ARCHITECTURE (verb) : cultural endeavour, professional service.
OFFICE (noun) : position of authority of a public nature.


The new Marrickville SES Headquarters sits on a culturally important site beneath the final approach to Sydney’s North-South runway. The building is noteworthy for its capacity to achieve best-practice sustainability performance in these adverse conditions. The Marrickville SES houses members and training facilities, rescue vehicles and a communications centre. The conceptual diagram for the building is the figure of a “traumatised shed”. A simple and cost effective building envelope with formal modifications at corners and entry points. Internally a “shell and kernel” plan-form is employed to provide a double-layer of wall separation from extreme aircraft noise (the site is less than 800m from Runway 1 at Kingsford Smith Airport).

The structural frame for the Marrickville SES is entirely timber, avoiding the high-embodied energy of steel. All timber used in the building – from structure to joinery carcases – is 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified with full chain of command documentation. A super-insulated building envelope provides R-values approximately double the BCA requirement in many spaces. Thermal mass in ground-coupled exposed concrete slabs tempers diurnal temperature variations. Triple-glazed facades incorporate a 300mm glass separation to afford good natural light without aircraft noise compromise.

Fresh air supply is via an innovative labyrinth system that tempers outdoor air as it enters the building and reduces noise transfer. The labyrinth winds through the earth beneath the building taking advantage of ambient year-round ground temperatures. A zoned plan configuration nests the most acoustically sensitive uses (emergency call centre and operations offices) within a secondary acoustic shell.

External vehicle areas in the Marrickville SES HQ are permeable to water, finished in porous reinforced turf system. Groundwater is processed through 2 rain-gardens and all roof water is collected in rainwater tanks with a capacity of 10,000 litres. Onerous land rezoning, complex technical performance requirements, a tight budget, traffic management, significant aircraft noise and vibration, acid sulphate solids, contamination, heritage and archaeological matters have brought great complexity to this otherwise straightforward brief. The solution for the Marrickville SES reconciles these issues with a comprehensive sustainability agenda, built economy, a robust interior and a strong visual narrative.

PROJECT: Marrickville SES
TYPE: Institutional Building
BUILDING USER: NSW State Emergency Service
CLIENT: Marrickville Council
YEAR: Completion 2015
AREA: 445 sqm GFA
TEAM: [DRAW], Adam Russell, John de Manincor, Imogene Tudor, Marissa Looby
COLLABORATORS:RAW Architects (Construction Phase Services),  Steensen VarmingAspect Studios, Serrao Smith Structure, Acoustic Studio and ACOR.
BUILDER: Proline
PHOTOGRAPHY: © Brett Boardman [all rights reserved]