Building efficiency on display in Melbourne

Siemens’ relationship with Australia began 144 years ago with 40,000 wooden poles and a copper telegraph wire 3,200 kilometers long. It continues today delivering the technologies of the future, this time with a major cost-saving and energy efficiency gain for Melbourne’s biggest museum complex.

For five successive years since 2012 Melbourne, Australia, has been named the world’s most livable city. The honors were bestowed by the prestigious Economist Intelligence Unit, which annually surveys 150 of the world’s best metropolises, judging them on culture, ambience, lifestyle, and clever use of technology to enhance the living and working environment.

These honors have come from vision, planning and long-term investment in best-of-breed technology designed to improve the living space. In that latter area the city and its enterprises have a long-standing partnership with Siemens in fields ranging from environmental control to public transport and healthcare. Increasingly, too, emphasis is being put upon reduction of cost, use of sustainable energy, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Museum Victoria

Its latest incarnation is a multi-million-dollar investment through an Energy Performance Contract between Siemens and the Victorian State Government to bring state-of-the-art energy and environmental efficiency technologies to Museum Victoria, Australia’s largest public museums organization. It comprises four large and different individual museums – the 80,000 square meter Melbourne Museum, the Southern Hemisphere’s largest museum, and the historic and opulently decorated World Heritage-listed Royal Exhibition Building completed in 1880, as well as Scienceworks, a hands-on technology museum, and the Immigration Museum, along with two climate-controlled storage facilities. In total the six sites care for a collection of 17 million objects and specimens.

Siemens’ relationship with Australia began 144 years ago with the construction of the Overland Telegraph, a monumental project involving 40,000 wooden poles and a 3200 kilometer copper wire hauled from Darwin to Adelaide across a trackless desert devoid of water or human habitation, burned by summer temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celcius.

The partnership forged then continues today, delivering the technologies of the future in environmental control, communications, transport, healthcare, and more. The latest example is a major cost-saving and efficiency gain for Museum Victoria and its centerpiece, Melbourne Museum, where thousands of visitors come daily to enjoy and learn of the past, the present, and the future.

Melbourne Museum

Perhaps the best example of this is the Forest Gallery, a living piece of the ancient Victorian mountain landscape. There, in a carefully controlled environment behind glass doors, a myriad of rainforest plants, from tiny mosses to ferns and statuesque eucalypts, are home to living wildlife. The air is misty but as the path continues through the display it becomes drier. Birds sing and flit among the branches, and as the seasons change flowers bloom and berries ripen. A stream flowing through the exhibit hosts freshwater fish and spiny crayfish.

The museum is a timeline of life of all kinds – from dinosaurs to inventors, and includes CSIRAC, Australia’s first computer, built in 1949 and now the last-surviving machine of its kind in the world.

Royal Exhibition Building

Across the Carlton Gardens and part of the Museum complex stands the historic and opulently decorated World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building, completed in 1880, a reminder of Australia’s colonial past and the immense wealth dug from the earth in the Great Gold Rush of 1850.

Thus the Museum is a guardian of the past and a steward of the future and exemplifies the policies of the state and the city.

Reducing cost and greenhouse gases

Siemens’ work at Museum Victoria is a response to a commitment to advancing public understanding of climate change and similar critical issues. So after a Detailed Facility Study Siemens is implementing HVAC, lighting and water efficiency upgrades that have already reduced carbon emissions by 35 percent and utility costs by 32 percent. Incandescent fluorescent and metal halide lighting has been replaced with the latest LED technologies. Manually switched areas are being upgraded with automatic occupancy-based controls.

Building management at Melbourne Museum has been upgraded with the state-of-the-art Desigo CC platform with 3,000 data points giving centralized control, allowing use of existing but upgraded assets and demonstrating how buildings with high visitor traffic should be managed in the future, particularly those in cities such as Melbourne facing very high summer temperatures.

Siemens estimates a saving through these and other measures of 4,590 tons of carbon dioxide over the life of the contract. The greatest single reduction of CO2 emissions will come from a cogeneration system that uses a reciprocating natural gas engine that will supply the majority of Melbourne Museum’s power and heating requirements and significantly reduce the current cost of grid-sourced power from Victoria’s coal-fired stations in the Latrobe Valley. Energy efficiency upgrades to air conditioning and lighting systems will add to CO2 reductions.

Reducing water consumption

Further efficiencies are already being gained from the replacement of an obsolete air-cooled water chiller system at the Immigration Museum with a high efficiency magnetic bearing chiller.

Siemens has reduced water consumption across all six sites, an important issue in facilities with high visitor flow in a country where drought is common.

Lastly, as part of the Energy Performance Contract, Siemens installed its Navigator cloud-based energy and sustainability platform. The platform, which underpins Siemens’ data-driven performance optimization services, provides centralized energy and sustainability performance intelligence. It captures and processes the data generated by the museums’ systems and delivers it to the Siemens Service Centre where teams of engineers constantly review and look for opportunities to optimize energy consumption. The system also monitors equipment for any degradation in efficiency and by proactive maintenance seeks to minimize downtime. Technologies employed include replacement of fluorescent, metal halide and incandescent lighting with LED, deployment of solar panels, upgrades of heating, ventilation, and cooling systems and automation of their control. All are included in the Museum Victoria project.

Siemens’ work at Museum Victoria is a further example of the working of the Victorian State Government’s Greener Government Buildings (GGB) policy, aimed at reducing costs, improving energy efficiency, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in existing government buildings. The work continues to expand with the Government announcing in August 2016 that it would invest AUD 33 million in bringing more government buildings and infrastructure to GGB standard through Energy Performance Contracts as is being done by Siemens at Museum Victoria.


Author: Garry Barker, Melbourne-based journalist

Picture credits: Siemens AG

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