In the scale of a large urban development, the implementation of a water fountain may seem trivial, but it can have a surprisingly significant role in improving sustainability and community outcomes.

Public water fountains have fallen out of use in recent decades, with the rise of bottled water. However, with the renewed focus on sustainability and an increasingly urgent need to reduce plastic waste, many councils and developers are looking at innovative ways to encourage the use of tap water.

Supporting this move away from single use products, SMEC has recently collaborated with the O initiative, a social enterprise, to bring back the popularity of water fountains in Australia.

O fountain installed at Newgate in Victoria, painted by artist Donna Racovalis, representing the native Growling Grass Frog.

The O fountain, developed by the O initiative, combines community art with the functionality of a public water refilling station.

The organisation provides a beautiful “blank canvas” water fountain, which gives local councils and developers the opportunity to engage with community artists to bring the fountains to life and add to a sense of place within newly built neighbourhoods.

“The O fountain incorporates interaction, attraction, and practical functionality, and at the same time promotes awareness of sustainable practices to benefit the environment,”

– Gretha Oost, Founder of the O initiative and designer of the O fountain.

SMEC has introduced the O fountain on two recent projects. One was installed at Cobblebank Station, part of the Ballarat Line Upgrade in Victoria.

Beautifully painted by the local indigenous artist Fiona Clarke of the Kulin Nation, the O fountain has not only increasing the appeal of Cobblebank Station, but also contributed toward the station’s Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) Green Star and Infrastructure Sustainability Council (ISCA) Sustainability Ratings.

Additionally, SMEC incorporated several O fountains into the urban design at Newgate, a new community built by Central Equity in Victoria, with support from Wyndham City Council and Wonderment Walk Victoria.

Artist Jessica Jane painted this O fountain, installed at the playground at Newgate, Victoria.

Through Wonderment Walk Victoria, Central Equity liaised with the O initiative to develop a proposal that outlined maintenance costs and technical specifications for Wyndham City.

Wonderment Walk also supported the project by providing the local artists to transform the fountains –  DMR, Elizabeth Dalton Hooker and Jessica Jane – and Haymes Paint provided the materials.

“The O fountains at Newgate contribute positively to placemaking and to the local community’s experiences of their local parks,” said Josh Dennis, Associate Landscape Architect at SMEC.

The O fountains are apt symbols of design thinking, with an emphasis on sustainability and conserving the environment.

“The local artwork contributes a sense of lightness and joy and the iconic fountain form lends itself to a gathering or meeting place,” said Mr Dennis.

Wyndham City was both receptive to and supportive of the development of a fresh and unique amenity that doubled as a “talking point” for the community.

“Central Equity values innovative projects and inclusive places that support healthy, sustainable lifestyles,” said Eddie Kutner, Founding Director and Executive Chairman of Central Equity Group.

O fountain installed at Newgate in Victoria, painted by artist Elizabeth Dalton Hooker.

“The O initiative aligns with all of these values and we are proud to include four water fountains in our Newgate development.

“The fountains provide the local community with points of interest, encouraging behaviour change by supporting park users to refill their own water bottles,” said Mr Kutner.

The O initiative partners with property developers, consultants, urban designers, landscape architects and placemakers to enhance public space and community wellbeing through the O fountain.

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