As Australia’s fastest growing city, Melbourne has been consistently embedding sustainability into its long-term development plans in order to ensure that growth is both economically and environmentally responsible. The City of Melbourne has set an ambitious goal for the municipality toward zero net emissions. The administration has devoted key resources to influence improvements to the commercial building sectors, which currently generate just over half of the city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The administration has set a target to reduce carbon emissions from the commercial sector by 25 percent, and those from the residential sector by 20 percent on business-as-usual scenarios. To do so, it is blending “sticks” – such as minimum environmental standards on new buildings – with “carrots”, including funding, financial incentives and advice for upgrading and retrofitting existing buildings.
The 1200 Buildings program was designed to encourage the retrofitting of 1,200 commercial buildings – 70 percent of the city’s commercial buildings stock. Running around two years now, the 1200 Buildings program has supported 10 per cent of the building sector to retrofit. Approximately 56 signatories (5 percent of the total) have committed to promote their efforts, whilst the remaining active building owners representing the dominant profile (individual and family owned) maintain their privacy. Combined with City Switch a program dedicated to supporting office tenants, the City of Melbourne is building momentum and supporting action and could feasibly achieve reduction targets in the next ten years.
Research undertaken through the commercial buildings team led to the legislation of Environmental Upgrade Agreements (EUAs), a finance mechanism developed to remove a number of barriers preventing buildings owners from accessing finance to retrofit buildings for energy and water efficiency. To date, four buildings have used EUAs to access finance to retrofit, representing $5.6million of investment and aiming to save 5660 tonnes carbon emissions and $491,000 in energy costs per year.
Melbourne also recently launched Smart Blocks, a national online program designed to help apartment owners and their managers save money by improving energy efficiency of common areas in apartment buildings (it is estimated on average owners corporations can reduce their power bills by up to 30 percent).
The city hopes that its efforts through the 1200 Buildings program will enable commercial buildings to improve their energy efficiency by approximately 38 percent, which would lead to the elimination of 383,000 tons of CO2 each year. 1200 Buildings would also lead to a reduction in potable water use in the commercial sector by 5 giga litres – important in a city with scarce water resources and at risk from the impacts of climate change. The program is assisting to achieve these targets through commitments to reduce energy waste and water use in the city’s major tenancies.