The making of Australia’s newest iconic walk – Sustainability in Action

From the get go, founder Jude Turner’s vision for the Spicers 5-day Scenic Rim Trail has been to create bespoke accommodations that sit lightly within their unique environments; showcasing the Scenic Rim to the world, while ensuring minimal impact to the environment and positive social impact.

It’s a Triple Bottom Line approach

This is a great project to show how sustainability can permeate into every aspect of an experience,” says Claire Baguley, Spicers in-house Design and Project Manager. Claire is responsible for the design and delivery of two new ecocamps that will combine with Spicers’ existing properties to make up a new 5-day walk.

The two ecocamp sites are located in the Main Range National Park on formerly cleared logging sites. “The remoteness and ecological significance of each site has led us to run the building design and construction as a large scale kit-of-parts manufacturing project, rather than a traditional build,” Claire explains. The parts will be carefully assembled on site.

Internal structures are predominantly cold-rolled metal frames – yes, there’s more energy input during manufacture. However the benefits of limited waste, using a lightweight and recyclable material, and reducing risk of termite damage, far outweigh the negatives.

The buildings have been constructed in panels, customised to suit the width of the existing access roads to limit disruptions to the Scenic Rim area, and that can be reliably and firmly fixed together.

LEFT: Carpenters fit internal ply to a test structure. RIGHT: shower heads are tested to find an appropriate pressure with an environmentally sensitive water flow rate.

Wherever possible, all materials have been sourced from within a 500km radius to both support the region and reduce carbon footprint of project: All the spotted gum used in the buildings, timber cladding and internal ply linings are sourced and milled from responsible, certified sources in South East Queensland.

Water collection and conservation is a priority: Low water-use toilets and showerheads are incorporated; grey water will be used to dampen areas under walkways reducing bushfire risk; and gutter mesh will keep leaves from clogging water storage. 

Buildings must be low maintenance and stand the test of time (and weather) for 30+ years: Replas ‘Enduroplank’ decking has been chosen over timber. Replas is made from recycled soft and hard plastics from Australian sources and has a 100+ year lifespan. The only maintenance it will require is hosing down when dirty. 

No wet trades on site: Low impact footings will secure structures to the ground and can be easily installed with one or two people. There is no need for masonry or concrete of any kind – structures will literally perch atop their sites secured to these footings.

A significantly low-waste building site: The prototyping stage enabled Polyform to calculate their materials with extreme accuracy, meaning that all materials have been ordered with minimal waste and the project will run at an estimated overall waste factor of 3-5%, compared to around 15% for an average build project. 

Varied recycling processes on-site: The project is producing almost no timber and ply waste – all offcuts are being used to make tables and benchtops in the Common Pavilion. Timber offcuts are also being collected regularly by local Men’s Sheds. All soft plastic material wrappings and decking offcuts are collected and returned to Replas, where they’re turned back into upcycled plastic products. Remondis are providing other timber, steel, card and mixed recycling. First Trade Australia are recycling smaller soft plastics and Mallow Sustainability are assisting with recycling of organic, compostable waste.

Training opportunities for diverse workers: With Spicers’ support, Polyform are working with John Godwin from Creating Positive Futures to provide trade training opportunities for migrant or low skilled workers. Once suitable candidates are identified, Polyform design roles that suit their skill level upon project entry and focus on developing their skills throughout the project lifespan.  

No VOC paint used to finish interior linings and furniture: Spicers have chosen a no VOC liquid wax finishing system called Rubio Monocoat to finish all the interior linings and furniture.

“What is wonderful about Spicers is their culture to deliver a unique, site-specific, experience in a more sustainable way… Similarly Polyform has been on the front foot pushing the boundaries for fit and finish, and keen to support social enterprise, from the outset. Very refreshing,” explains project architect, Luke Rowlinson: “In many ways the co-design of the buildings has created an outcome beyond the norm.”

The development of the Scenic Rim 5-day trail is a progressive project that employs forward thinking across the board, from all parties involved and in every sense and timeframe. The way the project has been significantly shaped by its sustainable initiatives, and its triple bottom line approach, is not something that guests will realise immediately upon booking their 5 or 7-day walks. 

Though it’s something that Spicers is proud of, and will be excited to share with guests during their experience! It is hoped that guests will leave the walk uplifted and inspired with this knowledge, perhaps becoming stronger advocates of a more sustainable, circular economy in their day-to-day lives.