Thanks partly to green building certification systems such as Green Star, LEED, and BREEAM, increasing the sustainability of the built environment has become a prominent goal in the corporate, healthcare, and government spheres.

New structures account for the bulk of certifications, though retrofits also offer abundant opportunities for improving building performance.

Museums Victoria has begun a program, in accordance with the Labor Government’s Greener Government Buildings program, that aims to increase the performance of six sites through equipment retrofits. Melbourne Museum, the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building, Scienceworks, the Immigration Museum, and the Simcock Avenue storage facilities are being retrofitted to improve their performance. These facilities are strikingly different structures and thus require unique approaches to optimise efficiency.

Museums Victoria is working with engineering firm Siemens to implement new technology in the buildings that will:

  • reduce electricity costs by 32 per cent, enough to power 1264 homes.
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent, equivalent to eliminating 6,000 cars.
  • reduce water usage by 6 per cent, equivalent to draining 75 swimming pools.

“Museums Victoria, together with the Victorian Government and Siemens, is now making a significant contribution to energy efficiency and environmental sustainability for future generations,’ said Lynley Marshall, CEO of Museums Victoria.

Components of the project address efficiencies in lighting, water, HVAC, electric power, and building management. Siemens estimates that these measures will prevent the release of 4,590 tons of carbon dioxide over the life of the contract. The $11 million project is being financed through an energy performance contract with a payback period of under seven years.

“This will make a real difference. Not just for the environmental benefits, but proving there are ways we can think outside the box and work together with other partners to achieve environmental targets,” noted Minister for Finance Robin Scott.

Project details involve myriad systems. An obsolete and inefficient water chiller at the Immigration Museum has been replaced with an updated, high-efficiency magnetic-bearing chiller. Lighting upgrades in the museums involve replacing outdated incandescent, fluorescent, and metal halide units with new LED bulbs and fixtures, resulting in reduced usage of electricity, decreased production of heat, and a reduction in maintenance.

HVAC systems are optimised with new equipment, such as chiller replacement, while overall electricity usage is reduced by installing a cogeneration system that includes a reciprocating natural gas engine that will provide the bulk of the power and heating needs of the Melbourne Museum. This unit will account for most of the reduction in CO2 emissions, and will also decrease dependency on Victoria’s coal-fired stations in the Latrobe Valley.

Building management makes use of a Siemens system at Melbourne Museum that tracks 3,000 data points while providing centralised control. Another tool from Siemens is a cloud-based system that captures data for use by engineers to monitor building performance and look for both degradation in performance and opportunities for improvement.

Since rollout in 2009, the Greener Government Buildings program has upgraded 389 government building at a cost of $134 million, saving $335 million along with a reduction of 134,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. The program aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25,000 tonnes yearly while cutting energy use.

“This is an exciting partnership that highlights the innovative ways we can help drive down emissions. Working together we can deliver a cleaner, healthier future for all Victorians,” said Minister for Energy, Environment, and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.