Moreland City Council, which declared a climate emergency in 2018, is heading up this Australian-first endeavour. Melbourne architecture studio DesignInc Architects met the challenge and WSP supplied the majority of the engineering services.

Says project leader Kieran Leong, an associate at DesignInc Architects, the Passive House community building – which will include a library, kindergarten, a community health centre and other basic institutions – came with challenges attached. At this point, most of PH projects are residential or commercial structures.

The library book return chute presented a challenge for the extremely energy efficient building style typified by an airtight envelope and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system.

Leong called the chute a hole in the wall.

He said the building’s dimensions generated flex room on the airtightness as its sizable volume and small surface space makes heat escape minimal.

Attaining Passive House is becoming less costly as capabilities and supply chains in Australia age. Yet at this time, there still exists an upfront cost premium (although that is repaid before long through lowered operational costs), with Passive House elements comprising for approximately 2 per cent on top of the council’s tough ESD guidelines.

Says Leong, the pair of problematic certification plans complemented each another.  

To attain Living Building Challenge “Petal” certification (the older version), the facility must adhere to performance criteria in seven categories: place, water, energy, health + happiness, materials, equity and beauty. 

The project should adhere to baseline necessities in each category and supplementary criteria in its three selected ones: energy, equity and beauty.

Of this trio of categories, energy is the most challenging, requiring that 105 per cent of the building’s requirements to be fulfilled.

A 250kW solar system will be sufficient to adhere to the single storey building’s energy requirements considering the energy efficient Passive House design, which can slice operational energy usage by 90 per cent.

Leong states that the array will supply 125 per cent of the facility’s energy requirements. Paired with 64KWh of battery storage that will permit the facility to operate sans additional power for a week, he states the building will also serve as a refuge site during emergencies like bushfires and heatwaves.

The structure will be gas-free (including childcare kitchen equipment) and totally electric.

Leong says that this Passive House also will be beautiful, a curvaceous structure that supplies universal access, a multicultural community mindset and plentiful access to gardening. The structure fronts a park and is situated in ample green space with a community garden and a shed to store tools.

Visitors will be able to retreat to both private places and community areas.

Inspired by biophilic design concepts, the structure will consist of exposed glulam beams and timber joists. Other prime elements feature a steel structure and brick veneer.

Leong states that the selected building materials reflect the heritage listed building that remains from the site’s primary school days.

An effort has been made to limit the usage of harmful materials where feasible, which is permissible with the Petal certification.

The usage of materials such as timber will keep the building’s embodied carbon profile on the down side.

The project also features a 150,000 litre rain water tank under the car park for flushing toilets and irrigating the gardens of the centres.

The site also will feature a pair of electric car charging stations.

The council intends to wrap up construction in December 2021 and open early 2022.

Source: Fifth Estate

Image credits by DesignInc Architects