Dezeen Magazine

A New Normal by Finding Infinity

Finding Infinity develops $100 billion zero-carbon strategy for Melbourne "that would pay for itself in less than 10 years"

Eco research lab Finding Infinity has been working with architects, investors, developers and councils on a concept to transform Melbourne into a zero-carbon city by 2030, and has unveiled 15 prototypes that could make the plans a reality.

Melbourne-based Finding Infinity has spent the past two years developing A New Normal, a 10-point strategy for the Australian city to become completely self-sufficient in terms of energy, food and water, and to also be zero-waste.

A New Normal by Finding Infinity
A New Normal is a 10-point strategy for Melbourne to become zero-carbon by 2030

According to studio principal Ross Harding, the plans would not only improve the city's environmental credentials, but also make it more profitable. He claims a switch to clean energy, water reuse and a circular economy would provide over 80,000 jobs.

"It's a $100 billion transformation of the city that would pay for itself in less than 10 years," Harding told Dezeen.

"We're talking about integrating the physical infrastructure that makes the city work with the cultural infrastructure that enables us all to thrive."

A New Normal by Finding Infinity
Fifteen concepts to make the strategy reality have been unveiled during Melbourne Design Week

For Melbourne Design Week 2021, running from 26 March to 5 April, Finding Infinity has teamed up with some of Melbourne's leading architects to show how the city's physical environment could change as a result.

The designs – which include a sewage treatment plant that doubles as a nightclub, and community hubs in converted multi-storey car parks– explore how sustainable technologies could make the city a more healthy and enjoyable place to live.

Solar & Wind Grid Scale Welcome to the Valley of the Sun by Ha
Prototypes on show include Ha's proposal to create solar agriculture in Latrobe Valley

Prototypes and pilot versions of these proposals are on show in an exhibition within a former office building at 130 Collins Street. A series of talks have also been talking place in the space, which have been live-streamed to a digital audience.

"We wanted to try and find a way to unlock this strategy," explained Harding.

"A report is something that the world won't really connect with," he continued. "If you want to make radical change really happen, the theory is that you have to make it easy for people to connect with. You have to make it engaging, by connecting it with culture."

Solar Architecture Melbourne’s Rooftops by John Wardle Architects
John Wardle Architects plans to use solar panels to transform unused rooftops

One of the proposals, developed by John Wardle Architects, looks at activating Melbourne's unused rooftops.

It suggests that, by installing canopies made out of solar-energy-harnessing photovoltaics, these spaces could be used for co-working, community gardening, learning or events. At the same time, they could help to power the city.

"Melbourne has only implemented one per cent of its total solar energy potential. We worked out that, if you put solar energy on every second rooftop, it would generate 40 per cent of the energy the city consumes," said Harding.

Electrify Transport: Car Conversions by Grimshaw, Greenshoot and Greenaway Architects
Grimshaw, Greenshoot and Greenaway Architects have designed an "electrified vehicle pit stop" where cars can be converted to electric

A team led by Grimshaw has designed "an electrified vehicle pit stop" where people can take their cars to be converted to electric, while Foolscap has looked at upgrading the rail network as a food and drink destination, to encourage people to use trains rather than air travel.

Wowowa suggests installing anaerobic digesters at sites including Fitzroy swimming pool, where it would convert food waste into biogas that would heat the pool and sauna. Similarly, 6 Degrees wants to use the waste generated by Queen Victoria Market to power a moonlight cinema.

Organic Waste to Energy Swimming Pools Across Melbourne by Wowowa
Wowowa's proposal brings waste-to-energy technology to Fitzroy swimming pool

Hassell's proposal sees an existing multilevel car park in Little Collins Street become a battery bank, using vehicle-to-grid technology to optimise the use of battery power from electric vehicles. To demonstrate this, the entire exhibition has been powered using two second-hand Nissan Leaf batteries.

Other proposals include a museum that makes non-recyclable waste a spectacle of the past, existing buildings refurbished to meet Passivhaus standards, a social enterprise that teaches repair and reuse, and a hub of solar agriculture in Latrobe Valley.

They are all available to view in detail on the A New Normal website.

Energy Storage: Multi-level car park battery bank by Hassell
Hassell is showing how a car park can become a fuel bank, by powering the exhibition with two Nissan Leaf batteries

Both the strategy and the 15 design concepts were developed in response to consultation with councillors across the 31 municipalities of Greater Melbourne. The next step is to find investment to bring these projects to life.

"These 15 projects unlock $100 billion transformation," said Harding. "The main hook is that we're not just talking about these projects; we're trying to find $50 million by the end of the year to build them at full scale.

Water Unlimited MCG by Openwork
A nightclub double as a wastewater treatment facility in this design by Openwork

Harding believes that, following both the recent bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic, people in Melbourne are more open than ever to the idea of systemic change.

He argues that the only barriers to making these concepts a reality are cultural and political, rather than financial or technological. So by proposing ideas that build on the existing culture of the city, he believes the ideas would be welcomed by citizens.

"Instead of around blaming the government for not doing enough, we can make it easy for them," he said. "We can transform the city to be completely self-sufficient and we can all profit from it."

Electrify Architecture Southbank Apartments Car Park by Clare Cousins Architects
A car park is transformed into a basketball court, co-working space and market in this design by Clare Cousins Architects

The exhibition title, A New Normal, is intended to reiterate this idea that a more eco-friendly city can be better for everyone.

"A New Normal is not about Covid," Harding added. "We need to create a new normal with a city that had no negative impact on the environment. That's normal."

A New Normal is on show from 26 March to 5 April 2021 as part of Melbourne Design Week. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

More images

Energy Storage: Multi-level car park battery bank by Hassell
Efficient Architecture Retrofitting Existing Buildings by Fender Katsalidis
Solar & Wind Grid Scale Welcome to the Valley of the Sun by Ha
Water Unlimited Middle Ring by NMBW
Organic Waste to Energy Queen Victoria Market by 6 Degrees
End Landfill Replace Me by Dreamer
End Landfill The Cathedral of Circularity by Edition Office
New Architecture Carbon neutral construction by Fieldwork
New Architecture An apartment building at Docklands by Kennedy Nolan