Building a case for Smart Blocks

The owners’ corporation (OC) and management of Southbank’s Melbourne and City Towers are championing an innovative program to reduce the impact of apartment towers on the environment.

As part of the City of Melbourne and the City of Sydney’s national Smart Blocks initiative, the twin towers at 173-183 City Rd have been the subjects of the program’s first building-wide case study.

Smart Blocks is a national program helping apartment owners and their managers improve the energy efficiency of common property in apartment buildings. To date, some 650 buildings have signed up to the program nationally.

With the help of managers MICM, the Melbourne and City Towers OC has been running its own independent effort to reduce energy usage for some years since the buildings were completed in 2004.  

In mid-2015, the buildings came under review for a major refurbishment and it was during this period when resident and engineer Angelo Indovino helped take energy savings to the next level.

After conducting an audit of all electricity consuming items across both towers, Angelo said many additional changes were implemented that had resulted in further environmental and financial savings.

“The savings have increased to $120,000 per year across both towers and that will keep going up,” he said. “There is no target. The idea is to get it as good as we can but I wouldn’t be surprised if next year we’re saving even more.”

Over the past five years, a host of initiatives has resulted in an overall reduction in electricity usage of 43 per cent across both of the 35-storey towers. This represents a huge energy saving of 60,000kWh/month, which is equivalent to preventing the emissions of approximately 60 tonne of CO2/month.

To date, some simple measures have included installing variable-speed motors to car park exhaust fans, switching common lighting to LED and installing timers and sensors to air conditioning and lighting.

As the project manager, Angelo has since created a central database for the OC to gather the monthly electricity usage information, graph key performance indicators (KPI) and monitor initiatives implemented.

He said an important part of the program was ensuring the concierges also understood the importance of their role in helping manage the project, as they were the building’s “eyes and ears”.

The OC is continuing to explore a range of other savings measures including investigation of temperature settings and lighting in common areas, sourcing renewable energy providers and exploring solar panel installation.   

Having received support from the City of Melbourne and the building’s manager MICM, Angelo said he hoped the case study could be implemented in other apartment buildings in Melbourne and around Australia.

“Here is a story that’s not only good for the environment but it’s good for your pocket and that is why everyone is on board,” he said.

“This thing here can be used all over Melbourne. The idea is that we need to promote this and get other people involved with the same thing we’re doing and save money and the environment.”

Angelo will present the case study at the City of Melbourne’s High Life Expo 2017 on May 20 at Melbourne Town Hall.

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