RMIT University

RMIT University’s $98 million dollar energy and water efficiency upgrade program is proving a lifeline to Victoria’s sustainability sector, with Honeywell and Siemens moving into the construction and installation phase of the first projects of more than 60 separate works packages.

Senior program manager for the Sustainable Urban Precincts Program Murray Walls said the works are engaging the services of many of the mechanical contractors and electrical firms in the Melbourne area.

“We are helping support the commercial building services sector,” Mr Walls said.

Both Siemens and Honeywell have signed EPC contracts for the project, which commits them to achieving the energy efficiency targets proposed in the feasibility studies for the works. Should those not be achieved within agreed eight year investment payback periods, the firms are liable financially for the shortfall.

AECOM is providing technical advisory services, and Davis Langdon has been brought in to assist and provide the quantity surveying services.

“It’s a partnering approach rather than a traditional [design and construct],” Mr Walls said.

Upgrades are being carried out to 90 buildings, with projected energy savings of 239 million kilowatt hours over three years and 68 million litres of water annually.

The detail of the designs has been further fleshed out, with plans now in place to install gas-fired co-generation and trigeneration, and to construct solar power capacity.

Mr Walls said these energy generation initiatives will not be feeding into the main grid, but will be used to supply power directly across all three campuses – the CBD and Bundoora – to reduce the university’s use of coal-fired power.

As part of the overall program, $4.8 million has been allocated for leveraging academic outcomes. These will include six research projects, five learning and teaching projects and 10 PhDs. Among them will be investigations into the use of the data that will be produced by the building management systems the contractors will be installing.

One of these uses, Mr Walls said, will be looking at whether it is possible to drive energy generation from load-based planning.

Research will also be carried out into how the building management services data can be used to drive best practice in asset management.

“[SUPP] is giving us a wealth of information projects to work on,” he said.

The data is also the primary means by which the success of the Siemens and Honeywell works will be measured during the eight year measurement and verification period that will follow final completion on installation works. As far as long-term commercial relationships go, the EPC contract period extending to 2025 makes the project one with a considerable level of mutual commitment.

While there are multiple drivers behind the project, the primary one is a reduction in the university’s greenhouse gas emissions of 25 per cent by 2020.

“RMIT owns six per cent of the CBD; it has a massive footprint in the city,” Mr Walls said.

“So we are coming up with precinct-based solutions, because what we do in terms of sustainability really has an impact on the city as a whole.

“RMIT is in a position to be a key initiator and driver to keep the focus on sustainability going, and also a key driver to re-engage the industry and building owners by showing you can do this kind of project and save money by doing it.

“We are looking for any opportunity to push the design envelope.”

Another of the research projects that will be carried out under SUPP is investigations into the impact inhabiting and using buildings containing energy efficiency and water efficiency technologies has on people.

“The social side is important,” Mr Walls said.

Another aspect to the social side for RMIT is the value benefit of being sustainable.

“To attract students RMIT recognised it needs to invest in its own infrastructure, and at the same time, it is also helping the university’s industry partners. It’s a win, win, win, win – the project is a truly multi-pronged approach.

“From the learning and teaching point of view, we are delivering in what we teach [with SUPP],” Mr Walls said. “Teaching and learning about renewable energy and sustainability is the future.

“We will create a living laboratory out of all of this.

“Projects like this help to drive awareness. Everyone is looking at where they can get the most return and energy savings.

“There are not as many contracts currently for projects, but people will continue to need energy conservation solutions, as bills will keep going up.”