The retail sector is one of the largest energy guzzlers in Australia, consuming 50 per cent of the commercial property sector’s share of energy and generating up to 5 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to an April 2010 article.
Lighting is responsible for a large portion of this energy consumption. While a comprehensive breakdown of the retail sector in Australia has never been undertaken, a 2002 report commissioned by the UK Government gives an insight, revealing that 18 per cent of all service sector electricity consumption was from the retail sector, with electricity mainly used for lighting. Cooling and air conditioning is likely to be the other largest part of energy use here in Australia.
The size and scale of shopping centres can make sustainability a challenge – with the need to provide fresh air, natural light and temperature control to large spaces resulting in high consumption of electricity and water.
However, there has been a recent paradigm shift and we are now beginning to look beyond the negative impact of retail centres, and instead identify their potential as power stations and water harvesters.
Some shopping centre owners have recognised the importance of reducing their environmental impact. We have solid data from the US which demonstrates that shopping centres with higher quantities of fresh air, more connection to outdoor spaces and fewer air pollutants from materials also have lower energy bills and higher sales per square metre. Why? Simply because people like shopping there.
US research company Heschong Mahone, for instance, has found evidence that access to natural light alone can increase sales at the till. A 2003 study found that daylit stores deliver an increase in sales of up to 40 per cent. “By the most conservative estimate, the profit from increased sales associated with daylight is worth at least 19 times more than the energy savings, and more likely, may be worth 45-100 times more than the energy savings,” the report found.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has integrated much of this international research into its Green Star - Retail Centre v1 tool, which was released to the market in August 2008 to support the sustainable planning, design and construction of high-performance retail centres.
Green Star, which has been the leading environmental rating tool for buildings since 2003, evaluates the green attributes of building projects based on nine categories, including energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality and materials.
The tool, which assesses base buildings and services, not tenancy fitouts, considers the unique development requirements and impacts of retail centres. As such, the number of credits within categories and the category weightings vary from other Green Star rating tools. Examples of credits in the tool include: implementing a waste and recycling management plan, addressing car park ventilation and encouraging trip reduction.
Indoor Environment Quality, which affects both customers and employees of retail centres, is an important category, and rewards best practice where it relates to ventilation, comfort and pollutants. For example, Green Star points are available to retail centres with good natural light, with one point awarded where 30 per cent of the nominated area has a Daylight Factor of at least 2.5 per cent.
Lighting retrofits can also make a real difference. Stockland, one of the sponsors of the Green Star tool for retail centres, undertook an energy audit of 19 retail centres in 2008, and as a result implemented initiatives such as installing energy-efficient lighting in car parks and malls. This is expected to result in an approximate reduction of 8 per cent of total base building energy use over a two year period.
Of course, reducing energy consumption in retail centres is best achieved through a combination of good design and good habits. Tenants of retail centres are beginning to recognise their role in reducing energy consumption, and green leases are driving tenants to reduce their carbon footprints and take an active role in supporting the green initiatives of their retail centre.
The Green Star – Retail Centre v1 rating tool can be downloaded from the GBCA’s website: www.gbca.org.au
Robin Mellon is one of Australia’s experts on sustainability in the built environment and is determined to leave the planet in a better shape than it was when he found it. Robin believes in a Better Sydney – better buildings, better communities and a better quality of life.