Green Gateway to the Pilbara?

canyon in pilbara

The Pilbara is synonymous with industry, energy and economy, but it is not often linked to sustainability. The high level of mining works undertaken in the region make it Australia’s modern mining mecca, with the Western Australian economy booming as a result.

However, with WA standing as the country’s largest consumer and producer of natural gas, there is no denying that the activities undertaken in the Pilbara have been highly carbon emitting…until now.

The development of a $150 million, 650-room resort located in Port Hedland, the gateway to WA’s Pilbara region, has been announced, offering to create a carbon neutral precinct in the area that includes a large-scale waste water cycling centre.

Designed by Noel Robinson Architects, the development will use the services of sustainability consultants Umow Lai in order to reach carbon neutral status. Thermal efficiency, water efficiencies, the monitoring of materials’ embodied carbon and the inclusion of renewable energy technologies will be key focal points, with various techniques planned to cater to each point.

Umow Lai associate director of national engineering and sustainability Andrew Marklund states that, while the efficient design and monitoring systems will strategically aid in a reduction of carbon emissions of the site, the use of specific renewable energy technologies will play the most profound role in achieving carbon neutrality.

“The other top priority is the integrated building services approach,” says Markland. “Having the architecture and services right helps minimize the vital final piece of the carbon neutral jigsaw puzzle – onsite renewable energy sources.  Though costly, these are required to offset the operational and embodied carbon.”

mining in pilbara

A majority of the structure itself will be developed through a modular prefabrication process. While the travel associated with shipping and trucking the structural elements does increase the embodied energy of the materials – which will be both be coming from Thailand and Melbourne respectively – it will be offset by renewable energy use and the minimisation of waste and site operatives while offering a solution to the area’s skill shortage issues.

Another key element in delivering this development as a carbon neutral precinct will be the implementation of active chilled beam air conditioning, which will be completely fed by outdoor air and include total heat recovery.

The major investments, however, will be the renewables.

“Among the primary environmentally sustainable design initiatives being planned for the Landing Resort are a total wastewater treatment and recycling system with funding from Water Corporation,” says Marklund. “Other big ticket Environmentally Sustainable Design initiatives include the use of Building Integrated Photovoltaic panels to generate electricity directly from the sun; a central energy facility with biofuel trigeneration systems for annual site cooling, heating and power demands and chilled water thermal storage.”

A wind farm may also be developed adjacent to the site.

The development of a such a high energy-focused initiative is not unheard of in the area. The renewable nature of the project, however, is. Landing Resort is a vital change of pace for developments of the region, something that will hopefully lead the way for a future WA industry that is renewable-reliant and green in their delivery.

By Tim Moore
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