Low-carbon concrete, onsite solar, battery storage and tackling the war on waste are just some of the ground-breaking initiatives being implemented in commercial premises across the country in the name of sustainability.
In its first direct investment to decrease embodied carbon in property construction, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has invested $95 million – on behalf of the Australian government – to deliver the 56 hectare Roe Highway Logistics Park (RHLP) in Perth as a carbon-neutral development.
The use of low-carbon concrete at the park, located 5km from the airport and 13km from the Perth CBD, could reduce emissions by up to 42 per cent compared to traditional concrete, according to sustainability consultant Edge Environment.
Property developer Hesperia is leading the project (with partners Fiveight and Gibb Group), implementing rooftop solar and sector-leading sustainability measures to make it Perth’s most sustainable industrial estate.
“The construction sector is a significant emitter of greenhouse gases and the lack of low-carbon alternatives to traditional building material has so far made it difficult to abate,” CEFC chief executive Ian Learmonth said.
“Exciting developments in low-carbon construction materials are giving us the chance to accelerate decarbonisation, and success in this sector will help spur Australia’s transition to a low-emissions economy.
“Importantly, the focus on low carbon construction materials at RHLP can play a critical role in influencing supply chains in the construction industry. This offers a new pathway to cut emissions from the supply chain, known as scope three emissions, and provides a world-leading example of low-carbon options for the industry.”
RHLP will feature up to two megawatts of solar power across new and existing warehouses, which will be clean energy that warehouse tenants can use to cut emissions and power bills.
There will also be grid-friendly technology including smart inverters, smart metering, power factor correction and voltage control, stormwater management systems and on-site water recycling.
A smart business decision
Creating environmentally friendly “green buildings” and energy-efficient developments was not only important from an operational, cost-saving perspective but also helped attract and retain tenants, said Andrew Cole, Lendlease’s general manager of sustainability and investment management.
“It is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do,” he said.
“Our view is that highly sustainable assets, those assets that deliver superior environmental and indoor environmental outcomes for occupants, are those that continue to track and retain the best tenants. And increasingly we are seeing that they are the assets that investors want to have part of their investment strategies.”
Melbourne Quarter, in the CBD’s mixed-use Southern Cross precinct, which includes office assets, was a leading example, Mr Cole said.
Its strong sustainability credentials include more than 300 kilowatts of onsite solar, Mr Cole said, and provision has been made on the main switchboard to allow for future connection to battery storage.
“Those type of assets all have what you would describe as really strong design features so everything down to orientation, shading devices within the building itself, a focus on smart systems – be it lighting controls [or] super-efficient air conditioning systems – and where possible we have tried to maximise onsite renewable energy generation to really support the whole carbon outcomes.”
Improving without capital expenditure
In Adelaide, a 20-year-plus-old office building at 77 Grenfell Street has a 4.5 star National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) waste rating, which is one of the highest NABERS waste ratings in the country.
It is also the first office in South Australia to have one of the ratings.
Comprised of 15,800 square metres of office space across 20 storeys and 596 square metres of ground-floor retail, it shows how buildings could achieve better environmental outcomes without capital expenditure, Colliers International facilities management director Himadri Chatterjee said.
“When we first started thinking about how to improve the environmental performance of the building, we wanted to look beyond what was already being done. The full spectrum of sustainability is about more than energy and water. There’s air quality, land use, health and wellbeing and, of course, waste,” he said.
The NABERS waste platform was simple to use, Mr Chatterjee said, and his team began by gathering and analysing 12 months of data.
“This helped us to identify waste reduction strategies like awareness campaigns and additional process controls,” he said.
Colliers also implemented a training program for the building’s cleaners.
“Educating cleaners is a very important step because they are responsible for ensuring the right waste goes in the right bin. We trained cleaners on not just on what to do, but also why we were doing it and what we wanted to achieve,” Mr Chatterjee said.
An 80 per cent recycling rate at the building ranks it as one of the best offices in Australia, he said.
“You don’t need to upgrade your building infrastructure to be waste efficient. With good processes, data and education campaigns, you can make a significant contribution to the environment and lead in the waste space.”
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