landscape architecture

Why sustainability is needed in schools

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

By Phil Jackson

With greater demands to decrease costs, and a desire to minimise environmental impact, improve efficiency and increase student learning and performance, schools are starting to recognise the need to become more sustainable.

But with many principals, boards and P&F committees balancing multiple needs, there is often a focus on short-term costs and savings, which can create more resistance around the long-term move towards greater sustainability.

To help you shift your perspective, I’ll explore three reasons why sustainability is needed in schools and how it can give your school and students a greater competitive edge.

1. Improve performance with greater comfort and air quality

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

While many schools install air-conditioning for the comfort of students and teachers, what most staff members and P&F committees are unaware of is that the quality of air can be dramatically affected. In air-conditioned environments more Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is present in the air, affecting the cognitive ability and learning capability of students in the classroom.

It’s a conundrum, isn’t it? We put students into classrooms and exam rooms that are air-conditioned for their comfort only to create the worst possible air quality for them to perform and compete against other schools in.

The good news is that through sustainable initiatives both the comfort and air quality of classrooms can be improved. While there are times when air-conditioning must be used, there are times when air-conditioning could be minimised through the use of a more effective passive ventilation design (like using louvres) that will allow greater fresh air and breezes through the classroom.

Do measures like this make an impact, you might ask? A study done by the United States Environmental Protection Agency that examined the costs and benefits of green schools for Washington State estimated a 15% reduction in absenteeism and a 5% increase in test scores.

2. Minimise costs and reduce inefficiency

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

With air-conditioning seen as a necessity, little thought or planning can go into the ongoing cost and maintenance of systems. Energy bills can skyrocket, particularly when there is little education or incentive around minimising air-conditioning use in classrooms.

By linking both passive ventilation methods and air-conditioning to both a smart (automatically switches between passive ventilation, assisted ventilation, or air-conditioning based on settings) and manually controlled system, staff and students can become more conscious of their decision to use air-conditioning within the classroom. The installation of a CO2 monitor (Australian Geographic has a weather system that measures CO2 levels) can also be a valuable teaching tool to show the air quality of each classroom when the air-conditioning is on.

Schools can further encourage more sustainable thinking through the use of incentives, offering a reward to the class who uses air-conditioning the least throughout the term.

A holistic site approach that considers the use of shading, solar power, and LED lighting can also further reduce costs.

3. Boost student engagement with different teaching environments

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

Photography by Scott Burrows

While children thrive in routine, even their performance can be impacted by working in the same environment all of the time. By creating outdoor classroom environments, teachers and students can venture outside when the weather allows for different learning opportunities.

This not only boosts student engagement, but it also minimises costs of lighting and air-conditioning while providing greater connection to the landscape and better working conditions.

One example of the outdoor classroom idea is the Kimberley College Flexible Learning Area we designed.

Combining adaptable indoor learning spaces with flexible outdoor spaces that are large enough for full class groups, students are given many varied opportunities for interaction, performance, collaboration and connection to nature. The feedback from these outdoor classrooms and others like it have been overwhelmingly positive, with teachers and students both saying they are a pleasure to work in.

Schools that are making sustainability part of their governance are not only reaping the benefits of minimised costs and greater student engagement and performance; they are also addressing one of our greatest social challenges by empowering the next generation to be more environmentally minded.

About the Author

Phil Jackson is a Director of Guymer Bailey Architects and has a passion for sustainable design outcomes and the integration of architecture and landscape. From conception through to construction he ensures the delivery of outstanding projects and satisfied clients through open communication and enthusiasm for every project.

The importance of nature play in childcare

By Rob Waddell

There are many health benefits connected to nature play from cognitive, social and emotional development, to the building of resilience and creativity. But nature play is still not incorporated as much as it should be in childcare playground design.

If you’re yet to incorporate nature play in your childcare centre or kindy play area, here are five reasons why you should reconsider your approach.

1. Unscripted play increases imagination

Bellbowrie Kindy - 1.jpg

Children from a young age can experience a lot of structure to their lives, and while an element of structure and routine is needed for their happiness and wellbeing, too much structure, particularly around play, can stifle creativity.

