News | 2 July 2020
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Smarter buildings reducing Council’s carbon footprint

Energy savings made in two central city buildings brings Wellington City Council a step closer to achieving its goal of becoming a Zero Carbon Capital by 2050.

Image of Wellington Museum exterior from Jervois Quay

Technology that controls the atmospheric conditions inside Wellington Museum and the City Gallery has reduced the annual energy consumption of these buildings by 37 percent and 25 percent respectively.

The museum and gallery projects paid for themselves within the first 18 months. Money that isn’t spent on power bills can be invested into improving the buildings themselves, or anything else that improves the city in general.

The programme reduced the building’s annual carbon emissions by 179 tonnes, which is equivalent to 30 New Zealand households. Now the Council is on track to extending these energy saving programmes across other high energy using buildings.

Wellington City Council Energy Manager Ben Thrupp says lowering energy consumption in buildings is one way to improve the capital’s sustainability, and to reduce its environmental footprint, in a way that pays for itself.

Engineering consultant Beca’s B-Tune service focuses on a building’s atmospheric conditions, and adjusts them to suit the changing environment in the most economical way, he says.

“An example would be if it’s a really cold winter’s morning, the building would reticulate as much air as possible while monitoring C02 levels, so much less fresh air would need to be injected and heated up.

“But on a summer morning we would try and push as much fresh air into the building as possible so we don’t need to cool the air. These are just a couple of examples of what can be done by programming the building’s management system, and trying to use as little energy as possible.”

Mayor Andy Foster says embracing smart innovations like this helps the city realise its aim of becoming a Zero Carbon Capital by 2050 – a goal that 92 percent of Wellingtonians would like Council to prioritise.

“If we can utilise technology like B-Tune in our bigger buildings, and then as individuals make small changes to reduce our energy consumption at home, collectively we‘ll be moving in the right direction. We’re pleased to be leading from the front in this area but this is just one piece of the puzzle – there are many other sustainability initiatives we have operating which will be integrated alongside this interesting project.”

A couple of initiatives include replacing the Michael Fowler Centre stage lighting with LED technology for significant reduction in energy use, indirectly saving more energy by reducing heat emissions too.

Plus creating an eco-friendly way of treating the water used for cooling the City Gallery, resulting in a decrease of energy use, less waste, and fewer chemicals. This project has contributed to the saving of 5.5 million litres of water.

The move to improve energy efficiency at Wellington Museum and the City Gallery resulted from the Smart Buildings Challenge, an initiative run by Council in partnership with Microsoft, and EECA (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority).

The Council wanted to support organisations within Wellington to understand their building’s energy use and work on a way to decrease it. One of the most interesting outcomes that came from the challenge was the work done by the engineers at Beca.

Beca’s Technical Director, Building Services, Nick Baty says museums and galleries often have a high energy use because they need to control humidity, and building tuning can identify how that can be done more effectively. Larger buildings typically have a building management system that controls their climate systems.

“Essentially all we did was take the data that was already there, put that into a dashboard and we were able to see in real-time how changes to the controls could be made to make savings. Once you’ve got the data, you then have information to make a case to the people who pay the bills.”

Since the Smart Buildings Challenge, Beca is running B-Tune in more than 20 buildings around New Zealand, saving energy and carbon emissions.

The Smart Building Challenge was managed by EMANZ (Energy Management Association of New Zealand) who are now known as CEP (Carbon and Energy Professionals).

Watch the video about the project here.