Saint Jerome once said, “Good, better, best; never let it rest, 'til your good is better and your better is best.” Aurecon recently took this truth to heart when designing the new Corporate Headquarters for client Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in the city of Geelong in Victoria, Australia.
Comprised of seven levels of office tenancy and boasting approximately 14 000 m2 of net lettable area, this retrofitted building stands as an Australian best practice tribute to sustainable design. The integrated design and construction process earned the TAC a 5 Star Green Star Design rating (Australian Excellence) and a 5.5 Star NABERS Base Building Energy Rating.
In most cases, the ‘success story’ would have ended there. But Aurecon believed there was greater potential for sustainable design waiting to be unleashed. We visualised the opportunity to keep reducing the energy consumption with continuous building tuning. Energy audits were taken, and a portfolio-wide project was proposed to evaluate many web-based monitoring platforms that track and measure energy performance. The client was sold on the idea, and the tenants and asset managers joined the excitement. Suddenly, true collaboration was set into motion.
Processes were rigorously monitored, and adjustments were continually made to optimise performance of the building. As a result of the collective engagement of all stakeholders, the building today has reduced its carbon footprint by 50 per cent, achieving more than 350 megawatt hours of savings on electricity consumption and 400 tons of carbon dioxide a year (the equivalent of 115 500 homes’ usage in a one-hour period and almost 28 kilograms of carbon dioxide per square metre). It has also been a model of what we can achieve when true collaboration and innovative design find their groove and flow unhindered.
To launch the ‘100 initiative strategy’, the Aurecon team treated the building as a mini eco-system in order to understand how its integral systems interdependently shape the user’s experience and energy consumption.
By observing the knock-on effects of each integrated element, we concluded that a truly sustainable approach could be achieved through the culmination of many small and subtle changes. In other words, rather than making one big change to one element, make 100 elements 1 per cent better. The key was to understand occupants’ comfort and to make small adaptations to their environments’ conditions without compromise. The project relied on an ‘energy efficiency logbook’, which tracked and refined close to 100 initiatives. Together these small adjustments built a new picture and user experience of the building.
The initiatives were the result of a collaboration between Aurecon, the facility manager, the asset manager, the building’s owners, and its tenants. ‘Energy efficiency’ was not necessarily on the agenda of the facility manager or tenants’ representatives. But because of a new environment that fostered inclusion and problem-solving, everyone in the team was encouraged to ‘tinker’ with the building and add their ideas.
Thanks to unique collaboration, new doors of possibility could swing wide open to the design and engineer team. One of those opportunities was in temperature setting.
Temperatures were assigned to a default activation setting, congruent with an area’s functionality and purpose. These comfortably tolerable adjustments together made a significant difference. Temperature bands in office spaces and lobbies’ were widened, having a summer and winter set-up. Additionally, the lift motor room, a generally uninhabited area, could afford to rise from 22 to 30 degrees Celsius. The overall result exceeded expectation, with no additional complaints and an increase in energy savings associated with the mechanical plant.
Previously, tenants would be nervous about such changes and automatically file complaints. But now, in partnership with the facility manager and tenants, we were able to arrive at a ‘sweet spot’ that satisfied their needs for comfortability, whilst reaching new benchmarks in energy efficient design.
An integrated Building Management System control strategy was applied to analyse and adjust changes to the heating and cooling systems of the building. The smart system activated changes to the chilled water, condenser water and heating water systems to enable better control of energy use and temperature.
The team also found a way to increase energy efficiency, by capitalising upon Geelong’s generally cold temperatures outside. An outdoor economic cycle system was installed to draw the cool air from outside, once temperatures drop beneath 20 degrees Celsius.
Other sustainable initiatives, such as installing rooftop photovoltaics and LED lighting, were part of this comprehensive building upgrade. All of these small achievements were born out of a robust analysis of hypothetical benchmarking that considered the temperature and humidity effects on building performance. As the hypothetical base case was compared against the actual energy portfolio, anomalies were sent on to the facility manager or controls contractor for review and recommendation.
Today, we have realised that this ‘100 initiative strategy’ is changing the way that many practitioners are approaching building design. More than simply ticking the sustainability ‘checklist’, practitioners are proudly including stakeholder perception and expertise in the design and implementation process to make them truly intelligent. The project flips the age-old convention of ‘engineering in isolation’ on its head to ‘marrying the wishes of consumers’ with the building. Instead of digging into one deep wallet, several investors can work together, spending less for bigger wins.