Without being given prompts or recognisable play equipment, children are able to activate their imaginations, create stories, and be more likely to explore their environment.

At Guymer Bailey Landscape we believe in increasing the opportunities for children to enjoy more unstructured play outdoors and in nature, and were recently given the opportunity to bring this philosophy to life through the design of the new nature play space at Bellbowrie Kindy.

“In a world where children are constantly being told what to do, here was an opportunity to provide an unscripted play space that would foster imagination, creative thinking, and investigation.”
— Pam Niven, Kindergarten Teacher and Coordinator at Bellbowrie Kindy

Our team, in partnership with kindergarten teacher and coordinator, Pam Niven, and in consultation with parents and children at the Bellbowrie Kindy, created a space that consists of a number of features to encourage hours of unscripted play. These include:

Bellbowrie Kindy - 9.jpg
  • A natural watercourse fuelled by a water pump to allow kids to control the flow of water down the creek

  • Mudpits and digging mounds

  • Barefoot garden paths around a forest of natural totem poles

  • Log bridges, balance beams and stepping stones,

  • Scented and flowering native plants

  • Pottery garden

  • Yarning circle centred on a fire pit to introduce to children the indigenous concept of storytelling in an organic way

2. Getting dirty leads to happy exploration

Children need to be active and have the opportunity to run around and be happy playing outside. Worrying about stains and getting dirty only limits their play and can lead to guilt around activities that they find are fun and exciting.

Children who are given the time and opportunity to get dirty and explore, discover their world, and how things work. This exploration boosts their social, physical and creative skills, which can be well worth the extra washing.

3. Challenges teach resilience and risk management

“Children need the opportunity to develop their resilience through challenges”
— Pam Niven, Kindergarten Teacher and Coordinator at Bellbowrie Kindy
Bellbowrie Kindy - 6.jpg

The single-minded focus on injury prevention through risk elimination that the playground industry has had in recent decades, has been found to be detrimental to children by ignoring their need to learn how to manage risk themselves.

Changes to the Australian Standards last year reflected this shifting emphasis and recognised that the downsides of risks should be balanced against the very real benefits of incorporating meaningful graduated challenges for children to explore and test their capacities and limitations.

The Bellbowrie Kindy nature play space embraces this realisation, in the hope that even at the kindergarten age, we can set a course for stronger, better-equipped and more resilient future citizens.

4. Enlivening sensory experiences

Bellbowrie Kindy - 8.jpg

Nature play is a great way to engage all seven senses being sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, vestibular (sense of balance) and proprioception (sense of body awareness in space). This is incredibly important when you consider sensory play has been proven to support fine and gross motor skills, cognitive growth, problem-solving skills and language and social development.

The design of the Bellbowrie Kindy nature play space has created an environment that enhances and enlivens the children’s sensory experience and importantly, at the same time, provides inclusion and engagement for those experiencing sensory impairment or disability.

5. Creating environmental awareness

Bellbowrie Kindy - 7.jpg
“We want to develop a love of nature that will help carry them through the rest of their lives”
— Pam Niven, Kindergarten Teacher and Coordinator at Bellbowrie Kindy

Perhaps one of the most underrated benefits of nature play is that it can also develop an environmental awareness and appreciation, which can create a concept of stewardship later in life. A legacy worth leaving our children.

Could your kindy or childcare centre benefit from more nature play? Talk to our specialist playground designers today on 07 3870 9700 (Brisbane) or 03 8547 5000 (Melbourne).

About the Author

Rob Waddell is the Principal Landscape Architect at Guymer Bailey Architects. With extensive experience in designing landscape architecture for the community and education sectors, Rob has a proven track record of designing award-winning outdoor areas that capture the hearts and imaginations of children and enrich the experiences of the local community. With a keen interest in exploring the relationship between natural and built environments, Rob develops high-quality design outcomes that prioritise placemaking and people-centred design and work in harmony with the natural environment.

South Coast Correctional Centre Expansion Open and Ready for Inmates

The new 200-bed minimum-security wing at the South Coast Correctional Centre (SCCC), designed by Guymer Bailey Architects, has been opened by the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Justice and inmates have started to be transferred.

