Transport Accident Commission Headquarters, Geelong, Australia

Sustainable design for a state-of-the-art building

  • Aurecon’s role: Building sustainability including mechanical, electrical, hydraulics, fire protection, fire engineering
  • Client: Laidlow Holdings (original developer and owner); Impact Investment Group (new building owner)
  • Project team: FKP Property Group (contractor)

Aurecon's extensive experience in passive design and performance simulation of sustainable building design was integral to defining, assessing and validating appropriate sustainable design options for TAC.

The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) corporate headquarters in Geelong is an exemplar of sustainable design which extends beyond its original goals to achieve ongoing sustainability outcomes.

The state-of-the-art building incorporates seven levels of dedicated office tenancy, retail tenancies, including cafes, and basement parking. FKP Property Group's brief was to provide a new facility in Geelong to accommodate the relocation of TAC's corporate headquarters from Melbourne.

The main challenge for the building was to establish a design that enhanced indoor environmental quality, including daylight access, glare reduction, and improved indoor air quality, while not sacrificing energy efficiency on a commercial development budget. Water efficiency was also a key issue due to local water restrictions.

Key sustainable design features included extensive passive solar design response, high-performance facade, underfloor air distribution, intelligent lighting control, water-efficient fixtures and systems, solar thermal domestic hot water, impulse carpark ventilation and a central vacuum.

The project also needed to respond to and reflect the heritage of the site which was originally a wool store. The National Wool Museum is located directly adjacent to the site and the site heritage is reflected in public artwork.

The development proposal needed to be flexible to meet TAC's changing working environment, but also had to represent Australian best practice in sustainable building design.

Aurecon collaborated with FKP Property Group and the construction team from concept design through to completion to meet the project objectives.

Going above and beyond to achieve exemplary sustainability

Originally, the client was looking for an example of Australian best practice in sustainable design. Aurecon assisted with this vision, achieving an integrated design and construction process, which was reflected in achieving 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 at practical completion, 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 undertaken, 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 reduced its carbon footprint by 50 per cent over seven years, 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.

The building as an eco-system

The Aurecon team treated the building as a mini eco-system to understand how its integral systems interdependently shaped the users’ 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 one 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 main initiatives included:

  • Chiller staging
  • Relaxing temperature setpoints
  • Installation of rooftop photovoltaics
  • Efficient control strategy
  • LED lighting

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.

Just the right temperature

Temperatures inside the building were assigned to a default activation setting, congruent with an area’s functionality and purpose. These comfortably tolerable adjustments together made a difference. Temperature bands in office spaces and lobbies were widened to have a summer and winter set-up.

In addition, 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 capitalised on Geelong’s generally cold temperatures outside to increase energy efficiency. An outdoor economic cycle system was installed to draw the cool air from outside once temperatures drop beneath 20 degrees Celsius.

A winning outcome

Opened in 2009, a win-win outcome has been achieved for all project partners:

  • Successful sale of the building with growth in its asset value 
  • CitySwitch award as the Victorian Signatory of the Year in the field of Energy Efficiency for the Transport Accident Commission
  • New building owner, Impact Investment Group, invited Aurecon to work on their portfolio of buildings
  • Engineer role for Aurecon to design two new commercial buildings in Geelong, aspiring to be the next TAC

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