By its second year of operation, the Szencorp Building’s water usage was 94 per cent below the industry average and it had achieved 71 per cent energy savings on pre-refurbishment levels.

By Peter Szental

The Szencorp Building at 40 Albert Road, South Melbourne, claims it is the country’s highest sustainability achiever with top ranking in each of the three major ratings systems.

The company’s headquarters has achieved a 6 star Green Star Office Design v1 certified rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, and two 5 Star NABERS ratings for each of water and energy performance.

But there’s more.  With its real time monitoring of performance Szencorp has also set itself up for continual public accountability for its building, but the results have been well worth it. Szencorp has enjoyed greater interest in its activities, a leap in market share and more credibility in its work to influence industry and government sustainability policy.

By Peter Szental

Before the refurbishment, the building was a typical inner-city inefficient office block that was built in 1987. Today it is a sustainable commercial building that is internationally recognised, has won numerous awards, and achieved a number of industry “firsts”.

Key achievements include:

* First Australian building refurbishment to receive a 6 Star Green Star Office Design v1 certified rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, and becoming Australia’s first occupied 6 Star building.

* First Australian building to achieve a 5 Star rating on a “whole building” basis under the Australian Building Greenhouse Rating Scheme (now NABERS Energy).

* First real-time monitoring of building water and energy performance – this information is publicly available on the Szencorp Building website, setting a new standard for accountability and commitment to sustainability performance and improvement.

By its second year of operation, the Szencorp Building’s water usage was 94 per cent below the industry average and it had achieved 71 per cent energy savings on pre-refurbishment levels.

A significant portion of the building’s electricity needs are generated on-site and the remaining greenhouse footprint of the building, including all business car and air travel, is offset by purchasing abatement – making it Australia’s first zero emissions building.

Now more than three years old, the building continues to monitor and verify its performance to continually improve its operating efficiency and maintain its position as Australia’s highest rated building.

The building was designed to achieve an 82 per cent reduction in water use over the industry average.

It was the first Australian building to achieve a 5 star NABERS office water rating, which requires water use of 350 litres a square metres a year or less.

In its first year of operation after refurbishment water result was 116 litres a sq m a year (90 per cent below the industry average) rising in the second year to savings of 94 per cent less than the industry average.


* Two rainwater tanks with a total capacity of 2.2 kilolitres

* Greywater system that treats water from showers and female hand basins then mixes this water with rainwater to flush toilets

* Dual flush toilets that have a low volume flush of 3-4.5 litres

* Waterless urinals

* Reduced flow (6L a minute) and electronic taps in most bathroom and kitchen areas

* Reduced flow shower heads (9L a minute)

A 5 star NABERS rating for energy, 100 per cent green power, 59 individual meters to track energy use, three photovoltaic arrays produce 7.55 kilowatts of power, an evacuated tube solar hot water system and weather station to open and close windows and vents…


The Szencorp Building is a zero emissions building. It sources 100 per cent green power for the building’s electricity requirement and carbon credits offset the CO2 emissions from gas use and transport.

The Szencorp Building has a 5 star NABERS rating for energy performance. In its first year of operation, 61 per cent of energy was saved and in the second year, this saving rose to 71 per cent.


* An integrated sensor system manages occupancy lighting, HVAC and security control

* The Managed Lighting System controls lighting in response to occupancy and dims artificial lighting to compensate for natural lighting levels

* The building is split into 21 zones; occupancy and daylight sensors ensure that lights and air-conditioning are only activated in each zone when needed

* Mixed mode air-conditioning uses natural ventilation and gas-driven air-conditioning units. Natural convection currents supplement or replace mechanical air-conditioning wherever possible

* The weather station located on the roof communicates with the Building Management System to open and close windows and vents to heat and cool the building using outside weather conditions

* 59 individual meters to monitor and track energy use

* Electricity, gas and water usage is remotely monitored allowing maintenance personnel to be alerted to any activity outside of expected performance bands