The minimum-security wing expansion which has been designed to feel more like a campus than a correctional centre, includes accommodation for inmates, health facilities, staff amenities, a programs building and an industry building.

The new facility is part of the NSW Government’s $3.8 billion infrastructure program to help reduce recidivism rates among offenders through upgraded educational and work programs. With more than 80% of inmates at SCCC enrolled in a trade or other upskilling program, these new facilities will significantly assist with the rehabilitation of offenders.

Allan Pearson, the Senior Architect on the project, said, “The South Coast Correctional Centre expansion has been two and a half years in the making, so it is a great achievement to see the new minimum-security wing open.” 

The stand-alone facility is part of a broader expansion that also includes a 160-bed maximum-security wing that is expected to open at the site next year.


Congratulations to the girls from Guymer Bailey Brisbane who took on the River to Rooftop challenge on Friday. 

Team Guymer Bailey after conquering the 1040 step climb

River to Rooftop is a great opportunity to have fun and get fit whilst raising awareness and to help make a difference for women and kids experiencing domestic violence. Women's Legal Service helps mothers and their kids to secure safer futures. They provide free services providing practical legal tools to help women living with domestic violence and each year aid more than 11,000 women and with them, over 17,000 children.  

In one week the team raised just under $800 - and there is still time to donate. Simply click on the button below to be taken to the Guymer Bailey fundraising page. 



We are looking back on our original concept for the redevelopment of the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Discovery Centre. 


Guymer Bailey's Principal Landscape Architect, Rob Waddell will be presenting at the AILA QLD awards showcase this Thursday!

Hear from Rob Waddell, Guymer Bailey Landscape on the details of the project: Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve at the upcoming Awards Showcase on Thursday 3 August in Brisbane. Register online at 

The jury comments: the project represents a a highly successful collaboration between landscape architect and architect, where the outcome is a seamlessly integrated nature tourism facility. The Landscape Architect’s engagement with traditional owners shows respect to cultural and environmental values of the site. The landscape design greatly enhances the visitor experience to the site, unifying the building with the surrounding rainforest and is a worthy recipient of a Landscape Award.

The Awards Showcase will be held over breakfast and feature 3 award winners speaking on their projects.


Last night, our Principal Landscape Architect, Rob Waddell, accepted the AILA Qld Tourism 2017 Award for the landscape design of the Mary Cairncross Scenic Discovery Centre at Maleny on behalf of the team! Well done to all who were involved! 

AILA Jury citation:

"Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve represents a highly successful collaboration between landscape architect and architect, where the outcome is a seamlessly integrated nature tourism facility. The Landscape Architect’s engagement with traditional owners shows respect to cultural and environmental values of the site. The landscape design greatly enhances the visitor experience to the site, unifying the building with the surrounding rainforest and is a worthy recipient of a Landscape Award".


The new Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) elevates tourism and education in the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands. It nestles on the edge of the Reserve’s subtropical rainforest and overlooks exceptional Glasshouse Mountain views. The RDC includes a new café and discovery centre where visitors to can learn about the Reserve’s remnant rainforest in its living museum of diverse flora and fauna, even various endangered species.

The RDC’s integrated design captures the natural rainforest setting and the Glasshouse Mountains view-shed by intimately and visually displaying them. Visitors thus experience such environmental, cultural and scenic dimensions. The landscape design essentially connects the user to these dimensions, by blurring the line between inside and outside and reinforcing the Reserve’s character. The landscape experience is two-fold:

Glasshouse Mountains

•   The rainforest boardwalk reaches the rooftop viewing terrace, its large seating platform, and its vine-covered arbor forms inspired by the Glasshouse Mountain landscape.

•   The raised outdoor dining space of the new café offers an ideal vantage point to enjoy the uniqueness of the Glasshouse Mountains.


•   The landscape ‘situates’ the building in the rainforest. Basalt stone walls reach out from the building like buttresses to promote rainforest views.

•   The building’s influence on the natural environment is softened with screening and vegetation.

