76 Berry Street, North Sydney

By Tina Perinotto

9 November 2011 – The upgrade of Local Government Super’s building at 76 Berry Street, North Sydney, will take a 25-year-old building off the grid, no tenants disrupted, and it will outperform the new six star NABERS Energy rating.

And that’s just the start. In fact, this building outperforms on so many levels ­that calling it a game changer is almost understating its achievements.

At least that’s the impression you get from the network of people involved with the building that says it sets new world standards, let alone Australian.

It’s a big team. It includes:

  • Owner, the Local Government Super Board, which took the risk to try something big and different with Brian Churchill heading up the project as property portfolio manager, and chief executive of the LGS, Peter Lambert.
  • Technology provider Shaw Method of Air Conditioning, (See our articles on this and which claims extraordinary energy savings).
  • Mssrs Bennett and Clayton, makers of the Bennett Clayton engine, produced in the Victorian/NSW border town of Deniliquin of all places (not surprisingly since it’s essentially a tractor engine).
  • The Green Building Fund, which provided an oxygen line to this and many other projects trying to sputter to life at the start of the global financial crisis, represented by manager,  Dr Bronwyn Williams and her minister, Senator Kim Carr.
  • Walker EcoStrategies director, Roger Walker (previously with Napier & Blakeley) was the project director. Walker is a valuer by profession but better known as “translator” between engineers and owners, and who understood what he was seeing when he happened across the Bennett Clayton.
  • Peter Phillips of MPES Consulting who is the engineer behind the initial concept of the project which Mr Walker put together.
  • Others, the industry in general that provides the “network” that supports creative solutions.
  • The Mayor of Deniliquin, Brian Mitsch, who attended the launch function and can see a major economic potential for his rural area.
  • CBRE, which project managed the work
  • HADEN Engineering which completed the design and construction for the project.

So let’s see, what does it claim to achieve? For a start:

  • It is a 25-year-old, 11,500 sqm building, that will be off the grid entirely.
  • It will remain connected to the grid and, in case of failure of its new gas energy source, will switch seamlessly to the grid, with tenants not expected to notice a thing.
  • It will outperform six star NABERS energy by a huge margin.
  • It will achieve more thanr 85per cent reduction in emissions, compared to an average of 2.5 star NABERS
  • Technology is king: namely the Shaw Method of Air Conditioning and the Bennett Clayton engine ­­– five of them actually – that will run on natural gas with huge efficiency gains.
  • The five engines are small enough to fit in a goods lift and can be calibrated to run at very low power loads, unlike the bigger trigen plants.
  • It has been refurbished to these uber-efficient energy standards with no disruption to tenancies.
  • It’s not only committed to achieving a six star NABERS energy rating (one of only two buildings to do so) but will outperform the rating.

Innovation Minister Senator Carr, whose department awarded the project a $2.1 million Green Building Fund grant, said the project achievement was a first for a building of this age and was also world’s best practice.

Not only did it achieve the outcomes “cost-effectively in a fully tenanted building”, but it used Australian technologies, “which LGS confirmed were the leading sustainable technologies in cost, quality and environmental delivery – great news for Australia.”

So what were those technologies?

First was the Australian Shaw Method of Air Conditioning, or SMAC, and equally important was the Victorian-designed Bennett Clayton engine, essentially a tractor engine, but configured in five small engines running on natural gas.

In other words, a “state of the art, low environmental impact tri-generation system for combined heating, cooling and power generation,” as Senator Carr said.

Roger Walker, centre

Roger Walker, director of Walker EcoStrategies, is the man who has most closely nursed the project.

Right now, Walker says, 76 Berry Street is running at five-star standard but with the tri-generation and the other technologies it will run at “much better than six star.”

Walker says emissions savings will be a 70 per cent improvement on what they were before the upgrade, and an 85 per cent improvement on average building performance of 2.5 star NABERS energy.

The only other building to commit to achieve six star NABERS in Sydney is the 800 sqm Legion House by Grocon.