* A Central Vacuum System has a 40 per cent reduced energy consumption and its low noise levels enables cleaners to vacuum during normal work hours

* Three photovoltaic arrays produce 7.55 kilowatts and have an estimated CO2 saving of 6.24 tonnes a year

* An evacuated tube solar hot water system on the roof

* The car park has sensors to control ventilation and lighting based on occupancy

* The building’s lift was upgraded and now includes energy efficient controls and occupancy lighting sensors

Waste Management

Around 80 per cent of waste is saved from going to landfill. Waste generated is 94 kilograms a year for each staff member, which is 54 per cent lower than the established benchmark of 173 kg a year for each person for commercial buildings. Of the material being collected for recycling, the average contamination rate is 2-3 per cent, which indicates that the office recycling program is effective.

* Coded bins separate organic food and co-mingling waste for recycling in the kitchen areas on each level

* White office paper only desk bins are located throughout office areas

* Installing a compost bin was investigated but the ventilation requirements discounted this option.

Air quality to rival rural air

Materials and Indoor Environment Quality

The Szencorp Building uses a variety of materials to improve indoor environment quality. Indeed, the building’s internal air quality is equivalent to rural air.


* Polyester (not vinyl) privacy and graphics film were used to provide a degree of screening on office glass panels

* Office areas are fitted out with 90 per cent post-industrial recycled aluminium ceiling tiles

* The carcasses of all the joinery use E-zero (low emission) particle-board

* All face joinery and wall-panelling use E-zero medium density fibre-board

* All desktops use phenolic resin, which has no VOC impact and is very durable

* Where joinery requires handle pulls, hardware has been minimised by designing the pull handle into the joinery unit

* Leather upholstery is specified as non-chromium treated

* Meeting room tables use recycled stringy-bark timber

* Rubber flooring in kitchen areas has negligible volatile organic compounds (VOCs) no PVC content and is very durable – it has none of the compounds found in many common vinyls

* A dedicated tenants exhaust riser improves indoor air quality


The building is located close to a number of tram and bus routes and has facilities to encourage staff to cycle to work. However, most employees drive a car or motorcycle to work, while some take public transport and a small minority cycle. The emissions generated from car, air and public transport travel of all occupants (including travel to and from work) are offset in an effort to reduce the broader greenhouse footprint of the building to zero. Transport performance is a good example of where building design cannot guarantee behaviour changes and environmental outcomes sought by developers.


* Bicycle storage racks in the basement for staff and a rack for visitoros at the front of the building

* Shower and changing facilities for staff and visitors

* The building is located close to the St Kilda Road Domain Interchange, which is a major stop for numerous tram routes

* Reduction in the number and sizes of car spaces to discourage staff from driving to work

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Szencorp worked with the University of Technology in Sydney to develop a more sustainable mode of automotive transport for staff business travel. In 2008 the Szencorp Building became home to Australia’s first plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The converted Toyota Prius was retrofitted with additional batteries that allow it to drive without using its petrol tank for at least 30km. The car can be charged from a standard power point, creating the opportunity to power the vehicle using renewable energy. Energy stored in the car can also be fed back out into the building’s power supply in periods of high demand, thereby reducing the burden faced by electricity networks at these times.
Facts and Figures

Net lettable area: 1215.1 sq m
Storeys: four office levels and 2 car park levels
Construction time: nine months
Project manager: Lascorp Development Group (Aust)
Architects: SJB Architects
ESD / services engineers: Connell Mott MacDonald
Specialist solutions consultant: Energy Conservation Systems
Mechanical services contractor: D&E Air Conditioning
Quantity surveyor: Rider Hunt
Builder: Construction Engineering
Air conditioning suppliers: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries / DryKor

Peter Szental is managing director, Szencorp

For more information about the Szencorp Building visit:
For a detailed description of key design features visit:

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