PROFESSOR IAN O’CONNOR
Vice Chancellor, Griffith University
The Sir Samuel Griffith Centre is a $40 million world class building and Australia’s first off-grid, self-powered teaching and research facility. Awarded a 6 Star Green Star – Education Design v1 rating, the building is a model for smart energy buildings, incorporating photovoltaics and hydrogen technology that is reliable and produces zero carbon emissions. The building is also a physical expression of Griffith University’s commitment to providing world class facilities and leadership in sustainable building practices.
“The Sir Samuel Griffith Centre gives an absolute physical expression to this university’s ongoing commitment to sustainability. It is a showcase of genuine sustainable energy alternatives for Australia and the international community.”
Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian O’Connor, Griffith University
The Sir Samuel Griffith Centre is designed to operate independently of the electricity grid. The building is fitted with over 1,000 solar photovoltaic panels, covering the roof and window shades. On sunny days this generates more than enough electricity to power the whole building. Energy not used during the day is either stored for later use, or used to chill water for running the air conditioning system the next day.
This means that even on cloudy days, the building will never have to draw from the main power grid. Solar energy produced by the photovoltaic system is stored in batteries and powers an electrolyser that splits water to make hydrogen. The hydrogen is then stored in a stable form as metal hydrides. When there’s no sun the hydrogen can be brought back from storage, and used to generate electricity in a fuel cell.
"The Sir Samuel Griffith Centre establishes a new paradigm for supplying electricity reliably where there is no grid, such as townships, telecommunications installations and industries across outback Australia."
Professor Evan Gray, Griffith University
The Sir Samuel Griffith Centre is designed to generate zero carbon emissions in operation. A hydrogen system provides a fail-safe energy backup to the photovoltaic array, which means that even on cloudy days, the building will never have to draw from the main power grid.
Solar energy produced by the photovoltaic system is diverted through an electrolyser to split water to make hydrogen. The hydrogen is then stored in a stable form as metal hydrides. When there’s no sun the hydrogen can be brought back from storage, and used to generate electricity.
The process is a sustainable closed-loop system as the water isn’t consumed, it’s just temporarily used to make hydrogen and then recovered.
"This pioneering building generates its own electricity. In a remote situation this technology not only has a zero-carbon footprint in operation, it saves the high cost and emissions linked to transporting fuel for diesel-electric generators."
Professor Evan Gray, Griffith University
The indoor environment quality (IEQ) is an important part of any education building, helping to enhance the learning experience of students and teachers. Within the Sir Samuel Griffith Centre personal temperature and air flow preferences can be adjusted through individual outlets at each desk or workstation. This allows the ambient building temperature to be higher and reduces demand on the main air-conditioning system.
The need for artificial lighting is also reduced through large windows, few internal walls, and glass partitions. An open-plan, shared office space provides the opportunity for collaboration between the environmental scientists, engineers, psychologists, urban planners, health and legal and business experts who work in the building.
“Effective use of daylight in buildings has been shown to reduce building energy consumption, improve the occupants’ sense of well-being and increase occupant productivity. In recognition of this, daylight has been a key design objective for the Sir Samuel Griffith Centre.”
Paul Henwood, Senior Project Manager, Watpac Constructions Pty Ltd