Iconic Melbourne building makes big savings on electricity use
Sydney Morning Herald
Simon Johanson
10 August 2016

Apartment owners looking to save a buck and the environment should take a lesson from one of Melbourne's earliest and most iconic apartment towers.

The 87-apartment Republic Tower on the corner of Queen and La Trobe streets has undergone a decade-long transformation to reduce electricity use that started with the simple step of removing surplus fluorescent globes in its carpark and progressed to installing two $23,000 variable speed drives on its cooling towers and air conditioning system.

"A lot of buildings go for solar to create electricity. Because we don't have a rooftop big enough, we've gone in the opposite direction and said let's deal with our consumption," building manager John Pfeiffer said.

"Essentially what we've done from 2006 to 2016 is reduce our electricity consumption by 40 per cent," Mr Pfeiffer said.

"We started off with the light fittings in our carpark which had two globes in them. We took one out of each which reduced electricity by half," he said.

LED lights

Other key changes in the iconic, 36-level, Nonda Katsalidis-designed building included retrofitting low energy consumption LED lights in common areas and renegotiating lower carriage fees with the building's electricity provider to factor in the permanent reduction in usage, a cost flexibility many power companies don't want to publicise.

"If you can demonstrate you have reduced your consumption permanently, after a bit of persuasion, they will reduce their charges," Mr Pfeiffer said.

Apartment owner Peter Harris said the sustainability upgrades were funded progressively with money from the building's administration budget rather than maintenance funds.

"Our costs of running the building haven't gone up. The savings get reinvested in the new projects," he said.

Ten years ago in January the building used 85,421 kwh of power. This year that fell to 51,745 kwh.

Electricity charges for the common areas – foyer, carpark, pool, stairwells and air conditioning – were $95,000 three years ago. Next year they will be around $65,000.

About 410 fluorescent light fittings have been replaced with low-energy LEDs, some of them movement-activated to further save electricity.

All the proposals were put to the building's residents with an idea for a payback period and without adding extra costs to body corporate fees, Mr Harris said.

The next project will be to install electric car recharge stations for each carpark with individual owners billed for electricity usage, he said.

towers use about 25% more energy than detached homes


People living in high-rise towers use about 25 per cent more energy than detached homes, Melbourne city hall councillor Arron Wood said.

Almost half of that energy was consumed in common areas such as foyers, corridors, pools, gyms and carparks, he said.

Other city apartment towers have taken similar steps.

The Hero building in Russell Street has installed a large solar array and runs a worm farm for compostable refuse.

Freshwater Place Apartments in Docklands has replaced 1200 halogen lights with LED fittings.


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