“People say targets like this are just talk, but the reality is different,” Walker says. “It won’t be hard… and it’s not just a claim. The technology is demonstrated. At 120 Sussex Street, [another LGS building] the Carnegie Morgan Hill House has the same technology but without the Bennett Clayton tri-generation system,  and it’s achieving five and a half star NABERS Energy.

“These technologies are incredible; they’re a game changer for how you run buildings.”

“Final commissioning at 76 Berry Street is happening now. Final testing of the process will happen over the next month and then it will run in December. By the end of the year it should be operational full time on the gas trigeneration system, but it will still be connected to the grid, so that if for some reason gas supply is interrupted the energy source flicks back to the grid.”

So what about the Bennett Clayton engine?

This is another surprise. It’s actually a John Deere tractor engine. Walker says hydrogen fuel was originally considerd but a review showed natural gas would have better emissions outcomes.

In Australia the Bennett Clayton engines were developed to run irrigation bores – hence the location of the plant in Deniliquin in the heart of the irrigation district on the NSW/Victoria border.

The problem with some trig-gen plants is that they are physically large and do not fit into many plant rooms. They also need large loads to run efficiently.

The benefit of the Bennett Clayton engine is that it is small, can fit into a goods lift and offers greater flexibility and greater safety than fuel cells.

The engines can run at 100 Kilowatts and can also be adapted to use liquid petroleum gas or bioethanol, Walker says.

“With five 100 kW engines, we can run the building at full load and with the capability to run down to 20 kW we can run the low load as well.”

This means the engines are ideal for low demand on weekends and overnight and they can run “24/7? and still be efficient.

Better still, the load they each work at can be mixed and matched, and if one fails, well … there is always back-up, Walker says.

They can also be used in buses in place of diesel engines, says Walker. “Which is why the mayor of Deniliqin was at the launch on Monday.”

The building uses South Australia’s Shaw Method of Air-Conditioning technology, which recently won the Australian Clean Technology Ideas Competition, and will be competing in the Cleantech Open Global Ideas Competition in the United States.

These initiatives are complemented by innovative NSW designed “E1” lighting technology, which reduces energy while improving tenant comfort. E1 lighting provides a better spread of light, thus requiring fewer fittings to achieve a well-lit space with no glare.

Bronwyn Williams

Bronwyn Williams, manager, Green Building Fund?AusIndustry, attended the event on behalf of the minister and told guests that AusIndustry was “delighted” with the outcome for Berry Street, and with the program as a whole.

Collectively 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse emissions had been saved, and that’s a year-on-year figure, Ms Williams said.

“Projections will be tested against actual data, so grantees have to monitor the building’s performance and get statements of achievements.”

Is there a penalty for failing to meet the projections?

“No”, Williams says, ” as long as there is an explanation.”

In fact, she says, having things go wrong can be part of the learning process.

“That’s exactly the point: the program is not only to get those savings, but it’s a demonstration program and the intention is to capture the outcome and the learning. And to support better results in building upgrades by sharing not just what works, but what doesn’t work.

“So each grantee had to show what was the demonstration potential and that included the outcomes, the value of sharing the outcomes of new technology, and approaches and also the data they would share.

“If someone made vague comments, that’s not as good as someone who said they will put the all the data on the table.”

So far, 65 grant projects are completed and fully evaluated. But to date, results exceed predictions on greenhouse gas savings by an average of 27 per cent, Williams says.

On this score the LGS was outstanding. “Not only have they been very active in sharing their outcome and learning, but they’ve shown how you can do it without disrupting your tenants,” she says.

And on the technology at 76 Berry Street?

“It’s innovative Australian technology. It’s the silver bullet.”

Left to right: Genia McCaffery (north Sydney Mayor) Brian Mitsch (Mayor of Deniliquin) and at rear Peter Lamber (chief executive LGS)

Following is an edited outline of the upgrade project at 76 Berry Street, North Sydney, supplied by the project team:

Initial review and concept was commenced in January 2009. The project commenced in May 2010 and the opening for the upgrade was held on 7 November 2011.

Approximate investment was $6 million with about $2.1 million provided by the Federal Government AusIndustry Green Building Fund. It is the only project that has been undertaken that has been noted by the program as an exemplar project, that is, a project that can lead as an example and be imitated by others.

