Murdoch research into near zero energy dongas for mine sites

The team that have worked on the donga being developed for climate change

A team of Murdoch researchers has been working towards reducing building emissions and improving building thermal comfort since 2014.

To address climate change issues, and particularly climate warming and heatwaves which are becoming more frequent and severe and impact on building occupants’ health and wellbeing, a team of Murdoch researchers has been working towards reducing building emissions and improving building thermal comfort since 2014.

One current project aims to increase the energy efficiency and thermal comfort of transportable mining huts (or “dongas”).

The project is an important initiative with major mining companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto setting targets of net zero carbon emissions across the whole of their operations by 2050.

Dongas, in which each room of the 4-person hut is 3.3m x 3.6m, are built with lowest cost as the main priority, leading to buildings with poor insulation and light levels and inefficient appliances such as air-conditioners and refrigerators. 

A recent report on the mental health of FIFO workers found that poor quality of accommodation was one factor leading to some FIFO workers feeling institutionalised.

Murdoch researcher’s Dr Jonathan Whale and Associate Professor Tania Urmee, from the Discipline of Engineering and Energy, have initiated collaboration with several local industries to work together on this project.

As part of the collaboration between industry and researchers, ATCO Structures have provided a four-person mine-site accommodation transportable building free of lease, Turner Engineering have donated a next generation nanotechnology air-conditioning unit and Climate Change Response have instrumented the donga with a novel Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring system.

The team is also looking to replace the building materials with sustainable low carbon products.

Unique insulation panels made of industrial hemp by Mirreco Product Pty Ltd will replace the existing insulation of the hut and ClearVue Technologies Limited will replace the traditional window with a solar window. 

These windows not only have high insulation properties but they produce electricity, which will be used for lighting or to power the monitoring system in the donga.

OneTide Modular Systems will be installing distributed energy generation technologies for the donga in order to turn it into a near zero energy building.

Data will be collected from the monitoring system to assess the impact of measures designed to reduce the energy consumption and improve the thermal comfort levels of the hut. The data will also be used to validate a virtual building model which will then be able to simulate the thermal performance of the donga at a virtual mine-site in the North of WA


Posted on:

17 Dec 2020

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