Monash University in Melbourne’s east is named after pioneering Australian engineer Sir John Monash. It seems fitting, therefore, that innovative and sustainable engineering was instrumental in delivering the recently-completed University’s green student housing.
In 2012, Monash University achieved its goal of becoming the first university in Australia to provide students with new affordable rental and low-cost sustainable housing. With funding provided by the National Rental Affordability Scheme, the new student residences include 600 studio apartments plus a number of additional two- and three-bed apartments.
Located on campus adjacent to the university sports centre, teaching facilities and a host of amenities, these accommodations are a further building block within the student community that has formed on campus. They are also located next to strong public transport links, further reducing the need for private transport and the resultant CO2 emissions.
The development’s holistically sustainable design has resulted in this project achieving Australia’s first 5 Star Green Star Design Rating under the GBCA’s Multi-Unit Residential Assessment tool. The project is now on track to achieve another Australian first and receive a 5 Star Green Star As-Built rating.
From day one, holistic sustainable design was the bedrock principle applied by the entire design team, said Norman Disney and Young (NDY).
“NDY paid particular focus to the cost effective energy efficiency, building thermal performance and whole-of-life costing when considering the design solutions for this project,” says NDY sustainability group manager Mark Barrie.
One key strategy in delivering low energy-consuming student dwellings was a robust building thermal façade. The glazing, wall and overall insulating properties of the building as a whole, were carefully specified to deliver a building that had 40 per cent improved performance over the requirements of the BCA section J. The building’s robust thermal performance and reduced infiltration properties allowed for a hydronic (radiator) heating system to the individual apartments and common areas to be installed.
These radiators are served by high efficiency gas-fired condensing boilers, which Barrie says “are more efficient in terms of energy (carbon) consumption than electrical refrigeration systems.”
“The domestic water requirements for the building are supplemented by a renewable solar hot water installation, backed-up from the gas-fired boilers, ensuring a hot water storage temperature that eliminates legionella,” says Barrie. “The investment in the building’s robust thermal performance was not simply a means to provide a highly efficient heating system but allowed passive benefits associated with thermal lag and reduced internal solar gains. The high-performance glazing selection was carefully considered to allow daylight penetration while reflecting light at the higher and lower ends of the visible spectrum.”
The combination of these measures has resulted in accommodations that do not require air conditioning. Localised occupancy-controlled exhaust fans allow the dwellings to be purged by removing heat build-up during occupied periods.
On the roof, a large solar photovoltaic array is connected to the building’s electrical system, offsetting the amount of energy drawn from the electrical grid. This renewable, low-maintenance strategy was subject to modelling allowing for the panels to be oriented to their optimum angle to ensure minimum shadow casting and maximum yearly output from the installation.