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South Melbourne tower has an underground plan to dig residents out of bill pain, create new park

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The Canopy development at 272-280 Normanby Rd, South Melbourne, will be topped by Onseng-style Japanese hot tubs.

A Melbourne development is proposing to save residents $60 a year on their energy bills with an enormous underground water heater.

The 20-storey Normanby Rd, South Melbourne, project also hopes to shut a neighbouring road and transform it into a park with greenery climbing up the spine of the building to a residents-only rooftop garden featuring Onseng-style Japanese baths.

Gamuda Land Australia general manager Jarrod Tai is hoping other developers in the Fishermans Bend project will explore their plans to add bill-busting, 80m-long geothermal loops that dive deep into the area’s sandy soil.

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Pipes inside the eight to 10-storey supports needed to stabilise a tower of its height would allow water to travel deep underground, to either be warmed or cooled by more stable subterranean temperatures depending on the time of year.

A ground source heat pump connected to the system would then concentrate heat from water warmed below ground to bring the development’s hot water systems up to between 60 and 80C, as well as heating the Onseng-inspired baths on the roof.

The Canopy development at 272-280 Normanby Rd, South Melbourne - for herald sun real estate

Greenery will climb up the development from the ground level park to rooftop gardens.

“We will also capture heat from airconditioners and transfer that down into the ground where it can cool down, or when desired just use that heat around the building where the thermal energy will be used for domestic hot water and also for the Onseng-inspired spas,” Mr Tai said.

The development will have 86kW of photovoltaic solar panels on its roof, combining with the geothermal to minimise energy consumption and reduce residents’ power bills by about $130 a year. Close to $60 (45 per cent) of the savings would come from underground.

Developments in Fishermans Bend are required to include renewable energy generation and storage, and municipal officers are currently investigating the feasibility of the proposal.

While a separate proposal for the park is still being reviewed, the project’s Malaysia-backed developer Gamuda Land has suggested local and state governments should allow for more work-in-kind deals that swap traditional financial contributions for local community infrastructure building.

The Canopy development at 272-280 Normanby Rd, South Melbourne - for herald sun real estate

The rooftop gardens will also feature plenty of dry spaces to relax in.

The company has proposed turning a segment of Johnson St at the rear of its 272-280 Normanby Rd site into a 3000sq m park and greenery that will creep up the walls of the building to the “residents back yard” on the rooftop.

A Japanese forestry technique known as Miyawaki is expected to help the about 6000 trees, shrubs and plants to mature at an accelerated rate that could have it near fully grown in about 10 years time.

Mr Tai said the proposed urban forest would be created at the same time as the development’s two-year build, and the concept should be considered for other projects as there would be “some redundancy” in Melbourne’s road networks as transport needs changed in the future.

The Canopy development at 272-280 Normanby Rd, South Melbourne - for herald sun real estate

Greenery will also be added along Normanby Rd in front of the development, if approved.

“I would hope developers would be asked to do this more often in the future,” he said.

Port Phillip Council mayor Heather Cunsolo said their vision for Fishermans Bend could see several roads closed and transformed into parks, but Johnson St was the first where a developer had proposed to do so as a “work-in-kind” alternative.

“As Fishermans Bend urbanises, some former industrial scale streets will no longer be required for the vehicle street network and can be re-visioned as public space for our growing community,” Ms Cunsolo said.

“The southern part of Johnson Street is an example that was identified where there are several roads intersecting, and there are opportunities to manage local traffic in nearby streets while closing this section of the road for a new park for the community.”

A Department of Transport and Planning spokeswoman said Normanby Rd at the front of the property would also be renewed and given a green facelift with trees along its length and improved pedestrian and cycling links.

The Canopy development at 272-280 Normanby Rd, South Melbourne - for herald sun real estate

The proposed park would feature plenty of public space for fresh air.

Local and state government offices are expected to make a decision on the project in the next five months, with the park proposal being considered separately from the rest of the site.

A public opening event for the Canopy development on February 11 will include dog portrait photo booths, food trucks and live music.

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