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New energy efficiencies make old office environmentally friendly

Supplier: Origin Energy
15 June, 2012

FMSA recently completed an environmental retrofit of its office building in North Melbourne, which included installation of 3x85kW Yanmar gas powered air-conditioning systems.

This helped to reduce FMSA's energy usage and energy costs while improving the efficiency of its building.

FMSA is a Melbourne-based firm offering comprehensive architectural, interior design, urban design and professional construction management services. Its building has three office floors, each approximately 400 square metres, plus a basement car park. FMSA completed the project with the assistance of the Green Building Fund. FMSA worked with Greater Pacific Engineering on a design-and-construct basis.

The project incorporated several energy-saving initiatives, such as an environmentally efficient building management system (BMS), in addition to the Yanmar gas powered air-conditioning system. The BMS shuts down the air-conditioning system when the windows are open.

The firm previously used electric air-conditioning, so there were no power constraint issues in upgrading to the Yanmar gas powered variable refrigerant flow (VRF) solution. FMSA now saves on energy usage and costs and has added to the quality and efficiency of its building in the long term.

"The choice of the gas-fired system meant a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions ... while also creating a counter-cyclical effect on peak demand," Michael Fooks, FMSA's director, said.

FMSA's average monthly electricity usage has reduced by more than 50 per cent on the 2008/2009 average, based on a range of factors including:

  • The upgrade to gas powered air-conditioning;
  • The implementation of several BMS initiatives;
  • A higher level of insulation, improved natural light, window screening and cross-ventilation incorporated in the new floor upgrade.

Current usage also includes power supply to the recently added elevator. These figures are based on comparisons of the company's energy usage bills.

Preliminary calculations, such as energy use comparisons and carbon emissions, were undertaken by Umow Lai, a sustainability and engineering services consultancy.

Accessing the Green Building Fund did not require the project to have a formal NABERS or Green Star rating performed. FMSA was required to model a green building design and show energy cost savings through implementing environmental efficiencies that reduce energy use.

The Green Building Fund is an Australian government initiative that aims to reduce the impact of Australia's built environment on carbon emissions by cutting operational energy usage, focusing on retrofitting existing commercial office buildings.

Prior to the retrofit, FMSA's building was assessed and awarded the equivalent of a conventional 2 stars. Fooks suggested the installation of Yanmar's gas powered air-conditioning units was a major contributor to improving the environmental efficiency of the office building.

While no formal NABERS or Green Star rating has been targeted, 5 star modelling has been implemented throughout the building retrofit.

Fooks said the primary reasons for implementing gas powered air-conditioning were sustainability factors and improving energy efficiency.

"It is worth giving serious consideration to gas-fired climate control, as opposed to more conventional electric systems," he said.

"We are certainly pleased with the installers and the result."