•   The rainforest boardwalk, courtyard spaces and meandering pathways allow visitors to ‘experience’ the Rainforest without having to access the walking tracks, particularly those with limited time or different ability.

  • Landscape spaces mimic the micro-environs of the Reserve to extend the habitat of the Reserve’s fauna.
  • The RDC’s landscape opens the Reserve’s walking tracks so visitors may ‘converse’ with the Rainforest.
  • The landscape design supports the interpretive function of the RDC, with signage and natural displays.


The landscape design is intentionally adaptable which allowed modifications to cater for unforeseen natural obstructions that arose during construction (e.g., buttress tree roots or large woody vines). The layout thus incorporated easily manipulated natural patterns and organic forms. Such modifications also ensured significant vegetation was protected without compromising the overall landscape design intent.

This approach was also applied successfully to the rainforest boardwalk design including its landings supported by single columns. This boardwalk was re-routed on-site to avoid the structural root-zones of existing trees. The column footings were also vacuum-excavated to prevent damage to trees roots.

Designing the project meant thorough community consultation so that the views of the local community, previous management committees, and the Jinabara were fully considered. Design partners included a local architect, placemaking consultants, the indigenous community, and the client Council. Landscape, architecture and interpretation cohesively achieved a holistic design. This collaboration motivated the success of the project’s outcomes.

The RDC edifies visitors on the rainforest to ensure the natural assets are appreciated and respected. The landscape design also provides an undercover outdoor seating terrace where the Reserve’s volunteers can educate students and tourists. The landscape design equitably accommodates all demographics and abilities. The Centre fully complies with access requirements ensuring all visitors can experience both the Rainforest and mountain views.

The landscape design minimises adverse environmental impacts, promotes conservation, and enhances nature-based tourism by implementing the following sustainable outcomes:

•  Using only endemic plant species; many were grown from seed collected within the Reserve.

•   Providing habitat by reflecting the Reserve’s natural environs. The design incorporates important habitat plant species, such as the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine, haven for the endangered butterfly.

•   No imported topsoil or mulch was used (i.e., no weeds and pathogens will follow).

•   Materials were sourced locally (e.g., concrete aggregate, stonework, timber) and/or site-salvaged (i.e., boulders and weathered logs). Timbers from existing building were repurposed as structural columns and screens.

•   The design team consulted the project arborist so that the existing cleared land footprint endured and existing vegetation altered minimally.

•   More than 200 reptiles and wildlife were relocated prior to construction. The existing man-made pond was retained because its critical habitat for the endangered ‘tusked frog’.

•   The stormwater-drainage design simulates natural systems to improve the site’s natural hydrology. Sustainable water management involved storage, bio-filtration and natural swales to direct flows.


Nature-based tourism is key to Queensland’s $23 billion tourism industry; the RDC’s redevelopment will greatly influence Sunshine Coast’s nature-based tourism by showcasing the Reserve’s natural beauty while preserving it for future generations.

The new facility is predicted to increase the Reserve’s 200,000 annual visitation. This will benefit Maleny’s local economy and tourism providers. The site-planning and landscape design emphasises the relationship between the cafe and the interpretive space. Revenues derived from such cross-patronage from donations, lease fees, and merchandise/educational product sales promises reinvestment to the Reserve.

The building of the RDC created 261 jobs during construction; 92% for locally-based, Sunshine Coast employees.

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Discovery Centre Officially Opens

After more than 3 years of collaboration, consultation, design, documentation and construction, the new Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Discovery Centre has officially opened! Guymer Bailey Architects and Guymer Bailey Landscape worked in collaboration with local Maleny designer Norman Richards; interpretative consultant, Focus Productions & Hutchinson Builders to create this wonderful tourism attraction and educational resource for Maleny and the Sunshine Coast. 

Eumundi Markets Terraces Upgrade - Construction Commences

Guymer Bailey Landscape is excited to see construction under way to upgrade the popular Eumundi Market Terraces. The project will enhance the aesthetics and function of this important community space, while safeguarding the site's significant vegetation, including the large heritage Fig trees. Watch this space!