12 September 2013 — Australand Property Group’s Paulo Bevilacqua wasn’t at all surprised at news this week that in the US solar has become the new “granite benchtop” in new housing, an aspirational “must have” that some developers were now including in standard offerings.
“Ask the people who bought into the Olympic Village at Newington at Homebush in Sydney,” Bevilacqua said. “They’ll tell you solar is great and they have hardly any energy bills.”
As Australand’s sustainability manager, Bevilacqua is overseeing some significant changes in the way sustainability elements are being incorporated throughout the portfolio.
Solar, for instance, is now starting to be integrated in building fabric. Australand will soon install a solar canopy in a 5000 square metre shopping centre it’s developing for pre-sale in Sydney. And the fabric, supplied by Canadian Solar, won’t end up costing any more that regular canopy might have cost.
Even in industrial property there are big changes underway.
Earlier this year we reported the company put in a 100 kilowatts of power at its stage 3 of Australand’s Eastern Creek Business Park in western Sydney.
See our article Solar roof cuts energy in Australand’s latest industrial project
See the Bloomberg story Solar Panel Is Next Granite Countertop for Homebuilders
They could soon be de rigueur for many industrial buildings, and many of his competitors could soon be sporting the same glinting industrial roofs.
“Even in industrial, solar will be on most buildings. Other developers are thinking the same way, especially our peers. Goodman and DEXUS are looking at what they do with solar. At the moment for us it’s tenant driven.
“In time that will change and become standard, like we’ve gone to more efficient lighting in the last couple of years so that it’s a base design item.”
With distribution centres in particular, the energy loads are not typically big, so solar could quite easily meet needs, “especially as the costs continue to come down”.
“In the last six months prices have come down, and they’re not as heavy and not as big in terms of loads on the roof structures.
“In the past, if your structure wasn’t capable, you didn’t do it. Systems will get lighter and easier to integrate. And people are getting comfortable with it.
“In the past everyone was apprehensive, now it’s just another component.”
In fact solar will start to become as standard as replacing old energy intensive lighting with super-efficient LEDs.
And that’s another area where there is a major transition under way.
Currently the plan is to replace the lighting with LEDs in the company’s massive 200,000 square metre industrial portfolio in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Bevilacqua points to Toll Holdings as another convert to lower energy lighting in work that’s been initiated by NuGreen and looks set to continue throughout its massive industrial portfolio, first with all new buildings and then in retrofits.
See our report on this
But at present the work for Australand is still at the trial phase in one facility. Because it’s tricky.
Not all LED lights are equal and some quite frankly might consume more power overall than their more energy intensive forebears. Get it right and the savings could be huge.
“Some of the issues are around the distribution of light,” says Bevilacqua. “In some cases you might pick a fitting with lower wattage and more efficient energy use but you need to put in more of them.”
Lighting design has to be specific to the building and the internal layout. For instance, how many aisles are there and how high is the racking?
“There’s also a very wide range of life expectancy of LEDs.”
Certain products might gain approval for the Victoria Energy Efficiency Target scheme, or the NSW’s Energy Savings Certificates, but that doesn’t guarantee they are ideal for the job.
A not-so-obvious issue is that the fitting can contain a lot of embodied energy, but if the chip is embedded in the fitting and it fails, the entire light has to be thrown out
Australand uses consultant David Catterson in Sydney and NDY Lighting in Melbourne to advise, but has an extensive questionnaire it sends to intending suppliers that tends to disqualify many when they fail to respond.
Beta testing the Performance tool
Elsewhere Bevilacqua is busy beta testing the Green Star Performance rating tool on two of its premises ahead of the tool’s official release next month.
Interestingly, it’s already pretty clear the buildings won’t perform to the design standard.
One of the buildings, the Keysborough Spec 1 south east of Melbourne, achieved a 5 Star Green Star – Industrial Design v1, but Bevilacqua says it will probably only reach 4 Star Green Star Performance.
But Bevilacqua isn’t particularly fussed.
Partly it’s the nature of tool; it doesn’t exactly fit an industrial premises. Some of the points are for regular checks and reports on elements such as indoor environmental quality, waste stream, waste water.
“They’re good initiative and they makes sense in office buildings, but they don’t make sense in industrial settings,” he says.
Secondly, these require participation of the tenant and, well, Australand doesn’t want to bother the tenants.
“We’re trying to achieve the rating without imposing on the tenants, trying to work out it out without making them do things. It’s not major stuff but we don’t want to do it just to chase the ratings.”
Bevilacqua suspects it’s the office sector that will get most value from the Performance tool.
Another pilot test is for a “typical suburban office” at Homebush on Homebush Bay Drive, with 15,000 sq m of lettable area over five floors, leased to Nestlé and NAB.
Here the NABERS rating is five stars. The expectation is a 4 Star Green Star Performance.
Well, first is that five star NABERS is “pretty conventional”.
“Things it will score from are management practices – ongoing tuning and maintenance, testing, IEQ and tenant surveys: those kind of things are standard in those properties because we’re the property managers.”
But still the Performance tool requires more than an energy rating.
Five star NABERS isn’t exceptional, Bevilacqua says.
“If you benchmark against a whole set of office buildings most properties that we compete against are four star. Not many are below that that are institutionally owned.”
In a nice technology angle, Australand is using start-up Brisbane based Rise Technology for a new monitoring system that is cheap, easy to use and is finding a lot of popularity with owners.