Cronulla Surf Life Saving Club :VT#7 Adaptation and Sustainability
Our family have recently considered buying an electric car to replace our family car. In researching the energy considerations associated with the purchase of an electric car, we discovered that the embodied energy in a new electric car is higher than a typical combustion driven car. Embodied energy is the amount of energy used in the production of something including its delivery and installation and it can take about 50,000 – 70,000 additional kilometres for an electric car to recoup the energy expenditure of that original purchase relative to a combustion driven car.
You might be wondering how this has any bearing on the project for the CSLSC.
What people don’t realise (much like the car) is that the embodied energy in a new building is significant, and deserves greater consideration than any of the building’s ongoing energy systems; lighting, air-conditioning etc. In an energy context that is reliant on fossil fuels, energy translates heavily to CO2 emissions and climate change.
Several strategies were employed in the CSLSC project that reduce embodied energy as well as ongoing reliance on energy. They will sound relatively simple. They are highly effective at mediating the overall energy expenditure of the project, but require thoughtful consideration to develop, and integrate.
First and foremost, the strategy was to retain as much of the existing building as reasonably possible. Apart from the retention of important elements of the building’s heritage, other relatively new portions of building (dating back to as recently as the 1990’s) were almost entirely retained; apart from some near surgical removals and insertions to satisfy brief requirements and better connect different parts of the building.
Accordingly, new construction was minimised and structure was expressed, avoiding any unwarranted covering up with additional linings or finishes. Where linings were required preference was given to timber and recycled timber lining products.
With careful consultation with the CSLSC and the environmental consultants, reliance on services was minimised. The Ceremonial Hall, the most significant function space in the building was thermally modelled and evaluated to ensure that it remained comfortable even at high occupancy rates. The thermal performance of the Ceremonial hall was moderated through a high thermal mass (existing and new masonry construction) well protected from the external climatic conditions (by rooms clustered around it at lower levels). The temperature of the Ceremonial hall can be further moderated via natural ventilation control that make the most of the available coastal breezes and stack effect via high level clerestory louvres.
Only relatively small rooms prone to overheating or longer term occupancy would be provided with air-conditioning, and lighting would be controlled through motion detection and other such approaches suitable to satisfying contemporary energy efficiency standards.
These strategies not only result in less energy consumption in the construction by retaining the embodied energy of existing construction, but would also serve to save costs, and add another rich layer to the already rich history of the building’s fabric and character. Adding further layers of considerations, mechanical systems and other electrical systems within the context of a highly corrosive coastal environment are not a good fit and would be subject to intense maintenance regimes, early failure and additional cost.
In every project it is important to consider the symbiotic nature of strategies across a broad range of considerations. Issues of building adaptation and sustainability are complimentary and most successfully applied as collective design considerations throughout the design process, with consideration to their suitability to the project, context and client as well as symbiosis with other design considerations.
You may be wondering whether we chose to buy a new car?
For reasons I hope have become apparent, not yet. Our current car is still serving out its purpose without burdening the planet with the purchase of a new one.