Bolton Clarke’s Fernhill community at Caboolture will be the site for one of two Queensland-based “living labs” testing early commercial technologies to enhance energy efficiency and enable renewable solutions.

The work is part of a three-year, $18 million research initiative funded by the Australian Government and led by the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) in conjunction with CSIRO, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the University of Melbourne and the University of Wollongong.

The project will focus on the health care industry and will demonstrate how heating and cooling, which consume around 22 per cent of all electricity produced, can be co-ordinated and controlled to more efficiently respond to demand.

At Fernhill, that includes installation and testing of new technologies in the new multi-storey, state-of-the-art residential aged care which is expected to be completed in August 2020.

The technologies are expected to improve resident comfort by more effectively protecting residents from, and actively responding to, external weather conditions, thereby potentially reducing energy consumption by 30 per cent.

The technologies being tested  include glass that is able to change its insulation and shade levels in response to solar heat or a low voltage electric charge and smart software that can learn how a building uses energy and respond to future weather forecasts.

“If, for example, we know the temperature will be 38 degrees in two days, the smart software will be able to manage indoor temperatures and occupant health during the heatwave through efficient use of air-conditioning based on prior ‘learning’,” said QUT’s Dr Wendy Miller.

Bolton Clarke General Manager Property Development James Mantis said heating and cooling, hot water services and lighting accounted for about 65 per cent of all aged care energy consumption, whilst outside temperature accounted for about 80 per cent of variation in consumption.

“The new Fernhill residential aged care service incorporates best practice passive design to maximise natural lighting and ventilation and minimise solar heat gain in summer,” he said.

“The lighting, heating, cooling and energy management systems have been designed for high levels of energy efficiency.

“The Living Lab allows us to use the latest design technology for the comfort of our residents while optimising energy efficiency and improving environmental sustainability.”

At least four technologies will be tested at Fernhill in the first two years of the project.

Residents and staff will be involved and provide feedback on comfort and ease of use of the technologies.

Renewable energy options are also being investigated for the site as part of Bolton Clarke’s environmental sustainability initiative that has seen solar power solutions installed at its Longreach and Bowen sites this year.