Solar panels on the Green Skills Training Centre roof

The greenest public building in Western Australia, the Green Skills Training Centre at Perth’s Central Institute of Technology, has officially opened.

Designed by [GHD] Woodhead, constructed by Pyramid and with civil, services, structural and ESD engineering provided by AECOM, the building has been designed to show students exactly what state-of-the-art sustainability looks like, including operating at net zero for energy. The $17 million, 6 Star Green Star centre will be used by CIT students studying sustainable building and construction, which made it imperative to showcase the best available technology and construction methodology.

A rooftop garden

A “stripped back” approach has been used in construction so elements can all be observed, such as the blackwater plant with its glazing on three sides of the enclosure, the mechanical services and items such as concrete soffits.

Students will also have access to the building’s three-dimensional BIM model to give them further insights into how a green building goes together.

The engineering design considered the lifecycle of the building’s materials, with construction utilising sustainable steel and recycled timber in bolted-together structural elements including hollow-core plank floor slabs. All of the structural elements can be disassembled and reused at end of life.

“This building demonstrates what’s possible from an open-minded approach to environmentally sustainable design,” Michael Thompson, AECOM senior engineer – buildings applied research and sustainability told The Fifth Estate.

“Green Skills literally has the whole ‘grab bag’ of initiatives in the one place. There’s [building integrated photovoltaics], black water, heat exchangers and sustainable materials. We even skipped the chiller and tapped straight into the campus’ central chilled water loop instead.

The black water plant

“Green Star’s been around for a while now so it’s really refreshing when the building owner puts their hand up and says, ‘We don’t want to be like the rest, we want to be better.’That’s the message we got and the Green Skills building is the result.”

The building’s solar power is generated both by roof panels mounted on sawtooth roofing, and facade-integrated panels. The system has been designed to have the capacity to generate all the energy needs of the centre, making it feasible for it to operate off-grid.

Interior

It also has rainwater capture for use in toilets and irrigation and the blackwater plant will produce both water for irrigation and treated effluent for fertilising the landscaping.

Active controls switch off lighting and airconditioning when the building is not in use, and active heat recovery technology has been installed in the classroom and atrium air conditioning systems to reduce energy usage.

“The AECOM team found it extremely satisfying to work on the Green Skills project,” Drew Toscan, AECOM principal mechanical engineer told The Fifth Estate. “Our engineering design contributed to a building that now provides the next generation of construction industry graduates with the opportunity to study in a structure that embodies the sustainable principles they are learning, and that demonstrates how such sustainable principles can be delivered in the real world environment.”

The Green Building Council of Australia’s chief operating officer Robin Mellon told The Fifth Estate the building was the first 6 Star Green Star government building for WA.

“We applaud the leadership of both the federal government, for funding the project, and the Department of Training and Workforce Development, for championing it,” Mr Mellon said.

“One of our advocacy priorities is to grow industry skills capacity, and buildings like the Green Skills Training Centre do just this by providing a high-performance, hands-on learning environment and a real-world example of sustainable thinking in action.”

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