The Surry Hills Community Centre sits on a busy street in Sydney and is one of the most environmentally progressive buildings in the city. Steensen Varming developed the mechanical, electrical, sustainable and lighting designs. The building, by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, houses a two-storey library, community centre and childcare facilities. Additional sustainable design initiatives were introduced throughout the project around energy reduction, water conservation, material selection, waste management and improvement of the indoor environment. The most remarkable initiative, and visibly sustainable statement, is the planted atrium that acts as a living biofilter, improving the air quality to the children’s play area. The centre’s sustainable initiatives include geothermal cooling and innovative air tempering and filtering systems. Outside air passes through roof openings, geothermal water coils and the biofilter before further tempering in a thermal labyrinth below ground. The resultant indoor air quality is exceptional. The hybrid ventilation openings bypass the active systems when external conditions permit, saving energy. A 4.725kW photovoltaic array also masks and shades the rooftop plant.