What is sustainability?

Sustainability improves energy efficiency by integrating design, construction and operations of a home, apartment, facility or business into a coordinated approach. This process is about improving building design, reducing environmental footprint, improving occupant comfort and reducing running costs. It is a scientific practice, providing proven and measurable benefits.

Why do we need sustainability?

The current awareness of climate change and how it is affecting us, together with the amount of waste, inefficiency and pollution within our culture, demands a sustainable approach. As the costs of irreplaceable ‘natural capital’, such as fossil fuels, increase sustainability makes even more business sense.

More than 80 per cent of all Australian buildings are incorrectly designed for the climate in which they are located, so it is easy to see how improving the design and comfortability of structures will benefit occupants and improve operational efficiencies.

How do I become sustainable?

Ensure you integrate your design, construction and operations in any built environment to create a sustainable result. This commitment requires the use of assorted design and operational concepts resulting in a functional, sustainable outcome.

What will it cost me?

The Building Code of Australia (BCA) states building sustainably will cost 0.6-2 per cent of the project, however in many cases the cost is less than the saving you would make over the short term. Often it won’t cost you any more than a non-sustainable build – and could even cost you less. Consider the 10 times repayment in energy efficiency alone over 20 years, without including all the other advantages – financial, environmental and otherwise.

How will sustainability benefit me?

Some of the many benefits of sustainability include:

  • Improved comfortability, without powered ventilation
  • Reduced running costs
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Reduced water consumption
  • Improved daylighting
  • Improved functionality
  • Improved profitability
  • Reduced maintenance
  • Improved resale
  • Improved marketability
  • Improved occupant health
  • Improved productivity

How does sustainability fit into a renovation?

Sustainability does not only apply to new structures. Properly integrated refurbishment design and appropriate building technology can reap significant benefits for any renovation project. The renovation process allows the opportunity to change what is put back for the better, such as improved glazing and daylighting, thermal envelope, internal environment quality and services.

How does VIM help?

VIM works on a design, build or operations analysis and diagnosis of each project at every stage, using software expertise, sustainability analysis and diagnostic knowledge. Our recommendations can be used as the sustainability framework by architects and mechanical, electrical or hydraulic designers. We also forecast running expense and greenhouse gas emission savings and show how much more comfortable a building will be using our recommendations, as well as outline chemical emission reductions.

We can also help with the following:

  • Project compliance with council or authority approvals
  • Diagnostic and analytic tools to measure sustainability
  • Sustainable design recommendations
  • Local climate modelling
  • Thermal assessment modelling

How long before there is a return?

This depends on many factors and how you value your return. In some cases the benefits can be realised and paid for within 12 months. There is a range of documented evidence on the cost benefits of sustainability. See our links page for some of the financial benefits reports.

Will sustainability really benefit the environment?

Sustainable practice is a proven methodology, bringing significant reductions to energy use and, therefore, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste output. It also significantly reduces toxic chemical emissions into the internal environment and improves occupant comfortability, learning and health outcomes, as well as longevity of the building.

Can VIM help my project comply with council or authority approvals?

VIM’s team has a thorough understanding of sustainability requirements for councils and authorities. Our sustainable solutions reports are created using diagnostic and analytic tools to show how each project complies with, or in many cases exceeds, council or authority requirements. We can also provide alternative solutions for compliance and work with councils to assist with their sustainable approval criteria, or deliver design recommendations defining the project’s initial control framework, which your architect can incorporate into the project design.

What is local climate modelling?

The local climate is analysed with specialised software, with the results incorporated into the design criteria for a building. This process ensures the building is designed specifically for the local climate it will exist in.

What is building thermal assessment modelling?

This building thermal envelope, and other related thermal comfort contributors, are analysed via computer and sustainability factors to ascertain the appropriate design criteria for the specific building structure and passive climate control features. These features include solar radiance, glare, cross flow ventilation, thermal mass benefits, night purging and daylighting.

Will sustainability make my building more comfortable?

Most definitely. Most Australian buildings are not designed with the climate or building functionality considered at all. There is a great benefit to ensuring your building is cooler in summer and warmer in winter without using mechanical or electrical systems that drain energy. Too many buildings are built to a formula that is not relevant to the climate, their function or the environment.

A sustainable building will also be a lot less toxic to inhabit, use less water, and, in some cases, become self sufficient.

What is AccuRate?

AccuRate is a second-generation thermal modelling rating tool for residential buildings. Designed by the CSIRO, it provides a precise thermal analysis for residential buildings and predicts the energy consumption for that design in a specific location. This modelling tool also enables users to change design components to improve energy demand outcomes. Only accredited assessors can use the tool for official rating purposes.

What will VIM’s service cost?

Our fees are dependent on a number of factors, such as the type of project, diagnosis or analysis specified, status of project (whether it is in design, DA, construction or Greenfield stage), results required and location. Please contact us for further information  so we can ensure you are provided with the most suitable fee indication.

Overall, our costs are usually comparatively low for consultancy fees in the built environment, compared with the benefit we provide.

VIM works on a set fee, hourly rate or a percentage of overall project cost, depending on which framework suits our clients. We firmly believe “We will save you a lot more than we cost you”!

How long will your report take?

Some take a few days, and others several months, depending on the scale of the project, type of the report, research required, current workloads and status of the project.

What is BASIX?

The building sustainability index (BASIX) measures energy consumption for residential homes and apartments in NSW. It was initiated in 2004 by the Department of Planning (NSW) to reduce water and power consumption. All new homes and new home extensions must comply with a BASIX rating, depending on location.

What does Section ‘J’ of the Building Code of Australia (BCA) mean for me?

Section ‘J’ is the Federal Government energy efficiency regulation. It applies to all classes of buildings, except in NSW where residential buildings only must comply with BASIX requirements and only one Section ‘J’ requirement.

Budget between 0.6-2 per cent of the overall construction cost to comply with requirements, however this cost is expected to be returned in energy savings within a period 2-6 years, depending on the type of building (BCA RIS 2005). In many cases the cost could be neutral, as a well-designed building envelope can significantly reduce the size and usage of mechanical ventilation and lighting requirements.

What is a Green Star rating?

This tool provides a benchmark green rating tool for commercial, residential and education projects, based on overall design and operations. It is a non compulsory rating tool.