The bottom line is that, as with most things, there is no single ‘right answer’ (or silver bullet, or panacea, or whatever metaphor you choose) for how we improve our existing buildings. Many older buildings around Australia – whether residential, office, retail, industrial, hotel, etc. – have some amazing opportunities to improve their efficiency and reduce their operating costs, but the expense incurred in doing up these buildings is often the single biggest deterrent. Probably the next hurdle is having the right information, not just about what needs doing but who can do it.
That’s why countries with a RANGE of solutions often do WAY better when it comes to improving their existing building stock. With that in mind, it’s really encouraging to see that Australia is starting to put the pieces together – albeit slowly – and it’s going to take a concerted push to make sure all these avenues are explored by building owners:
Environmental Upgrade Agreements (or Building Upgrade Finance) – whilst these initiatives have been slow to pick up speed, with Victoria and the Sustainable Melbourne Fund going first (some great examples here and here) and an awesome new case study video about their solar finance work and NSW and the City of Sydney following on with some good work (more examples here and here) the SA Government has recently introduced their version (which is now getting more coverage in the media).
Climateworks and the Sustainable Melbourne Fund have developed a great website to make that process easier.
Emissions Reduction Fund – there’s many that roll their eyes at the Australian Government’s Emissions Reduction Fund, part of Direct Action, but there will be some opportunities here, particularly for first-movers, and different streams available within the centrepiece of the Government’s policy suite to reduce emissions.
There’s also options for residential blocks that include excellent guidance.
Each of the states and territories runs different grants, initiatives and schemes for improving existing buildings, so look to their websites for information such as.
And of course there are specific tools for aspects such as Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC).
And, if you’re going to be making improvements to your building, why not do things properly and get a Green Star – Performance rating – from a 1 Star (‘Minimum Practice’) to a 6 Star Green Star (‘World Leadership’) rating, benchmark how your building is doing and find out which areas need work to improve performance over time.
C’mon, people – ‘better’ is within our grasp!
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.