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Republic Tower: sustainability stars

Designed by renowned architects Nonda Katsalidis and Karl Fender and completed in 1999, the 36-storey Republic Tower on the corner of Queen and LaTrobe Streets was one of the first high-rise residential apartment buildings in Melbourne. It houses 87 apartments.

“Unfortunately, solar isn’t viable for us;” explains resident and Owners’ Corporation Committee member Peter Harris, “we just don’t have the roof space.” But beginning in 2006, the Committee and Building Manager John Pfeiffer have been pursuing a step-by-step program to reduce the building’s electricity usage. “We started with the low hanging fruit,” says John. “First we removed one of the fluorescent tubes in each of the double tube light fixtures in the carparks. That cost nothing.”

Lighting

Last year, the remaining tubes were switched to LEDs, the final step in the conversion of common area lighting to efficient LED that also saw 212 halogen downlights replaced and movement sensors added to stairwell lights. “The fire escape stair lights used to be on all the time, which was just crazy,” says Peter.

Vaiable speed drives

As well as the lighting upgrades, significant energy savings were achieved by the installation of variable speed drives (VSDs): in 2007 to operate the air conditioning system’s two cooling towers, and more recently on the pumps that circulate the system’s water through the building. “Before, the motors were either off, or on and working at 100 per cent; now the VSDs sense the capacity needed and run the motors at the optimal speed,” explains John. “It uses less power, and also extends the life of the motors.”

Energy use plummets

As a result of their efforts, electricity consumption has fallen by a huge 40 per cent over ten years. Last year John approached the building’s electricity retailer and was able to negotiate a reduction in the ‘peak demand’ component of their bill to reflect the permanent reduction in consumption – a move which will save the Owners’ Corporation an extra $3,000 each year.

And that's not all

Other sustainable initiatives include a recent change from weekly to monthly sprinkler system tests: identified as a big contributor to common water usage. John is also proud of the success of the building’s recycling system. “We do what every building does, but according to audits by the City of Melbourne, we have a very good waste-to-recycling ratio.” Peter agrees. “We have committed people. There’s no financial benefit, but there’s the feel-good factor. And I think their participation is an indication that they feel good about our innovation agenda.”

Their next step is likely to be infrastructure to enable interested residents to have electric vehicle charging stations in their parking spaces. “We’re in discussions with a charging station installer,” says Peter. “We try to be early adopters. If something makes sense, we do it.”

“Owners’ corporation fees have risen far slower than inflation over the last ten years thanks to the cost savings from our projects, and the value of the building has been enhanced." said John Pfeiffer, Building Manager.