Design & Style


Thinking bigger to build cities better.

25 March 2022

Melbourne Design Week Award winner Revival Projects is inspiring architects, designers and developers to rethink the wrecking ball. We sat down with three collaborators on the Zero Footprint Repurposing hub to learn about the challenges of waste in the building and construction industry and the road ahead.

Design & Style


Thinking bigger to build cities better.

25 March 2022

Melbourne Design Week Award winner Revival Projects is inspiring architects, designers and developers to rethink the wrecking ball. We sat down with three collaborators on the Zero Footprint Repurposing hub to learn about the challenges of waste in the building and construction industry and the road ahead.

Robbie Neville and Liam Wallis at the Zero Footprint Repurposing hub

Builder Robbie Neville (left) and sustainable property developer Liam Wallis are two collaborators on the Melbourne Design Week Award-winning Zero Footprint Repurposing hub. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

For the world’s greatest cities, architectural growth and renewal have long been seen as markers of progress. But when a building is knocked down and replaced with something new, where do its materials go?

 

That’s a question that, historically, nobody has really wanted to take responsibility for, says Melbourne builder Robbie Neville, founder of sustainable building practice Revival Projects.

 

“Unfortunately, our industry is built on centuries of reckless consumption and then treating those existing materials as waste,” he says.

 

“The city of Melbourne is built out of incredible materials and at the moment we don’t have any infrastructure in place or systems and processes to make responsible handling of these materials easy and accessible.”

Robbie Neville’s Revival Projects
The videos shows the Revival Projects, Winner of Melb Design Week Award 2022
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Robbie Neville’s Revival Projects has been crowned winner of the 2022 Melbourne Design Week Award.

For the past six years, Robbie and his team at Revival Projects have been working to salvage waste from building and construction sites and repurpose the materials into furniture, interior and architectural projects. 

 

From century-old timber beams to thousands of metres of fire hose, the company has repurposed hundreds of tonnes of materials across Australia. But with the building and construction industry responsible for about half the world’s waste, Robbie started searching for a solution he could scale.

 

Revival Projects’ Zero Footprint Repurposing is one of the world's first free hubs for repurposing waste from construction and demolition, a place to store and reuse demolished materials that would otherwise become landfill. 

The Zero Footprint Repurposing hub

The Zero Footprint Repurposing hub, which is a collaboration between Revival Projects, Grimshaw Architects and leading sustainable developers HIP V. HYPE and Assemble Communities, was recently crowned winner of the 2022 Melbourne Design Week Award. Image: Sean Fennessy.

Housed in a 100-year-old textile factory in Collingwood, the hub operates as a temporary workshop to salvage materials from the existing structure for use in a forthcoming multi-storey redevelopment. Revival Projects leased the space from developer ANPlus and will work with project designers Grimshaw Architects on taking stock of the existing materials and how they can be used in the new development.

 

It’s often a lengthy process, so they are also making the space available for others in the design and construction industry to store salvaged materials until they can be repurposed for new developments.

 

The project, which is a collaboration between Revival Projects, Grimshaw Architects and leading sustainable developers HIP V. HYPE and Assemble Communities, was recently crowned winner of the 2022 Melbourne Design Week Award. Sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, the prize is awarded to a project that best responds to the Melbourne Design Week theme, ‘Design the World You Want’.

 

We sat down with some of the project partners to hear their insights on the unique challenges of waste in the building and construction industry and the road ahead.

The builder: Robbie Neville, Revival Projects

The builder: Robbie Neville, Revival Projects

Robbie Neville at the Zero Footprint Repurposing hub

Robbie Neville established Revival Projects to make it easier for designers and developers to adopt a more sustainable approach to construction. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

“I was working as a commercial builder in Melbourne and conducting my own salvage missions around the city, storing the materials at my home, and trying to channel them into the projects that I was involved in.

 

I became frustrated at how difficult it was to make repurposing these existing materials a fundamental element of the construction projects that I was taking on. There was a lot of resistance around the operational side of using what you already have – it's unfamiliar territory.

 

I'm a carpenter by trade and I love working with timber. I love the smell, the adaptability, the versatility.

