken out where possible and alternative systems were put in place to reduce the overall mass of the project and introduce more sustainable solutions.”

And while the success of these projects are taking shape across Australia, there are still challenges ahead for convincing the industry to get on board with new technology.

“One of the building industry’s biggest hurdles is being averse to change and taking risks. Really, there should be more scientists involved in the construction of new buildings.

“Scientists are often languishing away at universities because they don’t see a future for themselves working in the industry. Property developers should invest in their expertise and they need to start listening to them.”

James and his team will be presenting some of their key technologies at Green Building Day 2018, which is set to take place in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane from May-June.

As the GBCA’s revered conference for sustainable practitioners, can we expect a glimpse into the ground-breaking technologies being developed at BSSG?

“I won’t reveal it just yet, but at Green Building Day, I’m going to present something new based on the energy that already exists in structures and how we can harvest it to power the building.”

Watch this space.

To hear James and his team at Green Building Day 2018: Shaping the Future State, register here.