State of the Environment Report 2007

Snapshot: Trevor Pearcy House – a rewarding story of reuse

Homes and commercial buildings use about one third of ACT energy.  A growing, if still inadequate, number of new “green” buildings is emerging using best-practice methods to reduce energy and water use. But, effective re-use of existing, older buildings is rare. Many commercial buildings have been poor environmental performers – and they are sometimes demolished and replaced whilst still relatively young. But that process, not unknown in the ACT, is energy intensive and refurbishment can be a better answer.

Trevor Pearcey House at Fernhill Technology Park in Bruce is great proof of that. New owner-occupiers, Australian Ethical Investment Ltd, by a clever refurbishment in 2006-07, lifted its part of this building to a 6 star energy rating.

On the energy side, insulation, ventilation and lighting were key targets. Insulation was added, windows were double-glazed. Thermal mass was exposed in walls and the ground floor slab. Hydronic radiators were installed.

Extensive steps were taken to ventilate the building naturally, for workday comfort and rapid overnight cooling. Controllable openings on both sides of the building allow cross ventilation: and a chimney effect through the building was created by making cuts between floors to form 4 stacks, with fans to circulate and extract the air. The systems are both automatic and manually controllable.

Lighting was tackled from every direction! A new atrium on the first floor is a natural light well, as are the ventilation stacks. Louvred low energy lights were installed with separate switching in different zones, some areas with timer switch-off.

Water demand was reduced through dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, and low flow taps and shower fixtures. To further balance the demand - supply equation, two 3000-litre tanks were installed, offsetting the total water required for toilets.

There was extensive and imaginative re-use of material from the building’s previous fit-out. Health issues were tackled through choice of low polluting finishes and materials.

Early indications are that energy use has been cut by around 75% and mains water use has reduced by over 80%. Occupants enjoy the building, too, another desired plus.

The lesson learnt is that retrofit upgrading is feasible and profitable for offices while remaining comfortable, healthy, satisfying places to work in or visit – and this can be the case for many existing homes too. “Everything old is (potentially) new again”!

living sustainably

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