Not only have co-founders PC Thomas and GS Rao achieved serious performance improvements for commercial clients, big and small alike, but PC is well known as an active contributor to industry forums and more intense development work on energy standards. This includes the National Construction Code, the Green Building Council of Australia’s upcoming net zero standard for homes, and, with GS, NABERS benchmarks for both officers and shopping centres.
But the whole team at Team Catalyst really likes nothing better than tackling the challenge of improving energy efficiency – especially when they get to employ a creative approach.
A great example where the team’s combined skills had a chance to shine was a recent project at Wollongong that brought a 2.5 star NABERS building up to 5 stars through some creative manoeuvring of the HVAC systems.
PC and GS’s backgrounds (who both like to go by their first initials) are intrinsic to these kinds of achievements.
PC is a mechanical engineer who’s worked in green buildings since the 90s and now teaches in the field at the University of Sydney. He had his start in ESD (environmental sustainable development) where he honed his skills in energy simulation.
I often compare our work to a craftsman’s work rather than volume delivery type model”
GS is a mechanical engineer, with a long-standing interest in HVAC systems.
PC was working with Arup and GS was with Trane Australia when they met. Their two skill sets seemed a complementary – and potentially powerful – combination, so in 2005 they decided to join forces under the Team Catalyst banner.
A key focus of the team is to take on a more multi-disciplinary, comprehensive approach to energy efficiency than the typical engineering outfit, which are still often hostage to the conventional teaching that focuses almost exclusively on sizing chillers and boilers so that they perform on the hottest and coldest days of the year. That’s one thing, PC says, “but how does the system work for the rest of the year, when it’s not the worst day?”
Airconditioning units, for example, can be run at a much lower capacity over cooler seasons. “That’s when you can save energy across the year.”
“There are few people who really understand that well.”
Team Catalyst is not about “cookie-cutter” solutions and insists on considering the building’s unique features, conducting in-depth modelling and then selecting the right systems that suit that specific building and its intended function.
“I often compare our work to a craftsman’s work rather than volume delivery type model,” PC says.
Since its inception, Team Catalyst has been at the forefront of the green building movement. It achieved its first 5 star NABERS Energy rating in 2009, back when the market was still struggling with 4 and 4.5 star performance.
Along with retrofits, the consultancy offers its clients a range of services, including HVAC upgrades, energy simulation analysis, NABERS Independent Design reviews, Passive House design and net zero strategies.