University launches A$98 million greening project

In the biggest project of its kind in the southern hemisphere, RMIT University in Melbourne will spend A$98 million (US$90 million) to cut energy and water use as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

RMIT - Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology - has worked with international companies Siemens and Honeywell for two years to identify opportunities for energy and water savings in 90 buildings across its city and suburban campuses.

The Sustainable Urban Precincts Project is expected to reduce electricity use over eight years by an estimated 239 million kilowatts, leading to a 30,000 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Water use will be cut by an estimated 68 million litres.

RMIT Vice-chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner, who will become Monash University's new vice-chancellor in September, said the university was committed to turning its vision of being a leader in urban sustainability into reality.

"RMIT will not only contribute to the global striving for sustainability," Gardner said. "We will also integrate this project into our education and research so that our students and staff can contribute to the process and learn from it."

The university will upgrade its infrastructure to reduce electricity demand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Feasibility studies are under way to install co-generation and tri-generation technologies to allow it to generate part of its electricity demand on site.

Honeywell estimates that a tri-generation plant would reduce the university's greenhouse gas emissions by 7,000 tonnes annually by using the waste heat from electricity production in both heating and cooling.

The second largest use of electricity on campus is for lighting so providing 26,000 'smarter', more efficient and low-maintenance fittings will be an early win, said Wayne Kent, Pacific General Manager of Honeywell Buildings Solutions.

Kent said the company's smart energy solutions for RMIT included upgrades to its mechanical equipment, more energy efficient lighting and water harvesting technology. He said the university would also gain an interactive learning and teaching platform for the benefit of students.

Siemens Australia CEO Jeff Connolly said an energy efficiency upgrade on this scale was a great step towards the sustainable future of Australia and underlined RMIT's leadership in this area.

"This is a great example of energy efficiency. Our team looked at all areas of the campus to see where our technology could maximise savings across water, lighting and the building management system, to create a highly efficient campus, both environmentally and economically," Connolly said.