Helping the Victorian Parliament Breathe Easy Once Again

Our innovative work on the Parliament of Victoria’s Members’ Annex has recently been featured as the principal article in the July edition of the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air conditioning and Heating’s (AIRAH) Ecolibrium magazine.

Irwinconsult’s ‘sunken’ design of the Members’ Annex, including our state of the art HVAC system, provides uninterrupted views of the first Parliamentary building while accommodating space for 102 members and their staff.


Completed in August of 2018 with a $43 million budget, the almost three year-long project has won several industry awards throughout the year. It was successful in winning five award categories at the Victorian Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Awards, including the Victorian Architecture Medal, and went on to win three awards at the at the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) National Awards, Public Architecture National Award, The David Oppenheim Award for Sustainable Architecture, Urban Design National Award. Working closely with Peter Elliot Architecture and AE Smith, we designed a HVAC system using a Geo-exchange ground condenser water system, reverse cycle chillers and an in-ground labyrinth ductwork system.


Underground, the Geo-exchange ground condenser water system consists of 56, 100 m deep loops. Providing staff with a sustainable source of heated and cooled water via reversible chillers, the loops can either absorb (heat) or reject (cool) the thermal energy from the Earth. Able to be individually isolated in groups of four, the loops are then piped back to the internal plantroom, connecting to the main condenser water flow and return headers. Sustainably sourced hot and cold water is now ready to disseminate to the tenants.


“Not only does our design provide multiple architectural benefits, it lives up to its 5 Star Green Star Design, As Built and Interior equivalency rating,” says Michael Barber, Associate Mechanical Engineer at Irwinconsult, a WSP company. “Architecturally, the in-ground HVAC design overcomes the issue of minimum internal plantroom space, whilst maximising the potential capacity for office space.


“Our solution has also removed the need for external cooling towers, maintaining the picturesque views of the original Parliamentary building and surrounding landscape. By adopting a more environmentally sustainable HVAC system, the Victorian Parliament is less reliant on natural gas fired boilers that would traditionally produce hot water. Annual energy efficiency will also be greatly improved as the reversible chillers are generally unimpacted by the varying extremes of Victorian weather.”


The in-ground labyrinth ductworth system, as well as a service corridor, was utilised to create a highly energy efficient and sustainable building while working around the issue of limited ceiling space. The innovative structure introduces outdoor air into the buildings common areas through a thermal labyrinth: much the same as the Geo-exchange ground condenser and reversible chillers, but this time, with air rather than water.


“Our team used a completely proprietary product by Rehau, which vastly simplified installation, and therefore enabled savings,” explains Michael. “The Rehau product also comes with an anti-microbial product coating, preventing the growth of microbes that typically lead to smells in the air system. Each of the individual offices in the building are naturally ventilated and provided with a variable air volume grille to provide individual office thermal control from zoned in-ceiling fan coil units. All ductwork serving the office spaces was designed using the static regain method such that the system is self-balancing and use no traditional static balancing dampers.


“Through the inventive combination of these sustainable technologies, not only have we made our mark on the physical political landscape, but we have deepened our partnership with both Peter Elliot Architecture and AE Smith, leaving everyone consuming clean, comfortable and environmentally sustainable air and water.”


For more information on the project, please contact Michael Barber and to read the AIRAH Ecolibrium article, click here.


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