Arden Precinct

Building more resilient, zero waste and circular precincts

March 1st, 2023


  • WSP’s Waste Management & Circular Economy Team in Australia aims to facilitate the circular transition in the built environment.

  • Arden precinct is a development in the north of Melbourne spread over 44.6 hectares that will accommodate 34,000 jobs and 15,000 residents.

  • The precinct aims to become Melbourne’s first circular and toward zero waste precinct, in line with net-zero carbon emissions targets by 2040.

Valentina Petrone is WSP’s Circular Economy lead in Australia. She has unique skills as a trained architect with in-depth knowledge of applying circular economy design principles for the built environment at different scales of intervention. She has also developed the Circular Design Guidelines for NSW DPE to facilitate the transition to a circular built environment and delivered pioneering circular economy projects in Australia with a focus on ‘designing-out waste’ from the outset.

We sat down with Valentina, who explains the importance of embedding circular economy design strategies in the master plan of projects and her successful experience with WSP’s Circular Economy Strategy at Arden Precinct.


"WSP is one of the world's leading engineering professional services consulting firms, bringing together approximately 4,500 talented people across 14 offices in Australia. With technical expertise in design and strategic advisory on sustainable solutions, they also engineer Future Ready projects that will help societies grow for lifetimes to come."

"WSP’s Waste & Circular Economy team have been engaged to provide strategic waste engineering and circular economy advice, and to develop a precinct-wide waste management plan that exceeds current Australian standards in sustainable waste management within both the Masterplan and built design."


"The Arden Precinct will see the establishment of a sustainable and forward-thinking innovation precinct that sets the standard for best practice in sustainable urban renewal. Spread over 44.6 hectares of North Melbourne, Arden will accommodate an estimated 34,000 jobs and 15,000 residents in a space that aspires to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040."

"The Arden Circular Economy Strategy provides practical guidance on how circular economy principles can be achieved through strategic design, construction and operation at the master planning level."

"It represents an important opportunity to proactively set the right direction for the Precinct’s development – including identifying pioneering targets in line with circular economy principles, seeking to preserve heritage value, and ensuring that adequate spatial allocation is considered early in the design phase."

Circular economy requires a positive shift away from our linear model of consumption to a circular approach. We need to stop viewing waste as a problem and aim towards considering materials as a resource. In the context of the built environment, it means to design out waste across the whole lifecycle of our buildings and cities by implementing circular design strategies. The earlier Circular Design principles are embedded in projects, the more opportunities there will be to identify and implement viable solutions to ultimately design out waste. It all starts with good design.

"Beyond the environmental value of designing out waste, the Strategy highlights other benefits that a circular economy can bring, such as significant financial savings, enhancing social capital, promoting job creation and fostering a sense of community."

"The waste management component included a review of waste volumes, advice on appropriate waste stream avoidance and separation, innovative site-wide solutions and technologies to consolidate waste and provide operational efficiencies. It will establish precinct scale infrastructure options and guidelines to deliver not just high landfill diversion rates but reduced waste generation in line with circular economy principles for operational waste management."

"The ultimate goal is to deliver one of Melbourne’s first circular and toward zero waste precinct, in line with net-zero carbon emissions targets, that will contribute to making the city more liveable, resilient, and sustainable."


"An initial step to developing the strategy was recognising that to effectively transition to a circular economy, we will require a mindset shift from viewing ‘waste’ as a problem that needs to be rid of to ‘materials’ with value for reuse, repair, repurpose and recycle (residual value). It was also important to consider the unique Arden context, including the role of its existing infrastructure. While the overarching goal was to embed circular economy throughout the whole Arden Precinct, WSP recognised that this process would look different for different zones of the precinct."

"For example, brownfield zones with no demolition required represent the ‘ideal’ opportunity to apply circular design strategies from design through to construction. This may include an aim to design all new developments for disassembly at the end of their life (thereby eliminating future demolition waste). In contrast, for developed zones with existing infrastructure, the strategy proposes a strong focus on reusing existing buildings and materials as far as possible."

"The strategy explored opportunities for various stakeholders, at every stage of the precinct’s lifecycle, to contribute practically to its circular economy outcomes:

  • Design stakeholders have opportunities to integrate circular design principles from the outset (eg designing for disassembly, longevity, flexibility and adaptability). As decisions made during this phase will have an impact on the whole life cycle of a project, the design team will need to work in collaboration with key stakeholders from the early stages.

  • Construction stakeholders have opportunities to minimise the impact of construction practices (in alignment with goals and objectives set by the design team).

  • Operational stakeholders have opportunities to utilise the design effectively and keep materials in use as long as possible through actions such as avoidance, reuse and repair.

  • End-of-service stakeholders have opportunities to responsibly disassemble and/or handle materials at the end of their current use, so that they may be directly kept in use or returned to the system.

"From a community and user perspective, opportunities for operational waste proposed for the precinct included:

  • A Circular Economy Hub, including initiatives such as an upcycle centre, tool library, clothes library, repair café, innovation hubs for circular economy start-ups

  • A community garden with on-site composting

  • Plastic-free zones in public areas of the precinct

  • Potential for other initiatives such as micro-factories and a last-mile logistics hub (for small parcels).

  • Adequate spatial allowances in buildings to allow for storage of extended operational streams (including reusable items and materials, such as fit-out products)"

WSP - Local Team, Global Reach

"Recognising that the practical implementation of circular economy initiatives and targets is still developing within Australia, WSP undertakes research on local and international case studies, best practice examples and emerging technologies to inform our projects. This also includes regular collaboration with our international colleagues (eg UK, Canada, Denmark), to share our latest learnings. We then assess the suitability of these initiatives for the local context, taking into consideration drivers such as land use zoning, planning approvals and permits, government bans and regulations on material streams, and local waste trends."

"Although embedding circular economy principles into new, large-scale developments (or redevelopments) is becoming more widely understood, it can be challenging to visualise how these same principles may be applied to existing sites and infrastructure, or to smaller scale projects with limited budgets. However, these initiatives can be tailored to suit the specifications of different project scales and budgets. For instance:

  • Modular infrastructure and processing technologies, for sites with variable demand or limited space.

  • Adaptation of existing spaces and infrastructure currently dedicated to streams that are being phased out (eg plastics and polystyrene) to utilise them for emerging high-volume waste streams (eg textiles and e-waste).

  • Micro factories to capture value from high potential waste streams that are not yet viable for large scale processing (eg low volumes, emerging technology, limited funding or limited end markets)."


"The Arden circular economy strategy proposes a pioneering approach to precinct master planning, demonstrating the benefits that can be achieved by embedding circular economy principles from the earliest stages of development.

The Strategy will set the initial direction for Arden’s journey to becoming a circular precinct and will be reviewed and adapted over time to meet the evolving needs of its local community and environment."

Call To Action

The transition towards a circular economy will require a holistic approach, both locally and globally. Individuals, industry and government alike can each contribute to this change by taking small steps in the right direction, rethinking our attitude towards “waste”, and challenging our business-as-usual use of products and materials. It all starts with good design.

Learn more about the Arden Precinct by viewing the Arden Precinct Structure Plan."

Founding Partner

Official Sponsor