Melbourne's RMIT University has unveiled an ambitious plan to transform its campus buildings into models of sustainability and efficiency.

RMIT’s $98 million new sustainability project envisages dramatic cuts to energy and water consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions at 90 buildings across three of its campuses in the Victorian capital.

The university’s Sustainable Urban Precincts Project (SUPP) is believed to be the largest and most ambitious of its kind in the southern hemisphere, targeting a reduction in electricity consumption by 239 million kilowatts over an eight-year period, which translates into a 30,000 decreases in greenhouse gas emissions.

The project also plans to reduce water consumption by approximately 68 million litres, an amount which RMIT aptly notes, given Melbourne’s status as the cafe capital of Australia, is the equivalent to 425 million cups of coffee, or 50 per cent of Australia’s annual consumption of the beverage.

SUPP will employ an energy performance contract (EPC) model in order to meet emissions reduction goals set by the university, while the campus assets will be managed using a best practice approach in order to produce improved performance, reliability and efficiency.

Areas covered by SUPP will include alternative power generation methods, lighting and lighting control systems, HVAC systems, building automation systems as well as water conservation and harvesting opportunities.

Margaret Gardner, RMIT vice-chancellor and president professor, said SUPP attests to the university’s commitment to the pursuit of sustainability in urban setting.

According to Gardner, the project will be incorporated into RMIT’s standard educational remit for the benefit of both staff and students, with $48 million allocated towards teaching and research in relation to sustainability.

In order to expedite the campus-wide sustainability drive, RMIT enlisted the aid of Siemens Australia and Honeywell Building Solutions, who spent a two-year period investigating means to optimise energy and water usage at the university’s three Melbourne campuses in the downtown area, Bundoora and Brunswick.

Honeywell has already launched a feasibility study into the generation of power by on campus via the adoption of co-generation and tri-generation technologies. According to Honeywell’s projections, the use of a tri-generation plant could slash RMIT’s emissions of greenhouse gases by as much as 7,000 tonnes per annum.