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NEWS | Sunday, 29 June 2008

When blue meets green: new PN headquarters passes sustainability test

James Debono

Following its green make-over before the elections, the Nationalist Party has started to practice what it preaches by implementing energy saving measures in its own headquarters, even if the party has no plans to use alternative energy sources to meet its own energy demand.
Quizzed by MaltaToday, outgoing party general secretary Joe Saliba gave a full account of the energy conservation measures in the PN’s new headquarters.
One of the advantages of the new building is that its design ensures that it is “well lit by natural light” in a way that all corridors and common areas are lit solely by natural light during the day, Saliba explained.
Other energy saving measures put in place throughout the building include Phillups Lighting (PL) lamps in all corridors and common areas, solar heating panels for the hot water system and a VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) air-conditioning system, which is the most energy efficient technology available.
Furthermore an automatic switch on/off system for air-conditioning and for lights has been adopted. The PN has also installed thermal insulation at roof level to reduce energy transmission in or out of the building.
But the party has no plans to use alternative energy sources in its new headquarters. Although the PN applied for a permit in 2003, before the new energy saving regulations came in force through a legal notice in 2006, the new building follows the regulations in spirit even if not to the letter.
According to law, rainwater that falls on roofs is not allowed to drain into the public sewer, but is collected in wells or cisterns within the building.
The new PN headquarters is equipped with two water reservoirs with a capacity of 500 cubic metres. The collected rainwater is utilised as a second-class water supply for toilet flushings or is utilised by the party’s printing press.
The PN headquarters only deviates slightly from the regulations with regard to the area covered by windows.
To avoid heat loss in winter and overheating in summer, the energy-saving regulations stipulate that windows should only occupy 20% of exposed walls of residential buildings, 25% of offices and 50% of showrooms.
The minimum percentage of walls covered by glass can only be increased through double glazing, on condition that the calculated heat loss through such windows conform to the regulations.
But contrary to what the main entrance and the whole aesthetical layout of the building would suggest, the design has only 30% window coverage, Saliba explained.
“Notwithstanding the fact that we were not bound by the mentioned regulations and although double glazing was not used, we installed glass which has a thicknesses ranging from 16mm, 27mm and 32mm.”
In the meantime the MLP is also set to embark on the sustainable path. Muscat has already committed himself to embark on an environmental audit of the MLP’s headquarters and to increase its use of alternative energy sources.

jdebono@mediatoday.com.mt


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