Ecologically Sustainable Stainless Design
With the population boom leaving less open space available for traditional garden beds, stainless steel is helping to reintroduce Mother Nature to an increasingly unnatural environment. Ecologically sustainable design (ESD) promotes the use of existing resources to maintain biological balance. This allows for natural light and ventilation, reduced energy usage, water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The need for this type of specification is so apparent that the Government has established the Green Building Council of Australia (GBA) to advocate sustainable property development.
City of Melbourne was among the first to demonstrate ESD in Australia, with its own office building Council House No.2 (CH2). Green features such as natural lighting and temperature control earned CH2 the first GBA six-star Green Star Certified rating.
Among CH2’s green features is vertical landscaping created by ASSDA Member Ronstan Architectural. The specialist tensile contractors at Ronstan developed support systems for these gardens, fixing grade 316 stainless mesh and cables to the building’s exterior. Ronstan’s Rowan Murray said the benefits of green façades are now widely acknowledged. “Many new buildings include elements of active and passive solar design and have some sort of façade as a physical shade.
Using plants as a shade element is becoming increasingly popular and there are opportunities for the stainless steel industry to provide essential structure as a platform for plant growth,” he said. ‘Living walls’ can be more beneficial than conventional shading systems, both economically and environmentally. The plant’s ability to cool via evapotranspiration provides natural insulation, lowering the building’s running costs, while producing oxygen at the same time. “This in itself provides a direct social and psychological benefit to the building occupants, driving people to engage with the building,” Mr Murray said.
“People actually enjoy the close proximity to plant life and stainless steel plays a big part in making this possible,” he said. Mr Murray said design considerations are important when specifying for this type of application, particularly “dead weight” from suspended sheet and plant matte, wind and rain force, but careful design ensures an efficient lightweight stainless solution. Specifying ESD is also beneficial to your budget.
“We love to see stainless used in intelligent ways with façades and the good news is that despite the current climate we are gradually seeing developers begin to take a more responsible approach to the upfront cost of ESD,” Mr Murray said. A recent GBA report denotes the value in green features, such as stainless façades, claiming the study proved that “green buildings make occupants healthy, wealthy and wise”. GBA recently awarded its 100th green star to a sustainable interior design at Stockland Head Office in Sydney.
This article featured in Australian Stainless magazine - Issue 46, Winter 2009.