Melbourne-based architect firm, k20 Architecture, has designed and delivered sustainable Council facilities for the Hindmarsh Shire Council in Nhill, north west Victoria.

Environmentally sustainable design (ESD) principles are at the core of the building’s design intent, with k20 Architecture utilising a number of innovations to deliver an outcome that would not only minimise embodied energy and energy loadings within the building, but also reduce carbon output for the life of the project.

Along with Intrax Consulting Engineers, the Green Star rating system was used to assess and implement measures that would be effective in improving the building’s impact on both its interior and the wider environment.

The thermal performance of the new Hindmarsh Shire Council Corporate Centre was a key aspect of the design. Located in a region that is exposed to extreme temperature conditions, the building features a series of thermal chambers that were constructed underground via earth tubes and under-floor ventilation plenums to draw in fresh air from the exterior. The fresh air is cooled or warmed naturally by the earth before being redistributed back throughout the building via air displacement plenums.

This Hindmarsh approach pre-tempers the air via an earth pipe heat exchange system before it is introduced into the habitable areas of the building, thus vastly reducing the energy required to heat or cool the air once inside the space.

An under-floor air distribution (UFAD) air conditioning system was also designed to provide an excellent level of control for occupants via a series of operable floor grilles. By placing the grilles on the floor of the building levels, rather than along the ceiling, the freshest air supply will be delivered closest to the occupied space.

At the same time, LED lighting systems were selected for reduced energy consumption and maintenance within the main workspaces, while solar panels were installed on the roof to harvest energy, thus offsetting energy consumption.

Over 80 percent of the existing building’s materials were recycled before the existing infrastructure was demolished, while one of the three original buildings was retained and repurposed in order to minimise the embodied energy within the building’s design.

The building also consumes less energy via passive solar design, cross-flow ventilation principles and zoned motion-detecting lighting. Vertical green walls were created to enhance the indoor air quality which collectively promotes a sustainable lifestyle informing the culture of the Organisation.

Moreover, very little steel was used in this project. Instead, k20 Architecture custom-designed and manufactured a laminated timber product from locally sourced Vic Ash timber for structural purposes.

An electronic control and monitoring system was also installed to test the effectiveness of the measures taken to minimise energy consumption, so that the positive impact of the building’s systems can be measured and documented over time.

“When designing and constructing public buildings not only do architects have a responsibility towards the environment but we are also accountable to the members of the public for whom these buildings are created,” says k20 Architecture Director Theo Kerlidis.

“By bringing best practice design techniques and leading edge innovations such as underground thermal cooling and custom manufactured laminated timber, we have been able to deliver a building that is incredibly sustainable whilst also creating a public space the whole community can be proud of.”

With Stage One of the new Hindmarsh Shire Council Corporate Centre now complete, Stage Two is earmarked for completion in September 2013.