How a Melbourne apartment building cut its energy consumption in half
One Step Off The Grid
By Sophie Vorrath
19 October 2017
As high electricity prices and energy policy wars continue to dominate
Australian news headlines, a Melbourne retiree has offered a salutary
reminder of just how much energy – and money – can be saved through the
most basic of energy efficiency measures.
Angelo Indovino – a chemical engineer who spent his career working for
energy giant Shell – has donated his time to help lead a initiative at
his own apartment building in Melbourne’s Southbank, that has cut total
power consumption by 50 per cent in just five years, and generated
savings for the body corporate of around $140,000 a year.
But perhaps the most impressive element to this story is not what
Indonvino and his owner corporation-led team have saved, but how they
have saved it – and the implications this could have for thousands more
apartment blocks in Melbourne and other major Australian cities.
As Indovino tells it, the energy efficiency project at Melbourne &
City Towers – 35-storey twin towers built in 2004 and managed by
Melbourne Inner City Management – kicked off in 2012/2013 with a power
saving initiative targeting the buildings’ five-level car park.
This initiative, which was carried out before Inovino himself got
involved, installed variable speed motors in the car park’s exhaust
fans, reducing the power they used, as well as the noise they made.
As you can see in the chart below, this effort alone made a major impact.
“That was a big initiative, that delivered good results,” Indovino told One Step in an interview on Thursday.
“These were very noisy fans that used to work hard all day long. By
adding the variable speed drives, there is now better control, the fans
are hardly audible, and it has resulted in significant energy savings.”
The next step change – also illustrated in the graph – is a bit more
detailed, in that it is the result of a number of initiatives – guided
by the government-backed Smart Blocks program – implemented in rapid
succession by the apartment block’s own team.
But the initiatives, themselves, are all strikingly simple and
low-cost; starting with the most basic and obvious step of replacing of
all the building’s lights with LED globes.
“The (replacement of the lights) was an easy decision,” says Indovino,
noting that it was also free of charge as part of the state
government’s VEET scheme.
Next, Indovino and the team turned their attention to other ways to improve energy efficiency.
“We did audits of the building and found lots of lights on that should
have been off. For example, the lights in the emergency stair well were
on all the time. And they didn’t have to be.
“And the air-conditioning in the gym was also running much of the day,
even though it is often empty,” he said. “So we put a timer on it –
simple things like that.”
And in the building’s corridors, light sensors set to stay on for 5
minutes after being triggered have been changed down to 2 minutes, and
will probably go down to 30 seconds, he says.
And there’s still more low-hangingg fruit to be plucked, Indovino says.
Like the “great big” air-conditioners used to keep the temperature in
the buildings’ corridors to 22°C all the time.
“Why?” asks Indovino. For this, the group aims to put in a simple
temperature gap control mechanism, so that the air-con doesn’t come on,
or the heater doesn’t come on, until the ambient temperature in the
halls gets to a certain level.
“We’ve done 50 per cent, and can probably get it down to 60 per cent” reduction in energy consumption, he adds.
The building also has a pool, so there are plans to Investigate the
operation of its lights, pumps, water heating, etc, looking for
Once all energy efficiency options have been explored and implemented,
Indovino says the plan is then to look at the potential to install
solar panels and battery storage at the apartment blocks.
And the work won’t stop there. “The next big thing is, we’ve done one big building, what are the rest of them doing?
“We’re creating some friends of energy efficiency, talking to other owners corps, forming a bit of a club,” he told One Step.
And they’re trying to motivate local councils to step up their role in
promoting apartment building energy efficiency. To this end, Indovino
is working with the City of Port Phillip, to hold an energy Aware
Apartments information session at the St Kilda Town Hall next Thursday,
The program aims to support apartment buildings in the council area to
reduce energy use, and thus reduce operating costs and environmental
The information session will include practical advice from experts,
case studies, and resources from Smart Blocks, and the opportunity to
network and ask questions. For more information or to register to
attend the session, go to www.enviroehub.com.au.
“You’ve got to make it attractive. I think this kind of thing – like
VEET – should be free of charge,” says Indovino. “At the very least,
the audit part (should be provided free). Then you can say, ‘Listen,
you could do this this this and this very easily’. This is all
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