The technologies are now the standard building technologies for Local Government Super.

The concept for the project was to reduce the heat load through a whole of building lighting upgrade, replace the existing HVAC system in the plant room with the most efficient available, improving the working conditions and reducing emissions. The project then moved to include a tri-generation system and sought out the most efficient system and with the flexibility for running low and high loads of the building.

This provides the capability for the building to operate without the need to take power from the electricity grid and the grid will now act as a back-up supply for the building. The unique 5 x100Kw engine system for the tri-gen also now provides capability to deliver small generation systems to commercial buildings where load profiles previously would not allow a tri-gen system to operate.

The ability to replicate this upgrade has been demonstrated at other LGS properties. At 120 Sussex Street in Sydney the technologies (excluding the tri-gen system) were implemented and the building is now the lowest emission office building in Sydney CBD, recently reaching a 5 1/2 star NABERS Energy rating without green power, the first building to do so.

The building moved from 3 1/2 star to 5 1/2 star at under 20 per cent of previously industry estimated costs to move a building of its type from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 stars.

Initiative 1 – Envirolite e1 Lighting

The existing base building and tenancy lighting systems have been replaced with the Envirolite e1 system. This lowers general lighting energy consumption to approximately 5 W per square metre and provides quality lighting in the working environment that does not need to be complimented with task lighting. Energy improvements reduce loads on the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system by reducing the building heat load. To realise this energy efficiency potential, building control systems have had recalibration of set points and operating algorithms. This lighting upgrade has a direct energy reduction of 66 per cent for the tenancy lighting. This initiative also provides an energy improvement associated with the HVAC system of about 9 per cent.

(Envirolite e1 lighting is Australian-designed and manufactured in south-west Sydney and 100 per cent Australian-owned. This lighting has demonstrated leading world best practice in energy efficiency and quality with demonstration for over six years of implementation in offices, factories and other properties, including the Sydney Opera House, the product’s representatives claim. It is cost-competitive with imported lighting in retrofitting existing lighting systems. The lighting is compliant with Australian Standards and provides an improved working environment, they say.)

Initiative 2 – PowerPax Chillers

The previous direct expansion refrigeration plant utilised refrigerant R22, a listed ozone-depleting substance in Federal Government substance phase out legislation, which was replaced. The new high

efficiency, non ozone-depleting refrigerant chiller has been installed.

Note:  [The chiller is manufactured in Melbourne and uses a Turbocor oil-free, magnetic bearing compressor, designed in Australia.]

Initiative 3 – Shaw Method of Air Conditioning

Outdoor air was induced into the existing internal zone air-handling unit. This system has been converted to the Shaw Method of Air Conditioning. Additional heat exchangers, piping and control strategies are added to manage indoor air comfort conditions.

[The Shaw Method of Air Conditioning, or SMAC, was designed by the late Dr Shaw of Adelaide University and SMAC Technologies is Australian owned. The unique controls design has the added benefit of moving forward from existing temperature controlled comfort, managing occupant comfort through a combination of humidity and temperature control, providing a more productive working environment. In previous installations this system has demonstrated reducing the HVAC energy consumption from 30 per cent to 85 per cent, depending on the application.]

Initiative 4 – Bennett Clayton Engine Tri-generation System

Tri-generation has replaced the existing source of electrical supply to on-site generation from gas. The waste heat from this process is then re-claimed for use in other building services systems. The electricity demand from air conditioning chillers is replaced with re-claim heat, generating chilled water with an absorption chiller. Domestic hot water is heated by re-claimed heat. A Bennett Clayton multiple engine system is used. This provides advantageous full and part-load performance. These engines are multi-fuel capable but for this application will most likely remain on the natural gas fuel source.

[Note: The Bennett Clayton patented engine design is an Australian design and the engine refurbishment is undertaken in Deniliquin in country NSW. The company is 100 per cent Australian-owned. The unique engine design improves efficiency and also significantly reduces the regulated emissions (oxides of nitrogen (NOx), hydrocarbons (HC), particulates (PM10, VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO)).