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Sustainable Building Technology

Piney Lakes Environmental Education Centre demonstrates sustainable living options. Set within an urban bushland reserve which contains sensitive lake and wetland areas, the venue reduces carbon output and minimises environmental impact through sustainable building technology.

The climate sensitive and solar passive design features of the Piney Lakes Environmental Education Centre reduce the requirement for active heating and artificial lighting (during Winter), and active cooling of a building (during Summer).

Solar Pergola at Piney Lakes Environmental Education Centre

Climate Sensitive Design Features

The Piney Lakes Environmental Education Centre incorporates:

  • North-facing orientation and solar pergolas shade the interior of the building from direct, high-angle sun in summer, reducing the need for active cooling
  • Thick limestone walls and earth berms provide high thermal mass and insulation properties to limit undesirable heat transfer in and out of the building
  • Roof insulation to lower heat flow through the roof
  • Extractor fans to remove hot air from the building during the summer months
  • Ceiling fans can be used to circulate air in summer or be adjusted to move warm air downward in winter
  • Clear glass windows to allow penetration of winter sun and thermally glazed glass to prevent heat loss.

    Construction and Design

    Recycled, locally sourced construction materials and sustainable design features help minimise the centre’s ecological footprint.

    The building is a two storey design; with walls made predominantly from 300mm thick rammed earth (limestone), single glazed wood framed windows, timber support beams and a steel roof. An on-site Building Management System (BMS) controls centre heating, ventilation systems and lighting and records power production and usage data.

    Recycled timber, recycled road bitumen and rammed earth have been used to lessen the embodied energy of the building and its surrounding pathways. A non-chemical termite barrier was used prior to construction. The original architect Garry Baverstock, designed the centre in a boomerang shape as a symbolic acknowledgement to the Noongar history of the Piney Lakes region.


    The Centre utilises renewable resources such as solar and wind energy to generate a significant proportion of its power requirements.

    Electricity generated by the solar panels and wind turbine is fed into a bank of batteries to be stored, and then passed through an inverter for use, when required. The renewable technologies at Piney Lakes are capable of providing an output of 12 000 Watts (12kW) of clean, green power. The use of renewable energy means the venue forgoes an estimated 8 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

    Energy requirements are minimised where possible within the centre. Low energy artificial lighting is utilised in light fittings and movement sensors control many of the internal lights within the centre. The how water system and where practical outdoor lights around the centre are solar powered.

    Water Use and Efficiency

    All water used on site is drawn from groundwater bores or rainwater collected on-site, the centre is not connected to mains water or sewerage. The centre utilises water saving technology such as flow reduction devices and hybrid toilet systems.

    A 60 000L rainwater tank collects rainwater from the roof surface which is then treated on-site via filtration and ultra-violet sterilisation for use as potable water within the building.

    Water saving toilets used at the venue use bacteria to efficiently break down waste products, reducing water use by up to 80%. Toilets include waterless urinals, hybrid toilets that use no water ("long-drop" toilet), or only minimal water (300mL per flush), and conventional domestic dual flush toilets. All waste from these systems is treated on site through biological treatment tanks as part of the hybrid toilet systems.

    All waste from toilets, basins and sinks is treated in a Hybrid Toilet System consisting of biological treatment tanks. This system is very similar to a conventional septic system, however utilises anaerobic bacteria to break down toilet wastes. Waste slowly passes through the tanks and is discharged through an underground tank and leach drain below the soil surface. These tanks should never need to be emptied as the bacteria continuously break down the waste and are a self-sustaining population.

    All our taps in the centre are fitted with flow reduction devices, similar to those available for domestic application.

    The gardens surrounding the Centre are all native Australian plants, a water-saving garden design feature. Any water use outside the confines of the building are strictly bore-water connections and used efficiently, following the guidelines of the Water Corporation.

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