Sometimes the path to innovation is not straight, nor simple. However, there is a good argument to be made that the most valuable lessons are learned from the biggest challenges.
These were the most important things my team discovered working on a project in the ACT -
Northrop was initially appointed to the project to provide general sustainability advice, and later took on the role of Green Star consultants.
Sited within the St John's Church precinct on Constitution Ave, the location itself has created some challenges of its own.
Constitution Ave is the focal point for a significant urban renewal project in the ACT. Inevitably, any development located along it will attract additional scrutiny - not just from the National Capital Authority, under whose jurisdiction the development is within, but also from the public, which has understandably taken an interest in the strategic plan for Constitution Avenue's redevelopment.
To add further intensity into the mix, the project is located adjacent to a heritage site, St John's Church. It was important that the project remain sympathetic to the precinct's heritage.
Jamieson Apartments was the first multi-unit residential building in the ACT to be awarded a Green Star rating. While being first carries status rewards it meant we had to innovate.
The lack of industry experience in delivering Green Star residential buildings was a sticking point. While it was true that many contractors had experience working with Green Star, they had all been office projects. The shift required was not a subtle one, so we found ourselves at first pioneering and then passing on that knowledge - effectively, acting in the role of educators for contractors working on the project.
This project's EER (Energy Efficiency Ratings) was a particular challenge - our target was a 7.5 star ENE rating, significantly above the required 6 stars. As any engineer in property will tell you, energy is plays a significant role to achieve a good Green Star rating.
The heritage requirements, in the end, gave us a boost for our Green Star bid.
As mentioned earlier, the project's relationship with the adjacent heritage site added another dimension. The original building site had been an office building for the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, and was called Jamieson House.
The Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn stressed the importance of demonstrating the heritage links in the design of Jamieson Apartments.
As it turns out, although presenting an unusual challenge, embracing the heritage link actually proved to be a Green Star bonus - demonstrating the heritage value and historical aspects of the project was rewarded under the Innovation Challenges within the Green Star rating system.
While there were numerous technical and engineering challenges to the Jamieson House project, they could be overcome with an innovative mindset, and technical and engineering solutions.
However, arguably the biggest obstacle was one to which there was no simple and elegant engineering solution - time.
No-one could argue that this was a project with a long gestation period.
Northrop had been providing advice in the early stages of the project in 2009 and only now - in November 2014 - are we approaching the point where construction is nearing completion and occupation is imminent.
The project had taken a nine-month break part way through development. During that hiatus, the sustainability goals of the project had received a bump upwards.
While admirable, that shift in focus also required redesigns and the application of new sustainability techniques and hardware.
The extended development period also brought significant challenges in continuity - the longer the project, the more contractor churn you'll experience. That added to our workload as contractor educators.
Unfortunately, there is no single fix for an extended project - it just required that we devote lots of time to communication, both with the client team and contractors, which certainly helped the project run more smoothly.
Despite the numerous technical and cultural challenges, I am happy to report that Jamieson Apartments is on track to deliver on its Green Star As Built rating.
Jamieson Apartments has been a challenging project to work on, but has taught myself and my team a lot - not just about innovative engineering and sustainability solutions, but also in process management and communication
Project location: 43 Constitution Ave, Reid, ACTName: The Jamieson ApartmentsDeveloper/client: Anglican Diocese of Canberra and GoulburnBuilder: Hindmarsh ConstructionProject type: mixed-use, ground floor retail and eight levels of residential apartmentsKey environmental achievement: water re-use systemGreenStar: 4 Star Green Star
Article By Amir Girgis Sustainability Manager (Sydney), Northrop Consulting Engineers