There's only 20 per cent of old-growth forest left around the world. And here we are in a city like Melbourne where the city is full of buildings that are constructed using these old-growth timbers. This is timber that never should have been harvested in the first place. But when I see these materials repurposed into a new application, it couldn't be closer to my heart.”

The Zero Footprint Repurposing hub

“We can't expect any one individual or any one profession to have it all figured out,” Robbie says. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

“With the Zero Footprint Repurposing hub, we’re trying to railroad the design community and developers to take a second look at what they already have, start to understand the value of those existing materials, and explore how relevant those existing materials might be in the context of their new designs.

 

We were completely blown away to win the Melbourne Design Week Award. For us, the award means greater exposure, greater momentum and greater energy around what we are doing.

 

We can't remain comfortable in the destructive traditions that we've become familiar with for the last 200 years of construction here in Australia, and we can't expect any one individual or any one profession to have it all figured out. What we're talking about is coming together as a design and construction industry and collaboratively exploring how we can do better.”

The architect: Harriet Oswald, Grimshaw Architects

The architect: Harriet Oswald, Grimshaw Architects

Harriet Oswald at the Zero Footprint Repurposing hub

Grimshaw Architects’ Harriet Oswald is working closely with Revival Projects to find a way to repurpose the existing materials into a new design for the site. Image: Sean Fennessy.

“I am an associate architect at Grimshaw and I’m leading the project that will be the proposed redevelopment of the site.

 

At Grimshaw, we are shifting our focus towards regenerative design and part of that is understanding and really driving change around the circular economy.

 

We visited a workshop where Robbie was in the process of repurposing an existing warehouse into some interesting furniture for a residential development. We realised that we were sitting on a goldmine in terms of the existing onsite material [at the textile factory] and we got really excited about the prospect of using it in the redevelopment.

 

We have these raw, beautiful, natural, honest materials and I think it's our role as designers to safeguard their value. It's exciting for us as a team to reimagine how these really authentic materials can be reused in a more contemporary sense. If we get it right, I think the embedded history of these beautifully raw and honest materials will be a highly valuable component of the new development.

 

What we’re doing here should be business-as-usual for our industry. There should be a full audit of materials on any building that's up for demolition, so that we are protecting and respecting our resources.”

The sustainable property developer: Liam Wallis, HIP V. HYPE

The sustainable property developer: Liam Wallis, HIP V. HYPE

Liam Wallis at the Zero Footprint Repurposing hub

Liam Wallis is the managing director of HIP V. HYPE, an ethical, socially conscious and environmentally focused property development company. Image: Mercedes-Benz Group AG.

“Robbie and I met when we were demolishing the existing warehouse for a project in South Melbourne. We had these beautiful timber trusses and we'd identified early on that we needed to do something with them, and that they couldn’t just go through that usual demolition contractor process.

 

We were searching for somebody to take these trusses because it was quite a lot of timber – well over 1,000 linear metres of it. It was going to be a real task to get rid of this timber and store and process it to create some value out of it. One day we just got a call out of the blue from this guy, Robbie from Revival Projects.

 

One of the things that stuck me with Robbie was that he’d joined the dots in understanding that one of the biggest barriers to repurposing material is being able to certify it for reuse structurally. That’s a critical component of his business. You can have as much passion as you want, but if you can't match that with dedication and rigor and follow through, you're not going to achieve much.”

The Zero Footprint Repurposing hub

“[The hub] has captured the imaginations of so many people and demonstrates the potential of repurposing and a more circular approach to how we use materials,” Liam says. Image: Sean Fennessy.


“What Robbie has got going on down here with Revival Projects has captured the imaginations of so many people and demonstrates the potential of repurposing and a more circular approach to how we use materials. I think the discussion that we are set to have in this space will hopefully inspire many design professionals to rethink how they can start to incorporate some of these broader ideas in their practice on a day-to-day basis.


It comes back to economics. Consumers are demanding that the products they use are seeking to minimise virgin material and maximise the reuse of materials that are already in the system. And with that consumer demand kicking in, we’re seeing businesses, technology and entrepreneurs respond in really creative ways. That's what excites me – there's so much cool stuff going on.”

 

Mercedes-Benz is proud to be a major sponsor of the National Gallery of Victoria’s Melbourne Design Week 2022.

By Jo Davy