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Back to News 1 November 2022

Tonsley drives towards a greener future with new MAB forest

Tonsley Innovation District’s transformation from brown to green has taking another step forward with the completion of a fourth and final forest under the 5ha roofline of its Main Assembly Building (MAB).

Known as the Foyer Forest, the green space includes exotic, shade tolerant plants that will form a dense ecosystem near the entrance to TAFE SA’s Tonsley campus. Its construction takes the total count of trees, plants and shrubs within the MAB to almost 4,500.

The forest complements the nearby multi award-winning Central Forest, Lounge Forest and Plaza Forest, which are known as the lungs of the MAB, and the Western Plaza park and new wetlands on the western side of the District. Further greening to the eastern side of the MAB is also well underway and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The latest urban canopy – delivered by Space Landscape Construction – will act as a backdrop to three tables or “outdoor meeting rooms”, which can be utilised by businesses within the District and as a flexible study space and casual lunch area for TAFE students.

Steel cylinders – painted green in a nod to the ‘Regal Green’ of the old Chrysler Valiant which was once assembled at Tonsley – dominate the centre of each table and will be spilling with greenery as the forest matures.

Renewal SA Project Director for Tonsley Innovation District, Vincent Rigter, said the forests were intended to act as “collision spaces” where serendipitous encounters would hopefully lead to new partnerships and collaborations.

“The forests are designed to dominate,’ Mr Rigter said. “We want businesses to be drawn to them as both casual and formal meeting spaces that can then act as incubators where Tonsley TAFE and Flinders University students can rub shoulders with leading industry personnel and exchange ideas.”

The urban forests also align with Renewal SA’s commitment to create liveable and environmentally sustainable developments, and its push toward carbon neutrality as part of a wider state government pledge to fully offset emissions by 2050.

With the Foyer Forest now complete, there is more than 1061 trees and 42,513 plants and shrubs growing sitewide across the Tonsley Innovation District including along streets, greenways and wetlands.

It is anticipated that a series of work pods and office tenancies will be built around the Foyer Forest in the future, mirroring similar, successful activations around the other MAB forests.

James Hayter, Director of Oxigen, the lead consultant for the Tonsley public realm, said the forests were areas of ongoing international interest.

“We underplay it in South Australia but overseas they are fascinated by this project,” Mr Hayter said.
“The temptation might have been to demolish to Main Assembly Building but to adaptively reuse this post-industrial brownfield site in the way we have is an amazing sustainable outcome.”

Each forest has its own unique character and sense of identity, including misting volcanoes in the Central Forest which are designed to modify air temperature and create a microclimate matched to the plant selection.

In addition to the thousands of trees and plants now greening the MAB, the District’s solar capacity will be soon increase to five megawatts after practical completion was reached on a new array installed by CleanPeak Energy on the roofs of the TAFE SA and Line 0 buildings. Once switched on and combined with the existing solar panels atop the MAB, they will collectively generate up to 80% of Tonsley’s energy demand.

A 10-megawatt battery will shortly be installed at the District too, to capture any excess energy and store it onsite for later use, rather than it going back into the grid.

Recycled water, captured at the nearby Oaklands Wetlands, is also being used to maintain Tonsley’s streetscape during hotter months. In the future, it is planned that a dual-pipe system will pump grey water into homes at Tonsley Village – an initiative that will save 25 megalitres of water per annum for the entire project.

Mr Rigter said it was this strong green agenda that led the Tonsley project to receive Australia’s first Six Star Green Star commercial environmental rating in 2015. The Tonsley Forests also received the Healthy Parks Healthy People Prize at the 2021 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA) Awards.

He said the forests had led to some unexpected benefits for the broader community, including becoming an alternate destination to the traditional neighbourhood park.

“On weekends it can be found teeming with kids attending birthday parties or learning to ride their bikes. There is even weddings and citizenship ceremonies,” he said.


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