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Building our hopes and dreams: Australia's building industry now has a superb green model to emulate--and there's no reason why it can't.

"I love the whole building--it's clean and easy to breathe in. I feel more awake and not so tired after work."

--ACF employee on the 60L Green Building.

This endorsement of ACF's new office headquarters, located on the first floor of the new 60L Green Building, says a lot. It's an ideal workplace; one you enjoy coming to; it's better for your health and productivity; it leaves you invigorated at the end of the day; and it helps you change and embrace a more sustainable lifestyle! Is everyone so fortunate? It's certainly what we all should have and this is ACF's vision for Australia's future.

The Dream

About six years ago, ACF's then president Professor David Yencken recognised that ACF should walk the talk on sustainability by refurbishing 340 Gore St, Fitzroy, ACF's headquarters since 1989.

After much investigation the idea, while ever more exciting, began also to look problematic. Mark Wootton, an investor committed to creating leading-edge environmental sustainability and change, proposed a joint development project in Carlton but, while ACF was keen for it to happen, it was not in a position to be taking on the role of a property developer.

Finally, a deal was struck with Mr Wootton and ACF agreed to be the first tenant in this pioneering development. Through a team led by Councillor Peter Brotherton and assisted by Green Building Officer Alistair Mailer, ACF provided environmental expertise to the project. Mr Wootton formed the Green Building Partnership with two ethical investment companies, Surrowee Pty Ltd and Green Projects Pty Ltd, and a site was chosen. The dream was to become a reality.

Located at 60 Leicester Street in Carlton, on the edge of Melbourne's CBD, 60L Green Building stands as a four-storey, 4500 square metre, multi-tenanted, commercial office building that far exceeds initial hopes and expectations in pointing the way forward to Australia's sustainable future. Part new and part refurbished, the building is owned and managed by the Green Building Partnership.

What Makes 60L So Special?

It is sad that 60L is so extraordinary in Australia for it tangibly shows how unsustainable Australia's buildings are. However, its birth and construction are a cause for celebration--at least now Australia has a model for change.

To enter this building and work within it is a delight. Daylight and fresh air permeate all floors. 60L marries the old with the new; the front western half is a refurbished 1870s warehouse, the new eastern end is made of reused, recycled and some new materials.

The building's environmental performance is also extraordinary. Where other new buildings are only now striving for energy efficiency, 60L is unique in Australia in combining them all: energy, materials and water efficiency.

The building is designed to dramatically reduce mains water use by 90 per cent and energy use by two-thirds. It is designed to enhance worker productivity and comfort. And importantly for the developer, the building cost is on par with a conventional building. For the occupier, its running costs are less.

In reality, though, 60L is quite an ordinary building. It uses ordinary materials and clever design to achieve extraordinary results. This building demonstrates that anybody can do it, and pay no more than building a similar, conventional building.

It is also a beautiful, functional building with exquisite recycled timbers, plentiful natural light and air, and a rooftop garden. 60L clearly shows that being green does not mean hairshirt deprivation--it means more comfort than you would otherwise get, better air, light, space and a healthy working environment.

ACF's Building Green Campaign

As ACF President Peter Garrett stated at the formal opening of 60L, ACF will showcase 60L as a leading example in its new Building Green Campaign to ensure that governments and the building industry take further what 60L has begun.

ACF has characterised the Australian economy as particularly unsustainable in our environment and on international comparisons it is `hot, heavy and wet'. `Hot' because we use much energy to create wealth. `Wet' in that we use much water and `heavy' in that we produce much waste, including toxic materials. ACF calls for the opposite: a `cool, light and dry' economy and society that fits with the realities of Australia's climate, resources and environment.

60L embodies this principle. Everything about the design of the building is built around reduction of energy and water use, and minimising waste and toxic exposure.

Building Materials

The materials used for the construction and fit-out of 60L have been chosen for their minimal impact.

* Bricks, steel and timber have been reused from the original building.

* The concrete has a 60 per cent recycled aggregate content.

* Recycled timber has been used for windows, doors and walkways.

* The timber is approximately 80 per cent recycled, with the remaining 20 per cent from plantations.

* No new bricks were used, many were from the old building, and all were cleaned without acid.

* Recycled steel has been used for concrete reinforcing.

* Low-energy galvanised steel has been used in preference to high-energy stainless steel.

* PVC use has been halved and wherever possible low toxicity materials have been used.

* The carpets are made with a significant recycled content and low-toxicity materials.

The project is also bringing about behavioural changes in the broader industry. For example, the building industry was dubious about using concrete with a 60 per cent recycled component but thanks to 60L it is becoming standard in many projects. This is a worthwhile outcome in terms of energy and waste saved, and a more sustainable industry.

Energy Performance

Commercial buildings are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Australia. Since 1990, pollution from the commercial building sector has increased by a massive 50 per cent. This exceeds pollution from transport.

On the other hand, 60L is expected to reduce energy use, and therefore pollution, by two-thirds compared to a conventional building of this size. This building does not use high energy lighting or air conditioning and heating as does a conventional building.

Its efficiencies are achieved through a variety of sensible, cost-effective means.

* The atrium, light wells and light shelves have been placed to maximise natural light permeating the building core with consequent energy savings.

* High efficiency fluorescent lights are used when daylight is not sufficient.

