I’m back with a bad new blog layout… ready to throw a whole lotta green love at all you beautiful people out there in cyberland.  I felt it appropriate to get this new era of Metro Hippiedom kicked off with an epic project.. so here y’are!  (but before you read on, please refresh your RSS Feed!)

Wow!  Is that some sort of galactic death ship?  Neigh!… it’s the home of Melbourne Australia’s City Council, designed in collaboration between the Council and DesignInc Architects.  The project is called Council House 2, or CH2 for short, and is perhaps Australia’s most sustainable building.  Housing 540 staffers, CH2 is a balance between art and science, pulling out all sorts of stops to set a new standard in green building.

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Let’s jump into some of the features…

For starters, some really basic design elements were incorporated to cut the building’s energy costs.  Windows are opened at night to let cool air in, soaking into thermal mass of the concrete floors indoor.  This passive strategy virtually eliminates the need to turn the AC on before lunch time and reduces cooling requirements by 20%.  Recycled timber shutters were placed on the west side of the building and also open and close to control Australia’s hot sun from entering the interior.  Also, five lightweight fabric ‘shower towers’ were placed on CH2’s south facade (pictured above).  These things induce air movement and cooling through a shower of water that falls from the top of the tower, pulling air in and cooling it in the process.  The cold air at the bottom of the towers are then flooded into the first floor of the building.

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More technical features were built into the building to further conserve energy and water.  An innovative black water treatment plant was placed in CH2’s basement, removing up to 100,000 liters (sorry, too lazy to convert) of sewage from city pipes per day, treating and converting it to water for the building’s toilets and cooling towers.

Energy production is primarily taken care of on site as well… A gas-fired micro turbine in the roof plant room creates 30% of the building’s needs and is much cleaner burning than traditional coal-fired electricity.  A 3.5kW photovoltaic array kicks some more energy into CH2’s grid, sitting rooftop next to about 430 sq feet of solar hot water panels which heats 60% of the building’s domestic hot water needs.  Additionally, six interesting (but apparently over-engineered and not very productive) bright yellow wind turbines sit on top of the structure, looming over the city like colorful gargoyles.

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Beyond energy and water savings, Council House 2 has proved to be an incredible value regarding its employee productivity.  With a focus on plenty of fresh air, natural daylight, and comfortable working environments, CH2 has a staggering 10% improvement in productivity over the old office.  This combined with sickies (Australian for sick days) dropping from 3.6 to 1.5 days a year has proved to save the equivalent of $1.7 million annually!  That’s some serious green!

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photos by Diana Snape

Clearly Council House 2 is a rockin’ project with heavy hitting lineup of eco-features.  These features, along with dozens of other solution-based strategies earned the project a 6 star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, equal to a LEED Platinum effort here in America.  Pretty darn cool, eh?  Hopefully us Yanks can match the Aussies’ eco-cred sometime soon!

-j

About Joshua Foss


Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.