Improving energy efficiency through changing technology

In the fast-paced global market of energy efficiency and sustainability, building and facility managers must embrace changing technology to get the best out of their buildings.

It all starts with industry innovation, and according to Tony Arnel, global director of sustainability at Norman Disney & Young (NDY), one of the biggest areas for change right now is renewable energy through lithium-based battery storage. “The technology surrounding battery storage has improved markedly in terms of efficiency,” he says. Funded by substantial global investment and with growing public awareness, thanks to products such as the Tesla Powerwall, renewable energy is gaining pace in the marketplace and Arnel is currently consulting to clients on how batteries could be used in building applications. “Up to now it’s been the missing link,” he says. “With battery storage people can store the excess energy and use it at another appropriate time.”

Battery storage is also a hot topic for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. He recently outlined a plan for the Australian Renewal Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to work together to develop a new program to advance battery storage. The Prime Minister made the comments in his energy-focused National Press Club address, where he described energy as the “defining debate of this parliament”.

While Arnel is interested in the large-scale application of battery storage in bigger buildings, he predicts its trajectory will be similar to solar, with early adopters blazing the way.

Zero Net Carbon (ZNC) Emissions Plan

A further ambition is for buildings to achieve Zero Net Carbon (ZNC), to help deliver on the Paris Climate deal announced in December 2015. The City of Melbourne has set an ambitious target to become a carbon neutral city by 2020, through its Zero Net Emissions plan, while a number of large building companies including Lendlease have just signed on to support the World Green Building Council’s push towards designing, building, investing in and operating net zero buildings. A focus on renewable energy is part and parcel of delivering ZNC.

International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) Ratings

Another technology advance is taking the built environment to the next level, and motivating the industry to futureproof buildings with a human focus. “I am currently promoting the new WELL rating, enabling buildings to be certified with a more holistic approach,” Arnel says.

The WELL building standard from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) is a US rating system offering a comprehensive set of criteria that measures indoor environment quality, covering everything from ventilation and lighting through to nourishment and materiality, to improve the wellbeing of workers. Arnel is already seeing interest from some of the larger players in the building industry, who recognise that the market today now demands more green attributes within office buildings. “It also signifies that there’s a clear link between the workplace and productivity, as a bottom line financial situation,” he adds. But there are challenges, and currently WELL rating certification is expensive, and potentially cost prohibitive due to the complex nature of the criteria.

While Arnel says these initiatives are a move in the right direction, and aligned with the world’s general direction towards de-carbonisation, he believes Australia has ”˜tapered off’ its policy focus on sustainability over the last decade. He says that minimum standards have helped to mainstream energy, water and waste saving initiatives, but Australia’s achievements in sustainability is ”˜middle of the road’.

“It’s clear that we still have some way before the built environment can deliver cuts to minimise greenhouse gas,” he says. Thankfully, there are building owners and developers brave enough to push the boundaries and stimulate widespread industry change, such as Grocon’s Pixel Building in Carlton, one of Arnel’s favourites.

“Good design doesn’t date,” he said.

Join Tony Arnel for his lively panel discussion: ”˜Do energy efficiency and sustainability still matter?’, featuring as part of the Speaker Series at Total Facilities 2017 on Thursday 30 March at 1pm.

About the Author: Annie Reid

Annie Reid is a qualified journalist, professional copywriter and published author with a passion for everything bricks and mortar. For many years, she’s written thousand of stories for newspapers, magazines and clients around the world. Somewhere between the heady buzz of headlines and deadlines, she discovered a niche for creating tailor made content for the property, real estate, architecture and design industries. Annie holds a Bachelor of Arts and is currently studying a Masters in Publishing and Communications, both from the University of Melbourne.

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