GORDON BRADBERY OAM
Wollongong City Council’s Administration Building is positive proof that older buildings can be green buildings. First occupied in 1987, the building is the first in Australia to achieve a 5 Star Green Star – Performance rating, signifying ‘Australian Excellence’.
The rating provides the people of Wollongong with independent verification that their building stacks up against some of the newest green icons around the country – and that they have an efficient, productive and healthy community asset.
Local governments have a unique role to play in influencing building decisions made in their communities. Leading councils recognise they have a responsibility to invest in assets that meet the needs of their communities not just today, but for decades to come, and they are turning to the Green Star rating system to help them.
“We’ve demonstrated to the local industry and to the community that you can gain a 5 Star Green Star rating with an ageing building if you use the right methods and programs,” says Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery.
“We have shown that this pathway to sustainability could be used by other local governments or government agencies. We have also shown that we can gain a rating comparable to brand spanking new buildings that are purpose-designed to achieve 5 or 6 Star Green Star ratings.”
Council is now developing a Sustainable Building Strategy which will guide how it improves the operational sustainability of existing buildings, in addition to how new buildings will be designed, constructed and operated. The experience gained in retrofitting the Administration Building, along with improving its management practices, will greatly assist Council in developing the strategy.
“We have set a high benchmark – one that is independently verified – and we are proud to be leading Australia with respect to the sustainable operation of buildings,” Cr Bradbery says.
While Council had implemented programs to improve the operational efficiency and sustainability of its highest-consuming assets, the diversity of the asset portfolio, the varied occupancy and associated operational requirements made benchmarking a challenge.
Dr Carl Hopley, a member of Wollongong City Council’s building and facility management team that specialises in building sustainability upgrades, says that Council was “unable to access any tools with the flexibility to address the unique operational characteristics of our buildings. This meant we had to benchmark assets against themselves with a view to achieving continued improvement.
“But the question was always the same: how do our buildings perform against others? Green Star – Performance has helped us answer this. We are now able to validate the success of the implemented efficiency measures, and also gauge the benefits from the management procedures and practices followed in the building.
“It was great to see that our leadership with regards to cleaning practices and the requirement for cleaners to hold green cleaning qualifications was recognised, with the GBCA awarding an Innovation point,” Carl adds.
Over the past decade, building manager David Peterson has implemented a range of energy and water upgrades, including the installation of custom-made rainwater harvesting tanks with a capacity of 70 kilolitres, sensor-controlled dual flush toilets, low water consumption urinals and low flow taps for office amenities.
Sensor taps have been installed in public areas, fire test water capture and reuse has been implemented, along with extensive sub-metering and power factor correction. The team has also integrated a heat pump hot water system, a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, heat reflective blinds and lighting upgrades. Energy and water analysis completed while undertaking the Green Star – Performance process indicates that these initiatives have reduced energy consumption by 54.6% and water consumption by 85%.
In addition to the physical upgrades, David and Carl have implemented a range of management practices – from the HVAC maintenance procedures through to the requirement that cleaning staff have qualifications in green cleaning.
Before undertaking the Green Star – Performance rating, Council believed “we had implemented all of the cost-effective energy-saving opportunities, with other options, such as double glazing retrofits and voltage optimisation, looking costly and with little payback,” Carl says.
But a lighting review undertaken found that the lighting distribution was inconsistent across the building and floor plates.
“There are sections of the building which are completely over-lit – and we’re now undertaking a full lighting redesign and refit. We are exploring options such as the inclusion of smart lighting systems which will adjust light outputs to meet the required level. This review and subsequent upgrade presents a new opportunity with good financial and environmental returns,” Carl explains.
Participation in the Green Star – Performance PILOT also assisted the building manager and the building monitoring and control system (BMCS) supplier to identify additional energy efficiency opportunities. Carl notes “that the additional BMCS capabilities have the potential to reduce electricity consumption by a further 10-12 per cent according to estimates provided by Schneider Electric.”
“We think these two actions are the last big energy saving opportunities we can make on the Administration Building – and we discovered these opportunities through using the Green Star – Performance rating tool.
It’s now all about squeezing the last bit of viable juice from the lemon. To this extent, we remain committed to the ongoing tuning of the building and looking for more opportunities to reduce the building’s consumption as new technologies come online,” Carl concludes.
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