Even though Australia’s sunshine state, Queensland, has traditionally had a strong reputation of renewable energy use and energy efficiency, its capital has been harbouring a very ‘brown’ secret.
According to statistics, the City of Brisbane uses more on-grid energy to run its building stock than the entirety of the Sunshine Coast.
Low Carbon Australia chief executive Meg McDonald said Brisbane needs to implement strong ‘environmental upgrade agreements’ like the ones in place in Melbourne and Sydney in order to thoroughly retrofit the city’s mass of brown buildings. These brown buildings include nearly 50 per cent of the already-built office towers, which earn dismal to very poor scores on the National Australian Built Environment Rating System.
“Both Sydney and Melbourne have state governments who’ve introduced environmental upgrade agreement financing,” says McDonald. “The councils there have also looked to greening the city as a way of attracting headquarters. New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia have got (EUAs), so we think it’s an idea for its time (in Queensland).”
Like many brown office buildings, some of Brisbane’s least efficient are consistently emitting more than 3 million kilograms of carbon emissions annually. This is only expected to worsen as population growth swells and industry investment becomes greater.
Upon New South Wales’ EUA implementation, NSW Environmental Minister Robyn Parker brought to light the environmental and economic investment potential the measure would bring the state.
“Environmental Upgrade Agreements will be a game changer in terms of improving the environmental performance of commercial and industrial buildings,” Parker said.
At that time, Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) chief executive Romilly Madew pushed for the extension of EUAs Australia-wide as a key way to unlock this investment potential and encourage concerted, large-scale efforts towards lowering the country’s carbon output.
“This new scheme provides the benchmarking and accountability for existing buildings that is needed right across Australia, and we look forward to seeing other state governments take up similar initiatives,” Madew said.
Melbourne and Sydney have unlocked the added value and potential achieved by retrofitting outdated brown buildings to the point where green buildings, with high Indoor Environmental Quality is demanded by both home owners and office workers. Such buildings have become synonymous with best in practice building and developments to the point where, while high-performance buildings come with a price, it is a price consumers have proven more than willing to pay.