Surf Coast Shire Civic Building

The project at a glance:

  • 5 Star GreenStar - Office Design v3 rating
  • First Green Star-rated civic building in regional Victoria
  • Reducing Council’s exposure to the risk of climate change
  • Supports Council’s 30 per cent emissions reduction target
  • Providing green skills for local workers

Victoria’s Surf Coast Shire is leading the way for regional local governments with its new 5Star GreenStar – Office Design v3 Civic Building. The building is setting a new standard for environmental sustainability in regional areas, helping Council to achieve its triple bottom line goals and providing local workers with green skills for the future.

Located at the entrance to Torquay, the Civic Building is a ‘green gateway’ to the region’s wonders including the Great Ocean Road, Great Otway National Park and Bells Beach. It reflects Council’s desire to make the Civic Building reflective of the Surf Coast community’s environmental conscience. Mayor, CrDean Webster, explains that the Council resolved from the start to commit to a building that rose to the environmental aspirations of the community.

“Council has always been determined that this community’s civic building should be a regional flagship in environmentally-sustainable design that reflects our community’s efforts to protect our local environment and live more sustainably,” Cr Webster says.

The building’s environmentally-friendly features include an internal atrium that will boost airflow, a rammed-earth wall which will provide good thermal mass and alleviate the need for heating, onsite stormwater storage and reduced use of concrete and steel in the building construction. The focus on Ecologically Sustainable Design (ESD) principles will minimise energy use and running costs, reduce water consumption and pollution, and limit the Council’s exposure to the risks of climate change. 

“Science shows us the Surf Coast will be affected by climate change in many ways. We need to prepare for more extreme weather conditions, higher utility costs, and Council needs to ensure the resources we allocate to mitigating these risks are well-directed,” Cr Webster says.

The Civic Building is one part of this approach, and is helping the Council to reduce climate change risks and achieve its target of a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse emissions on2010levels, by2020.

The project has also provided benefits to the wider community beyond a reduced environmental impact. The building contractor, Cockram Construction Projects Limited, used local subcontractors for 70 per cent of the work.  This provided a boost for the local economy, and equipped the local workforce with the green skills and experience needed for the future.

“Sourcing local labour and material suppliers helped reduce the impact on the environment from transport emissions,”Jason AhSam, Regional Manager of Cockram Construction in Western Victoria, says.  “We also installed a sandwashing plant on site to convert site-recovered soils for use in the extensive landscaping and sporting fields rather than importing materials from elsewhere. This approach aligned with our solid commitment to sustainable buildings and reducing the environmental impact of construction.” 

Overall, Cr Webster is proud that the Council’s leadership has been recognised with Green Star certification. “Accreditation was a priority for Council,” he says. “Achieving a Green Star rating for the Civic Building is a solid demonstration of our commitment to environmental leadership.”

What the Surf Coast Shire Civic Building achieved:

With the Council setting a target of 30 per cent reduction in organisational greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, it’s no surprise that energy efficiency was a key focus of the building project.

Priority was given to energy efficiency measures that reduce the building’s heating and cooling loads. For example, improved air tightness, high levels of insulation and high performance double glazing all reduce demand for air conditioning systems.  Lighting sensors further reduce energy use by automatically switching off lights in empty rooms.

In addition, a digital notice board is located in the main foyer to display the real-time performance of a number of the building’s environmental initiatives, including the photovoltaic and wind turbine renewable energy systems; rainwater harvesting levels; and ambient weather conditions, such as daylighting, affecting the building’s indoor environmental quality. 

Gas-fired condensing boilers, which have efficiency levels between 90 and 95 per cent, have also been installed, improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  At the same time, photovoltaic solar panels and a small-scale wind turbine generate electricity onsite, and solar collectors on the roof provide hot water for the building.

Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ)
To provide a healthy and productive workspace for employees and residents, the Civic Building is designed to enhance IEQ. The north-south orientation of the building maximises daylight penetration and provides good levels of natural light inside the space. The internal atrium also boosts fresh air circulation, creating a more pleasant working environment. 

By specifying paints, carpets and sealants low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and the installation of a photocopier exhaust which extracts harmful emissions from the building, improves indoor air quality. Carbon dioxide monitors measure air quality and ensure optimal levels of fresh air are provided, which is then distributed through the efficient and healthy underfloor air distribution system.

Material use was minimised through a number of approaches. Cement use, the production of which is responsible for around five per cent of global manmade CO2 emissions, was reduced by more than a third.  The consumption of new steel was also minimised, with more than 90 per cent by mass either reused or containing post-consumer recycled content greater than 50 per cent.

Operational material use is minimised through specialised recycling bays located externally with easy access for both building occupants and waste collection staff. The bays allow for recycling to be quickly and easily sorted, ensuring that the Council directs most of its waste stream towards recycling.