Greening industrial facilities: initial investment justified

by FM Media
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Whether going for a Green Star rating, or simply following green guidelines, the initial investment in greening industrial facilities is worth it, for both new builds and retrofits, says LAURA RABY of Ecolateral.

The establishment of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) nearly 10 years ago marked a change in the property market in Australia that has seen sustainability become a key deliverable for a wide range of building types. Since the initial Office V1 was launched in 2003, building rating tools have been steadily developed to now include education, healthcare, multi-unit residential and retail buildings. The most recent addition to this portfolio of tools is the Industrial V1 tool.
Industrial buildings differ from the traditional buildings targeted by Green Star in that they often contain vast areas of operation or productivity tucked in behind a glamorous head office that is home to many an office worker. The concentration of staff is diluted in these large areas; however, they can often represent high percentages of resource consumption, as well as a significant source of noise pollution. Addressing these diversely different operational profiles provides a unique challenge in the capturing and controlling of environmental performance.
Energex was one of the early adopters of this new industrial tool. The company was quick to see the opportunities to save on operational costs and provide leadership through the adoption of the industrial rating to its portfolio of assets.
A new warehouse and distribution facility to be located within the TradeCoast Central industrial estate near Brisbane Airport was Energex’s first targeted building using the new industrial tool. Following on from the successful accreditation of the six-star Green Star Office Design rating for the company’s new headquarters in Newstead, it recognised the advantages of a Green Star rated building and made the decision to target a four-star Green Star building using the new Industrial V1 tool for this facility at TradeCoast Central.
Among the first projects registered for an Industrial V1 Design rating, the Energex Warehouse and Distribution Centre consultancy team, under our close guidance as the project’s Green Star Accredited Professionals, rose to the challenge and designed a green industrial building that would provide significant operational savings while meeting the needs of our carbon constrained future.

PRACTICAL BENEFITS OFFERED BY INDUSTRIAL RATING
Industrial building design typically focuses on delivering a building that supports a specific functional need of the business in a cost-effective manner. In most cases, cost-effectiveness is measured as capital construction cost and little consideration is given to ongoing operational costs. In a climate of continually increasing utility prices and environmental stewardship responsibilities, however, the focus is clearly shifting to consideration of the ongoing costs of operation and the return on investment throughout the life cycle of the building.
A Green Star certification supports these outcomes, recognising and rewarding the inclusion of design features that improve energy and water efficiency, and enhance staff health and productivity. The result is a building that is cheaper to operate and maintain, and a future-proofed investment that will continue to deliver to the building owners and occupants for years to come.
In delivering the first certified four-star Green Star Industrial V1 Design rating in Australia, Energex has added a building to its property portfolio that offers the following benefits:

1. Reduced energy consumption: smart-building design will deliver up to 33 percent energy savings from lighting, air-conditioning and hot water systems compared to a business-as-usual building

2. Reduced water consumption: access to the estate recycled water network and on-site water collection and reuse systems and water-wise design will deliver up to 50 percent potable water savings from amenities, irrigation and fire-testing

3. Quality materials and finishes with a reduced life cycle impact chosen from environmentally responsible manufacturers

4. Best practice building construction and operation management practices

  • recycling targets for construction waste
  • best practice construction environmental management
  • extensive commissioning and tuning of building services systems to ensure efficient and effective building operation
  • sophisticated energy and water monitoring and management systems
  • indoor pollutants minimised through selection of low-toxicity finishes and improved fresh air rates
  • improved occupant thermal, visual and acoustic comfort
  • dedicated indoor and outdoor breakout spaces providing a hub around which staff can de-stress, share personal and professional experiences, and take time out to enjoy a break from work
  • staff and visitor cyclist facilities

5. Enhanced working environment quality for building users
6. Enhanced public landscaped area with an emphasis on water-sensitive and functional design
7. Reduced environmental pollution rates

ADDITIONAL CAPITAL INVESTMENT ENDORSED
Energex has undertaken a fully accredited Green Star rating for the facility and, as a result, it will not only benefit from the improved operational efficiencies, but can also advertise the independent findings of the Green Star auditors. Not all developers, however, wish to pursue a formal rating when considering operational savings costs in new buildings.
As a result, in 2006, Ecolateral developed a set of environmentally sustainable design Industrial Design Guidelines for TradeCoast Central to provide guidance to designers in achieving real operational savings and a more sustainable and carbon-conscious development, without having to pursue a formal Green Star rating. Companies planning to develop new buildings in the Trade Coast Industrial Estate are required to adhere to these guidelines, irrespective of their Green Star intentions. The savings experienced by the existing businesses that have installations designed around these guidelines have justified any initial investment associated with the guideline inclusions.
Anecdotally, organisations have reported that the additional capital investment (in the order of approximately two percent) to meet the guidelines, particularly in the area of technologies and control systems, has delivered more accountability to the operations and a lower operational cost that increases in value with the increasing cost of utilities.
Many of the inclusions can also be retrofitted into existing developments and, although not as effective as experienced when the efficiencies are included at the design stage, significant savings can be made throughout the life of the building. Additionally, there is also the option, where an existing industrial buildings is not due for a full retrofit, to gradually upgrade the systems as is commercially viable, thus avoiding any major initial capital outlay.
Some of the more conservative investments for existing facilities that can be rolled out over time include addressing initiatives for tapware, water closet fixtures and light fittings. Where the budget allows, higher cost initiatives, such as upgrading lighting control systems, hot water systems and air-conditioning plant, can be considered.
The lowest cost investment is the education of building users. Often, simple behaviour changes, such as turning equipment off when not in use, can deliver significant savings.

Laura Raby is a principal environmentally sustainable design consultant at Ecolateral, a consulting firm operating out of Brisbane and Hobart that focuses on delivering sustainability strategies to industry.

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