The Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) at the University of Wollongong is set to become the first Australian building certified by the Living Building Challenge, the world’s highest standard of building sustainability.

In order to achieve Living Building status, the SBRC has had to follow a rigorous framework that ensures buildings produce more energy than they use as this is a key aspect in sustainability. The research centre must also show its performance has reached Living Building standards over 12 consecutive months.

SBRC Research Facilities Manager Craig McLauchlan said we need to live in a balance with our environment to preserve our natural resources.

“At the minute, it’s a bit like a credit card and we’re constantly racking up a debt. But some time, the bill is going to be due,” Mr McLauchlan said.

“The problem is that I think the bill is going to be due in many years and generations, and it will be our kids that pay for it so we need to start to do something now.”

The Living Building Challenge has seven key areas – place, water, energy, health, materials, equity, and beauty. To meet the requirements in each performance area, the SBRC is a net-positive building, which means it produces more energy than it uses. It is also a net-positive water building, as grey-water systems recycle rain and wastewater to reduce the use of Council water.

The SBRC hopes that their innovative, sustainable design features will help them achieve Living Building status.

PhD Candidate at the SBRC Steven Veltrame said while the research centre is innovative in its sustainability approach, there is still room for improvement.

“The automatic systems that detect when windows need to be opened could use better management just to make the process and system more reliable,” he said.

Auditors have visited the site on the UOW Innovation Campus to begin the certification procedure and to assess the building’s sustainability efforts. Mr McLauchlan said the openness and education that is built into the SBRC have been the most important parts of the process.

“It’s an exemplar of what we can do with a building if we really reach,” he said.

“We’ve done something pretty amazing with this building and we need to show people what you can do if you reach. Maybe not every building can come to this standard in a short period of time but I think if you can take little bits and pieces it will make a difference.”

With the first part of the challenge completed, researchers at the SBRC hope the centre will soon become the first in Australia to be awarded the certification.

 

Team UOW won the coveted Solar Decathlon competition in China in 2013 with their entry, the Illawarra Flame House. The team transformed an unsustainable fibro house into a comfortable and sustainable home to show how our buildings can have an impact on our wellbeing. By making changes to the existing home, the team proved these modifications can significantly increase the efficiency of current homes in Australia. UOW is taking part in the 2018 Solar Decathlon in Dubai – this time it’s with the Desert Rose.

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