Building energy and performance
High-performance insulation has become a critical element in the design and construction of sustainable and energy-efficient living and working environments around the world. The growing international economic and regulatory focus on energy efficiency is driving demand for, and the further development of, a wide variety of technically innovative insulation products.
Soaring demand locally and worldwide prompted Kingspan’s decision to design and construct an Australian facility to manufacture and distribute its range of high-performance rigid thermoset phenolic insulation for use in roofs, walls and floors. Economic modelling determined that a new Australian facility could service demand in Australia and the Asia Pacific region, and free up capacity elsewhere within the global group to enable continued growth throughout its regional businesses.
The Kingspan Group places a high priority on net zero energy manufacturing and is on track to meet the on-site energy requirements of its 100-plus manufacturing sites around the world through renewable energy by 2020. So, as the latest facility in the group, Kingspan’s new administration, manufacturing and distribution site at Somerton in Melbourne’s north needed to lead the group for energy efficiency and sustainability, as well as manufacturing technologies.
The central principle in the 14,000-square metre facility’s design is what is called the Envelope First approach, a design strategy developed to heighten a building’s energy performance and work towards net zero energy targets. This approach focuses on enclosure performance, particularly durability, airtightness and optimal moisture and thermal control.
To achieve the goal of net zero energy manufacturing at this site, the new plant had to incorporate cutting edge design and technologies to minimise its impact on the environment and optimise its manufacturing capability.
Kingspan worked with local architectural practice Watson Young Architects on the building design and consulted on its environmental sustainability with Tone Wheeler, principal architect at Environa Studio, a leader in environmentally sustainable design.
The resulting $40 million facility, which opened in March 2017, is Kingspan’s most technically innovative and energy efficient yet and is on track to become what is believed to be Australia’s first Green Star-rated manufacturing facility, with Environa Studio working through the application process on Kingspan’s behalf.
Production at the site is already about 15 percent more efficient for energy use per square metre of insulation boards produced than the standard across the Kingspan Group. Up to 80 percent of heat generated by the manufacturing process is recovered and reused to cure the insulation boards, and process waste is transformed into briquettes, which are used as a replacement for traditional coal briquettes to fuel high- temperature furnaces.
The new administration and manufacturing facility has significantly lower ongoing operating and maintenance costs when compared to a stock standard facility of the same size and use – the performance of its lighting, heating, ventilation and water systems make the building very low cost to operate and maintain.
The building is oriented to make the best use of light while shielding it from the hot western afternoon sun. Natural light has been optimised through window size and placement and skylights and, where artificial light is required, highly efficient LED motion sensor- controlled lighting has been used.
The fabric of the building is extremely well-insulated using Kingspan’s rigid board insulation products, as well as its insulated roof and wall panels to create a highly comfortable working environment, despite Melbourne’s temperature extremes. When the temperature was in the high 30s over summer, it was in the mid 20s within the manufacturing facility, and conversely when temperatures have dropped outside it has remained temperate inside.
There’s a high level of fresh air exchange throughout the building without any recycling of air, with 100 percent fresh air going through a heat exchange, which recycles energy from the warm air that is being expelled. Using energy recovery ventilators, the ventilation system is providing employees with double the fresh air required by the building code while also saving energy. The proprietary duct system also reduces air leakage by up 80 percent.
The building’s energy efficient design has enabled the use of smaller HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) equipment, which further reduces operating and maintenance costs. With fibre-free insulation, the air is free of the potential risk of blowing irritants around through the air-conditioning, which can trigger asthma in occupants.
Removing risks and extremes from the manufacturing environment is expected to pay dividends in the future through productivity, employee satisfaction and, ultimately, retention.
A solar voltaic panel array capable of generating 750 kilowatts of power will meet the majority of daytime shift energy requirements and the site’s 75,000-litre rainwater harvesting system means there is no mains water used on-site except in the kitchens. Stormwater and run-off is filtered to ensure there’s no impact on the nearby nature reserve and creek.
The facility was constructed using sustainably sourced or fabricated products, including concrete made using recycled water and aggregate, sustainably-sourced timber, PVC cables and pipes. The group sought out manufacturers with high-quality environmental management systems and recycling schemes, and steel from environmentally responsible producers. A target of 90 percent recycling was met for all waste generated during construction.
By using innovative design and building materials to create an exceptionally energy-efficient building with lower ongoing maintenance requirements, Kingspan has also created a live showcase of the possibilities for manufacturing facilities into the future.