Steaming towards sustainability

It's a bold 21st century sustainability project that will be fuelled, ironically, by 19th century technology.

It's a bold 21st century sustainability project that will be fuelled, ironically, by 19th century technology.

Excess energy from the powerful boilers that run the CUB Brewery in Abbotsford are being retasked to meet the energy needs of a nearby office building, turning it into a hub of environmental sustainability and design.

The former art deco-era headquarters of Kodak and CUB will be transformed from a zero NABERS-rated building into a carbon neutral precinct, courtesy of this alternative energy source and an extensive retrofit.

"We are in a really unique position - with the brewery and its existing co-generation infrastructure - to begin establishing a renewal energy community utility, which will the first of its kind in Australia," said John Shone, chief executive of environmental research and education group Kunexion.

Kunexion, along with non-profit partner and sponsor Yarra Energy Foundation, have big plans for this type of cooperative model, with the FFHQ project set to be a "test lab" of cutting edge thinking as part of a much larger plan to make the City of Yarra carbon neutral by 2020.

"This is part of the Yarra Energy Foundation's strategy to establish a municipal style community utility and renewable energy business based around six industry districts in the City of Yarra," Mr Shone said. "We happen to have six large boiler rooms in our municipality that already generate electricity, hot water and heating and cooling for their host operation, be it a brewery, hospital, university or laundry. So we're able to use, quite ironically, infrastructure from the 1840s - i.e. the steam engine - to generate renewable energy today."

Kunexion recently signed the master lease for the five-level building on Southampton Crescent, which is owned by Perth-based developer Wyllie Group.

A leasing campaign has begun to fill the 8000 square metre space, but it's not everyday office users who will get to become tenants.

The 200 sq m to 1600 sq m spaces will be offered only to businesses that profess a dedication to the co-generation and carbon neutral concept.

The anticipated tenancies should include a major energy retailer/generator, sustainability engineers, architects, designers, consultants and financial modellers, along with advanced bio-tech and research and development firms.

The leasing campaign is being handled by Kelly & Kelly and Gross Waddell.

Achieving a carbon neutral target is likely to take three to five years.

"We are more interested in year one, two and three, in learning to live and work together and to use the intelligence of the tenants to look at the best way to retrofit this 1928 art deco building," Mr Shone said. "We're not rushing towards the retrofit. This place is a test lab."

cvedelago@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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