There’s a quiet green revolution taking place at RMIT in Melbourne, where a $98 million urban sustainability project – the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere - is underway.
The Sustainable Urban Precincts Program (SUPP) will drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy use.
Electricity use over the next eight years will be cut by an estimated 239 million kilowatts, leading to a 30,000-tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Water use is also expected to drop by an estimated 68 million litres.
The project is spearheading the University’s push to take a leading role in urban sustainability.
RMIT Chief Operating Officer Steve Somogyi says the University is committed to demonstrating leadership excellence in sustainable design and innovation.
Transforming RMIT’s environment to create sustainable and resilient cities is integral to this strong commitment, he says.
“It is our vision that our campuses will be integrated with the cities in which we operate, contributing to urban sustainability and culture,” he says.
“Infrastructure upgrades will be introduced to create world-leading, innovative, collaborative projects which will embed sustainable outcomes across the core business of the University, delivering strategic outcomes for schools and research areas.”
As part of the program, $4.8 million will support teaching and research in sustainability at RMIT, including 10 PhD scholarships for related research projects.
This “Green Team” of the best and brightest will be at the forefront of RMIT’s sustainability vision, working across 10 key areas from Buildings Engineered for Urban Sustainability to Powering Future Cities.
It may be a small team but its reach will be powerful as they work on world-leading and collaborative multidisciplinary research projects, supported by strong industry linkages.
Integrating SUPP into education and research has been a smart move – it gives RMIT students and staff the opportunity to contribute and learn from this “once in a generation” program.
A range of other sustainable initiatives have been embedded across the University, from an emissions reduction target to a “community of practice” of dedicated sustainability staff in the Learning and Teaching Unit.
Somogyi says RMIT is working with industry leaders Siemens and Honeywell to identify opportunities for energy and water savings in 90 buildings on the City, Bundoora and Brunswick campuses.
Honeywell’s smart energy solutions include upgrades to RMIT’s mechanical equipment, more energy-efficient lighting and water-harvesting technology.
Lighting alone accounts for the second largest use of electricity on campus.
Providing 26,000 smarter, more efficient and low-maintenance fittings across the University will be an early run on the green board.
Honeywell Regional General Manager, Karl Mahoney, says: “The project will not only boost sustainability, it will help the University modernise its buildings and campuses, creating a better environment now and in the future for students and staff.”
Similarly, Siemens Australia Chief Executive Jeff Connolly has praised RMIT’s vision and leadership when it comes to sustainability.
“This is a great example of energy efficiency,” Connolly says.
“Our team looked at all areas of the City 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.”
Feasibility studies are underway to install co-generation and tri-generation technologies which will allow the University to generate part of its electricity demand onsite.
Story: Elisabeth Tarica
Photo: Carla Gottgens
This story was first published in RMIT's Making Connections magazine.