Warren Ebert

31 May 2010 – FAVOURITES: Warren Ebert has strong opinions about green buildings.

As principal of Queensland property investment company, Sentinel Asset Management, he believes in them because they make financial sense – they save money because they are energy efficient and because tenants want to be in them. What he isn’t happy about is how few of them are actually run efficiently once they are occupied.

It is a detail that can get lost in the current drive to get points for a Green Star rating, says Ebert. Achieving points for installing all the latest technology will not necessarily translate into a truly sustainable building once it is operating.

“I was involved in doing green buildings long before there was even such a term,” says Ebert. “It just makes sense to create buildings that work more efficiently and take into account the climate and site. But too many people are chasing points for the design stage without focusing on what happens once it is built. There’s too much emphasis on putting in features that may not achieve much in reality.”

It was something that he and the team from property development company Citimark took very seriously on a recent Brisbane project, Synergy at Kelvin Grove Urban Village. One of the first Queensland projects to receive a 5 Star “As Built” Green Star rating, the commercial building is part of a 16 hectare master-planned urban renewal project located two kilometres from Brisbane’s central business district.

View of Synergy

The building is also targeting and on track to achieve a 4.5 Star NABERS rating.

Located on the site of the former Gona Army Barracks and neighbouring land,  Kelvin Grove was developed in a partnership between the Queensland Department of Communities and Queensland University of Technology.

The Synergy building was developed by Citimark and purchased by Cromwell prior to completion.

Ebert was a financial partner along with being the project property development director and he believes the fact that all members of the development team were very hands-on and also had a financial interest in the project meant outcomes were closely monitored.

“All the principals involved in this are hands-on and care about results right down to the last detail. We were fortunate with our consultants, particularly the airconditioning, mechanical and electrical – they actually came up with different ways of doing things. We went through every element of the building and worked out the cost for every point of the Green Star we were trying to attain. It was very challenging but we made sure we were getting the best bang for our bucks,” says Ebert.

As a result, the building is achieving 10 per cent more in CO2 reductions than forecast and saving 5 per cent more water than predicted.

Synergy

One of the key aspects of the building’s energy efficient design is its airconditioning system, external shading and green wall. The six-storey building uses double glazed tinted glass to 90 per cent of the net lettable area, with an oil-free air cooling system and increased number of air ducts to provide cleaner, quieter, and more efficient heat control to all tenancies.

The building also has a remotely-controlled management system with a program called Optergy, which allows web based access to monitor energy efficiency and impact on the environment through a customised interface. This also means faster and more efficient response from utilities contractors and reduced running costs.

Another Citimark project, in which Warren Ebert was also involved, focused on creating a shopping centre tailored to the tropical climate of Mackay. Sydney Street Markets, one of the first projects in Mackay City Council’s CBD revitalisation program, was designed to maximise Mackay’s natural sea breezes.

“We didn’t want to have the standard enclosed shopping centre which relied completely on airconditioning running all the time.  We wanted an open mall which could do without airconditioning when there was a natural breeze but have the airconditioning there for still days when it was needed,” says Ebert.

The mall area features a three-phase airconditioning system that offers a major environmental and cost advantage. Air flow modelling, and design development of the mall cross section was used to predict how the centre could benefit from using natural air flow on cooler, breezy days, forced ventilation on cooler, still days and a full airconditioning mode on hot days.

Sydney Street Markets

Instead of being placed in the ceiling or floor, the airconditioning was positioned around a metre from floor level to maximize the amount of cool air reaching people in the mall. As it heats the air rises and is released through louvers near the ceiling.

Permanent openings, motorised high level louvres , a cranked roof profile, under floor plennums and climatic sensors all play a part in achieving major ongoing energy and cost savings.

Three years after completion the centre is saving around $10 a metre in energy costs through design that is tailored to the climate, says Ebert.

“In the end it’s the effort you put into thinking how the building should work on the site, doing things a bit differently, that achieve the most. It doesn’t matter how many points you get for the design, if it doesn’t work properly,” says Ebert.

Ebert is so convinced of the financial gains to be made through being sustainable that he is installing a 300 panel solar system on his farm. Because the property has three-phase electricity he estimates the system could earn $30,000 a year after an up-front investment of $170,000.

“I’ll be installing this over the next few months but it makes sense if the returns are there. The panels occupy 462 square metres of land for the panels.

“We are fortunate the undulations and aspect of our property allows us to maximise the sunlight hours on the solar panels. We’ll be generating renewable energy so there should be support out there to do these things,” he says.

Synergy building –sustainability features

Synergy, with view

Eighteen months on from completion in October 2008, Synergy is exceeding its predicted energy savings targets, according to Citimark:

  • According to sustainable design consultants, Cundall, SYNERGY was predicted to save 720 tonnes of CO2 a year through simple principles such as good shading and efficient machinery. The actual building performance is 10 per cent better than these forecasts – equivalent to taking 160 cars off the road per year.
  • Innovations such as the dual-wing design and ventilation-promoting light court mean the building is completely in-tune with Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate and no employee is more than 8.5 metres from a natural light source. This engenders a vibrant, employee-friendly environment that fosters creativity and satisfaction.
  • The development was predicted to save 8.1ML of water a year through measures such as a 60KL rainwater tank, water efficient fixtures and low water use cooling towers (equivalent to filling eight Olympic swimming pools with the water saved each year). The actual building performance is 5 per cent better than predicted.
  • 509 tonnes of construction waste diverted away from landfill and back into raw materials to be used in products. This represented just over 80 per cent of the total waste created during the construction process.

Awards

  • A Green Building Council of Australia’s 5 Star Green Star (Design v2) As Built rating
  • Approved for Brisbane City Council’s Sustainable Development Grants (Offices) Program
  • Runner-up 2009 UDIA Suncorp Awards for Excellence – Retail/Commercial projects over 3000 square metres
  • 4.5 Star NABERS rating

lblundell@thefifthestate.com.au
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