* The building utilises thermal mass and purges trapped summer heat at night.

* Double-glazing, laminated and low emissivity glass are used.

* It has tenant-controllable as well as centrally-controlled natural ventilation. Some of the most prominent features of the building are the thermal chimneys that draw up air from the floors below. The building's computerised building management system automatically uses data from 60L's own rooftop weather station to monitor temperature conditions and open and close the louvres on the chimneys and the external louvres on each floor.

Simply because of these features, 60L is expected to use 80 per cent less energy on lighting and 60 per cent less energy on equipment, ventilation, heating and cooling than a similar conventional building.

Add in the photovoltaic panels from Origin Energy on the roof and the 100 per cent `new' green power, and the building is close to 100 per cent greenhouse emission free. Even the embodied energy in the materials--chosen for low energy--has been offset by the Green Building Partnership through tree planting in western Victoria!

Australians produce more greenhouse emissions per person than any other developed country. But if every new building were built like this not only would Australia romp in the Kyoto target, we would be well on the way to meeting the global climate stabilisation target of reducing emissions by 60-70 per cent!

Water Performance

Sadly, Australia holds a dubious record on water use too. Despite being the driest inhabited continent we use more water per person than on any other continent. Our water use is becoming more acute as much of Australia continues into a long drought--conditions that CSIRO and meteorologists say will become more common due to human-induced climate change.

But 60L brings good news. It is expected to use less than 10 per cent of the mains water than a similar-sized, conventional building in an average rainfall year. These results are achieved by water-efficient appliances and fittings, collection of rainwater, and reuse of treated waste water and sewage.

Towards the eastern end of the building on the ground floor are two 10,000 litre tanks that will collect about 500,000 litres of water off the roof in an average rainfall year. This water is micro-filtered and UV sterilised for use in the drinking taps and water-efficient showers throughout the building.

All of 60L's waste water and sewage (including small-scale kitchen food waste) passes into an in-house biological sewage treatment plant. The water reclaimed from this is used for toilet flushing and irrigating the rooftop and internal gardens.

Any excess reclaimed water will be discharged into the municipal sewage system after flowing through a botanical water feature on the ground floor. The residual solid sewage compost is expected to be utilised on the tree planting in western Victoria being used to offset the building's environmental footprint.

Another feature of water efficiency is the use of waterless urinals that are also odourless thanks to an oil seal cartridge system.

ACF maintains in all its campaigns that the first priority is to reduce waste and make our production and consumption more efficient. Our economy is far too wet. Eminent scientists remind us that we cannot drought-proof Australia by expanding irrigation, but we can greatly cut water demand. In cities, 60L is testimony to that.

Comfort and Productivity

Overseas studies have shown that one of the greatest advantages of green buildings comes not only from the reduced direct environmental impact but also from the healthy internal working environment enhancing worker productivity. Although the reduced water and energy costs are very real, the savings through productivity gains may be just as great. Studies indicate productivity may be enhanced by up to 15 per cent through the comfort of natural lighting and ventilation, and the avoidance

of sick building syndrome.

This building has no centralised air-conditioning system that poses a potential source of disease. It uses air drawn passively from outside, supplemented by stand-alone, domestic-size heating/cooling units when required. Likewise, 60L has minimised the use of materials that release volatile toxic organic chemicals in the construction and fit-out by selecting healthy products. When ACF moved into its new headquarters, many staff commented that there was no `new building smell'.

The Green Building Partnership has let more than 75 per cent of the building without having to use an estate agent and negotiations are underway for the remaining space. Green sells, and why not, given all its advantages of lower running costs, healthy internal working environments and resultant higher productivity? Other tenants in the building include the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Facility Management Association of Australia, Treecorp Pty Ltd, NEG Micon Pty, Environment Victoria, Victorian National Parks Association and the office of Gavin Jennings, a member of the Victorian Parliament.

ACTU President, Sharan Burrow commented on 60L: "Australian governments have paid too little attention to the impacts of building design and construction on sustainability. There has been little to no government guidance or regulation aimed at improving sustainability.

"There are close links between sustainability and occupational health and safety. Buildings that are dangerous to construction workers because they are exposed to toxic chemicals in building materials such as timber preservatives, fibre board, paints, glues, water pipes etc, are also dangerous to live and work in, because of continuing toxic gas emissions.

"60L has successfully reduced these hazards and provides a model healthy workplace."

There is no doubt that 60L is an amazing achievement. It is unique in its low environmental impact and is a beautiful example of where commercial buildings need to head for environmental, social and financial reasons. It has challenged virtually every assumption, and a lot has been learned. It is the way of the future.

Project Team

Developer, owner & manager: The Green Building Partnership

Architect: Spowers Architects

Engineering Design: Advanced Environmental Concepts

Engineering services: Lincolne Scott Builder: Hansen Yuncken Pty Ltd

Environmental consultants: Sustainable Solutions

Thanks to Melbourne City Council for a grant to ACF to assist in providing information on 60L and sustainable buildings to the public.

Thanks also to the Victorian EPA and the Department of Sustainability and Environment for grants to ACF for communication of the message that `Green Buildings Make Sense' to the commercial property development world.
COPYRIGHT 2003 Australian Conservation Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Krockenberger, Mike
Publication:Habitat Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Words:2072
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