Canberra’s first zero emissions office block to house ACT government

Employees of the ACT government will be located in Canberra’s first carbon neutral building, with designs revealed by developers Doma for a 5-star NABERS Energy rating building in the city’s centre.

The building, to be located in the inner Canberra suburb of Dickson, is being developed on the site of previous ACT government offices as part of a wider development, incorporating offices, commercial space and residential apartments.

All of the energy used within the building will be via electric appliances and plant equipment. By shifting services such as the building’s heating and cooling systems to electricity, avoiding the use of gas, the building can take advantage of the fact that 100% of the ACT’s electricity will be sourced from renewable sources, and therefore have no associated emissions.

“Traditionally, chillers have only been capable of providing chilled water which helps cool the building and then a gas boiler is required to provide heating,” Doma Development’s General Manager, Gavin Edgar said.

“The solution being adopted for Dickson provides both heating and cooling for the building using a combination of water cooled and air cooled heat pump chillers which have the capability to reverse their mode of operation and provide either chilled water of heating hot water.”

ACT Government zero emissions building solar energy efficiency

The building design will include electric underfloor slab heating and will be able to produce some of its own electricity through a rooftop solar system.

The temperature controls in Canberra buildings are generally worked hard throughout the year, as they work to balance out the city’s high temperatures in summer, and infamously cold temperatures in winter.

“Temperatures in the ACT vary significantly over the year from season to season, so we have had to cater for this,” Edgar said.

“The chiller arrangements have been optimised to manage the peak heating loads in winter and cooling in summer, as well as handle the shoulder seasons where simultaneous heating and cooling is required.”

In addition to setting a goal of achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2020, the ACT government, it also set itself the goal of achieving carbon neutrality in government operations by 2020. The carbon neutral government goal covers emissions from government buildings and schools, as well as the public transport system.

ACT energy minister Shane Rattenbury issued a challenge to property developers to deliver plans for a zero-emissions building.

“Across the board, we need to continue to raise the standard of environmental performance in our buildings. In this context, we need someone to step up and deliver the ACT’s first ‘net zero’ emissions large scale building, which will be an iconic achievement and a lasting legacy for our city,” Rattenbury said at the time.

Just months later, property developers Doma delivered on the challenge, delivering plans for the ACT government offices, forming part of the developer’s DKSN development.

“This is an excellent initiative, and I congratulate Doma for rising to the zero-emissions challenge. Zero-emission commercial buildings are both technically feasible and highly cost-effective.” ACT minister for climate change Shane Rattenbury said.

“Doma and the ACT government are demonstrating that new commercial buildings can be gas-free, and it lays down the challenge to others in the industry to match this climate-friendly standard.”

“The ACT is already a leader when it comes to energy and we’re on track to have 100% renewable electricity by 2020. But to reduce the ACT’s greenhouse gas emissions to our target of net zero by mid-century, we now need to focus on other sources of emissions, and the built environment is a key area,” Rattenbury added

There is hot competition between capital cities towards achieving carbon neutrality and shifting energy use to renewable energy, with local governments in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide all making similar commitments.

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