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Greening Australia's Commercial Office Buildings

|Jul 29|magazine13 min read

When it comes to innovative sustainability tactics, the Australian Government and business sector are on a trailblazing path to drive energy efficiencies and tackle climate change across the nation.

AusIndustry, the Government’s principal business program, established Clean Business Australia as a partnership with business and industry to support a range of activities aimed at improving energy and water efficiency and increasing sustainability.

Among the various elements of Clean Business Australia is the Green Building Fund, which aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions impact of the built environment by improving the energy efficiency of existing commercial office buildings.

The initiative has been welcomed with open arms by the business community, with major grants having been awarded to key stakeholders in the building and construction sectors.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Executive General Manager of AusIndustry Bill Peel explains, “To date, five rounds of funding have been concluded, resulting in 195 grants to building owners and five grants for broader capability development projects. The total value of grant offers is $71.6 million, exclusive of GST. In total, the projects supported by these grants have been projected to save more than 158,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year.” Peel credits these carbon dioxide savings as the greatest achievement of the Green Building Fund to date.

Grants between $50,000 and $500,000 are available to owners of existing commercial office buildings, for up to 50 percent of a project that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by improving base building energy efficiency. Eligible applications are assessed on three merit criteria, including the potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes up 60 percent of total merit rating; the demonstration potential of the project at 20 percent of total merit rating; and, project design and management at an additional 20 percent of total merit rating.

Peel explains that typically building projects have been directed towards upgrades to building heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, common area lighting, and building management systems that better monitor and manage energy use. Projects have also variously included external shading and glazing, co-generation systems and application of renewable energy technologies.

GRATEFUL GRANTEES SHARE THEIR APPRECIATION

A number of major Australian property groups have taken advantage of this pioneering program, including Investa Property Group, Westpac and Stockland.
Investa General Manager for Sustainability, Safety and Environment Craig Roussac says that the real estate company was granted eleven contracts to deliver nearly 70 energy efficiency solutions within its commercial office buildings, including properties at 55 Market Street in Sydney and 363 Adelaide Street in Brisbane.

Roussac says, “With the Green Building Fund, Investa tackled smaller projects we couldn’t previously justify because of high costs. For example, we’ve replaced and upgraded variable speed drives on pumps. Investa also replaced chillers in air conditioning systems—one of the biggest energy users in buildings. Normally it’s hard to justify replacing them for energy because they’re very expensive, but with support from the Green Building Fund, we were prompted to bring those projects forward five years ahead of schedule.”

Westpac Diversified Property Fund also implemented a full range of energy saving solutions across two buildings in New South Wales. The upgrades included new energy efficient soft-start chillers, motion detectors for common area lighting, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide sensors in the carparks to run exhaust fans and voltage controllers for carpark lighting systems.

Steve Bulloch, Head of Property, Hastings Funds Management, part of the Westpac Group says, “Greening the commercial office portfolio has always been a priority for Westpac Diversified Property Fund, however the Green Building Fund has really helped us accelerate our activities in these two buildings.”

Like Roussac, Bulloch says what would have taken many years to achieve was accomplished in a very short timeframe thanks to the Green Building Fund. “The Green Building Fund opportunity helped focus attention on the task at hand and to evaluate a range of projects that may not have been considered otherwise,” she explains.

Stockland National Sustainability Manager, Commercial Property, Amanda Steele says the Green Building Fund helped Stockland meet public targets it has set on environmental performance including reducing emissions intensity by 20 percent.

With the funding it was granted, Stockland has upgraded lighting, amended building management systems, and improved air-conditioning systems for its office buildings, most notably Harry Seidler’s heritage-listed landmark Edmund Barton Building in Canberra.

Steele says, “The Green Building Fund allowed us to replace air conditioning and electrical systems and upgrade the existing façade. The main aim of the project was to extend the life of the building and improve its environmental performance by retrofitting with systems that optimise its internal environment and energy efficiency. The environmental benefit of upgrading a heritage building such as this is a terrific achievement.”

A GREENER FUTURE

Going forward, Peel says, “Round 6 is expected to be the final round of new grants and after that we will be working with grantees towards the completion of all grant projects and demonstration of outcomes to other building owners.”

With the success of the Green Building Fund, Australian businesses can look forward to more pioneering programs in the future.