The PEP is a flagship project in the implementation of low carbon energy generation in Victoria, and aims to provide a focal point for the regeneration of downtown Dandenong. The PEP supplies the buildings in a seven hectare redevelopment precinct with electricity and heating thermal energy (Cogeneration) in the form of hot water with twice the efficiency of a typical gas fired power station, with correspondingly reduced carbon emissions. In addition, some buildings can utilize the hot water produced to run absorption chillers to provide cooling, resulting in even greater efficiencies, and further reduced emissions.
The PEP Dandenong aims to provoke discussion about the environment, power consumption and our future in a warming world in a free associative way, without preaching. The PEP is an essay in free association, as hinted by the sampling of the ink-like splatter on the main elevation to the plaza. Buildings, like splatter, can be experienced and read in many different ways by the people who experience them. The splatter super-graphic, the big power-points, the big switch on the removable astro-turf wall (where the engines can be removed for maintenance), the ‘circuit diagram’ lighting display (behind the perforated skin) are intended to encourage free association and further investigations. On the rear laneway there is a super-graphic of the cogeneration diagram of the inside workings of the building, aimed at school children. The moving dot matrix display on the front canopy displays information about power production, consumption and greenhouse gas savings from the building.
The PEP is an abstract form which diagrams the functional needs and layout of the co-generation machinery inside, overlaid with a semi-transparent screen-like skin. The perforated skin is wrapped around the form creating an object that hints at, but is not the shape of a screen. Behind the skin there are moving optical lighting patterns at night. Over-scaled images have been scattered over the perforated skin, like a field of free association, to encourage an experience which oscillates between image and abstraction. The open stair between the PEP and the existing 1920’s Masonic hall creates a sense of elastic tension between the old and new buildings.
The introduction of Cogeneration into the urban fabric has resulted in potentially a new type of public building. To effectively utilise waste heat generated by the cogeneration electricity production process, and to minimise the extent of the underground pipe network, the site must be centrally located. The PEP is situated on the corner of two pedestrian malls in central Dandenong directly facing the train station. On a pivotal and highly constrained site we have endeavored to give the building a highly sculptural form and to activate the surrounding area, while allowing for the stringent requirements of the ‘green machine’ inside.