Energy efficiency and solar energy dominated this year’s AIRAH Awards for Excellence, with NDY, WSP, CSIRO, ActronAir and NEP Solar all taking home major awards.

NDY won the Best HVAC and Refrigeration Retrofit or Upgrade Award for its upgrade of 247 Adelaide Street, Brisbane, with a program of works financed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that brought the building up to a five star base building NABERS energy rating.

“This is well-deserved industry recognition for an energy efficiency upgrade which has resulted in this 1970s office block nearly halving its base building electricity use,” CEFC chief executive Oliver Yates said.

The 247 Adelaide Street improvements included new high efficiency air cooled chillers, new pumps and variable speed drives, a new mechanical switchboard, solar thermal HVAC units and LED lighting.

The CEFC provided around $700,000 in finance for the upgrade with the balance of funds for the $1.23 million project sourced through the federal government’s Green Building Fund. The upgrade also enabled the building owners to benefit from incentives offered by energy supplier Energex for reducing peak demand.

“Australia’s capital cities are home to a significant number of 20 to 30-year-old B and C grade buildings that would benefit from refurbishments that improved the energy efficiency of the base buildings,” Mr Yates said.

NEP Solar won the Denis Joseph Award for Innovative Use of Solar Energy in HVAC&R for its micro urban power station at the new UTS Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology Building in Sydney. SOLEM Consulting and EnergyAE also collaborated on the project, and project lead Jeremy Osborne accepted the award on the NEPSolar team’s behalf.

The micro-urban power station was designed to be a working exemplar of distributed energy generation with a concentrating solar power system integrating with wind, solar PV and storage.

The project encompassed design and installation of concentrating solar technology to supply chilled water, hot water and electricity to the new building. The micro power station will also provide learning opportunities for engineering students, as it has full monitoring capacity and students can run a concentrating solar power station using an organic Rankin cycle machine, a solar cooling system or an industrial solar-thermal heat-generation machine, and validate their theoretical models against a real system.

CSIRO won the Excellence in HVAC&R Research Award for its work on the Residential Building Energy Efficiency Study.

ActronAir won the gong for Excellence in Sustainability. The  ESP Platinum ducted split system technology was developed, designed and manufactured in Australia for the residential and small to medium enterprise commercial sectors, and incorporates energy smart zoning and variable fan technology.

“Testing and energy modelling shows that the ESP Platinum series uses up to 75 per cent less electricity compared to conventional fixed speed systems and up to 50 per cent [less] compared to conventional inverter systems,” ActronAir managing director Norman Windell said. “Based on cooling, that equates to a savings of up to $900 per annum on energy bills.”

WSP Lincoln Scott earned the Excellence in Innovation Award for its work on the Echuca Regional Health redevelopment. The $2.2 million project comprised detailed thermal load profiling, design and installation of a solar thermal cooling system to replace an end-of-life chiller, and installation of new monitoring and control systems. Sustainability Victoria contributed $445,000 towards the project cost, which is expected to result in energy cost savings of about $60,000 a year with a 1400 tonne a year reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Student of the Year award was won by biomimicry expert Matthew Webb, and Alex Baidjurak was named the AIRAH Future Leader Award winner.

Sean Badenhorst picked up the WR Ahern award for the best technical paper by an AIRAH member published in Ecolibrium.