Property Australia

A sneak peek into Powerhouse Parramatta’s carbon neutral story

PROPERTY AUSTRALIA November 17, 2020

As Western Sydney’s first international cultural institution, Powerhouse Parramatta, starts to take shape, the project team turns to the new Green Star Buildings rating tool, to deliver a sustainable, climate ready community asset.

 Why we love this project:

  • 30,000 sqm in size, including 18,000 sqm of exhibition and public space, Powerhouse Parramatta will be the largest exhibition museum in Australia
  • More than two million people are expected to visit in the first year of opening
  • Lisa Havilah, chief executive of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences says: “Powerhouse Parramatta is uniquely positioned as a science and technology museum to exemplify and promote best practice sustainability – and Green Star offers us the best option to do both.” 

As the largest cultural investment since the Sydney Opera House, Powerhouse Paramatta signals a new era for Sydney. For the first time, the city’s geographical heart will beat with a cultural institution of international acclaim.

More than a museum, Powerhouse Paramatta has been designed to reflect the communities and cultures of one of Australia’s fastest growing regions.

An ambitious, dynamic and evolving program will come to life in a truly spectacular space. The seven soaring, column free exhibition halls will share the Powerhouse’s iconic collection and support new large-scale events for up to 10,000 people.

The Powerlab’s 30 creative studios and 60-person dorm will give researchers, scientists, artists and students the chance to explore new ideas on site. Digital studios will support music and screen industries. A rooftop garden will produce Indigenous and local food. A giant 360-degree screen space, unique to Australia, will provide immersive education experiences in science, astronomy and technology.

Powerhouse Parramatta also promises to transform the riverfront with an active public domain and pedestrian connections between the CBD and the river.181120 - Project - Powerhouse Parramatta 1

The project's vision for sustainability is just as impressive – a vision that will be verified with the help of the new Green Star Buildings rating tool.

Launched by the Green Building Council of Australia on 29 October, Green Star Buildings sets a clear new requirement that buildings must be net-zero – fully electric, fossil fuel free and 100 per cent powered by renewables – to achieve the highest possible 6 Star rating.

“We wanted to use the latest and most advanced sustainability rating tool, so we chose Green Star Buildings,” says Chaya Bratoeva, acting director of design and delivery at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.


Guided by Green Star

Haico Schepers, principal for buildings physics at Arup, has worked on Green Star projects since the rating system’s inception.

“We were already discussing how Powerhouse Parramatta could be carbon neutral and fossil-fuel free, and how we could apply the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals to the project,” Schepers says, when the GBCA offered a sneak peek of Green Star Buildings through its early access program.

“There was strong alignment between our ambitions and the GBCA’s for Green Star Buildings,” Schepers explains. The People and Places categories, for example, dovetail with the project team’s commitment to community consultation.

Schepers colleague Daniel Harris, a sustainability specialist with Arup, is responsible for the Green Star submission. Some of the new Green Star requirements “pushed the project in different directions,” he explains, pointing to the 50 per cent improvement in outside air rates as an example.

“Green Star Buildings widens the sustainability net, with better linkages to the SDGs and the Paris Agreement,” Harris says.

Schepers agrees. “Green Star Buildings relates to the key issues we face, like the climate crisis, so it helps project teams with prioritisation.”


A carbon neutral page turner

Powerhouse Parramatta’s carbon neutral story is certainly a page-turner. The building will boast a 100-kilowatt solar array, which will assist in powering the building.

Powerhouse Parramatta will be fully electric with a small allowance for traditional flame cooking powered by gas, with onsite renewable energy complemented by GreenPower. Energy modelling predicts a 30% reduction in operational energy against business as usual.

The new Green Star Buildings Positive category establishes a clear formula for net zero buildings: fossil-fuel free, highly-efficient, powered by renewables, built with low carbon materials and offset by nature. This formula sets Australia’s property industry on a pathway to net zero by 2030.

“As a science museum, the Powerhouse has a long history of supporting established science on climate change. The design brief calls for a building that responds to potential climate change impacts while incorporating low and zero carbon technologies,” Bratoeva says.

“Green Star provides verification of what we were already doing in some instances, and, in others, has driven us to consider new things.”