Major Sydney venues go green

By Lauren Davis
Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Major Sydney venues go green

The operators of some of Sydney’s most popular venues have caught the sustainability bug, implementing technologies and procedures to reduce waste, emissions and costs.

ICC Sydney

Take a walk along Darling Harbour and you’ll find it difficult to miss the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney). Still a relatively new development, ICC Sydney opened in December 2016 after the demolition of the old Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre. Significant efforts were made to ensure the rebuild was as sustainable as possible; over 90% of the original exhibition centre was repurposed for the new centre, with fixtures and fitouts — including timbers — locally sourced within NSW.

One feature that certainly wasn’t part of the old centre is the 520 kW photovoltaic (PV) array, said to be the largest in any Australian CBD. Used for hot water and electricity generation, the array produces 545 MWh/year, which is enough energy to power 100 homes — or 5–6% of the 240,000 m2 venue’s baseload power. And because the solar panels can heat water up to 70°C, it often doesn’t even need to be topped up with gas power before being sent to the kitchens.

ICC Sydney’s solar PV array.

Other heating and chilling is run through a single central energy plant (CEP), which serves all three ICC buildings and is expected to save 20% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to the Building Code of Australia standard. This plant includes two baby chillers and four larger ones, all of which are designed to last for 25 years in any weather condition. The plant operates for most of its annual hours at low to medium capacities, enabling the individual chillers to operate close to optimal levels — resulting in significant energy savings. For example, on one of the hottest days so far (41°C), the venue had the four large chillers running, while on a winter’s day with the venue half full, only one baby chiller needs to run.

A major venue such as the ICC goes through quite a bit of food on a daily basis, much of which is sourced locally from regional NSW. The venue also works on occasion with food charity partners such as OzHarvest and all kitchens have their own organic waste bins to ensure it goes into the correct stream. Waste management company Cleanaway is tasked every day with taking these organics off-site to food waste-to-energy facility EarthPower, where it is turned into fertiliser via aerobic digestion.

Other highlights include rainwater harvesting, which provides 100% of irrigation demands and 63% of toilet-flushing demands; innovative window glazing to allow natural light into the pre-function areas; automatic lighting controls and more. The result of all this is that ICC Sydney has been certified as LEED Gold for Sustainability.

Sydney Cricket Ground

Venture a few kilometres south-east of Darling Harbour and you’ll find yourself in Moore Park, home of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Commercial cleaning company Quayclean has been working with the SCG Trust since 2010, providing a suite of cleaning and waste management services with a focus on sustainability.

Image credit: SCG Trust/Hamilton Lund.

The first thing you’ll notice about the SCG is that there are no general waste bins in either the public areas or the corporate suites — instead, everything is either recyclable or organics. As explained by Quayclean CEO Mark Piwkowski, “We took the view that just about everything here is recyclable in some form — it just comes down to the quantity.”

The only two bins in an SCG corporate suite.

Around the more open areas, recycling is handled by solar compacting bins, which compact up to seven times the volume of a standard 240 L bin. There are around a dozen of these bins on-site, each of which is able to sense how full the bin is at any point and whether it needs emptying — information that can be tracked via an app and map of the bin’s location. This means labour is never deployed unnecessary, and waste trucks do not need to come as often either.

Solar compacting bins at the SCG.

The venue also has its own cardboard baler, as well as three glass-crushing machines — again meaning that more product can fit in a single bin and, by extension, in a single truckload. Quayclean eventually plans to introduce glass-crushing machines in all the venue’s bars, with Piwkowski explaining, “That way, we’re actually dealing with the problem at source, rather than filling up bins full of glass that we have to move every time.”

SCG Venue Manager Alex de Graaf operates the venue’s co-mingled compacter.

As for food waste, the Quayclean team are reasonably confident that event attendees will eat most of what they purchase, with SCG Venue Manager Alex de Graaf noting, “If you spend $10 on a pie, you’re typically going to finish it.” So like the ICC, most food waste comes from those serving the food, with all retail outlets equipped with one or two 120 L organics bins — and regularly educated on what to put in them. Quayclean currently disposes of its food waste via EarthPower, which turns it into three by-products: greywater, which goes to the sewer; compostable material for the gardens; and power, which goes back into the grid.

Excitingly, the company plans on deploying its own dehydrator before the end of 2018, which will take up to a tonne of food per day and ‘cook’ this material down to an organic compound, taking it down to about 15% of its volume. This product, which is “effectively the consistency of blood and bone”, according to Piwkowski, will be mixed with grass clippings and potentially used as an organic fertiliser at the nearby Centennial Park.

What’s next?

Now another major Sydney venue is getting the sustainability treatment, with Quayclean recently awarded a presentation and cleaning contract to service one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions: the Sydney Opera House.

The Opera House has made significant efforts to incorporate sustainability elements ever since it opened in 1973, starting when original architect Jørn Utzon implemented a seawater-cooling system. Today it is proudly carbon neutral, thanks to initiatives such as LED lighting upgrades, implementing a building management system and increasing its recycling rate from 25 to 60%.

Piwkowski would like to improve the venue’s waste management efforts even further, saying his team will “work closely with the Opera House to develop and initiate environmental technologies which will increase recycling targets while substantially reducing costs”. For a site that welcomes more than 8.2 million visitors a year, that’s likely to make a huge impact on Sydney’s sustainability efforts — and it surely won’t be long until another major venue follows in its wake.

Top image caption: Profile of the ICC Sydney convention block. Image courtesy of Philip Terry Graham under CC BY 2.0

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