7 August 2013 — Beyond Zero Emissions has released its Building Plan, a nation-wide plan to retrofit Australia’s existing buildings, and both residential and non-residential buildings can expect to cut energy use in half if all recommendations are taken up.

The group says it is possible to make all buildings zero net emissions within 10 years, the benefits of which include reducing energy bills, generation of renewable energy and improving health, comfort and productivity.

To achieve the savings, buildings would be retrofitted with:

  • solar panels
  • full insulation
  • full draft proofing
  • efficient window glazing
  • better shading
  • cool roof paint
  • new chilled water cooling systems
  • improvements to air handling in commercial buildings
  • LED lighting
  • efficient appliances
  • energy monitoring equipment

Controversially, the group said buildings should go gas free, meaning there would be no trigeneration plants in commercial buildings. Instead, heating, cooling and cooking would be provided via:

  • electric heat pump heating
  • heat pump hot water
  • induction cooktops

The report said the use of gas was “entirely inconsistent” with the goal of achieving zero carbon emissions. It said renewable gas was a “false promise”, and there was insufficient capacity in Australia to displace current use of fossil fuel gas. It said bio-gas would be better utilised elsewhere, as it had “higher value industrial purposes”.

It said there were problems with trigeneration that made it “highly inappropriate”, including:

  • Efficient alternatives like heat pumps
  • Cost and space issues
  • inflexibility
  • Inter-building complexity
  • Grid connection issues
  • Noise and vibration
  • Resilience
  • Poor retrofit capacity
  • Pollution

From residential retrofits alone, it was estimated 50,000 new jobs would be created, and households would save $40 billion over the next 30 years. For non-residential buildings, the total cost would be equivalent to business as usual over the next 30 years.

Here’s how it works

The plan provided case studies of how typical buildings could achieve these massive energy reductions.

For example, a retrofit of a curtain wall office building in Sydney built between 1980-2000, found retrofitting of lights, fabric upgrades, space conditioning and appliances delivered an energy reduction of 78 per cent.

Cumulative energy use savings from a Melbourne-based circa 1950s residential building saw similar results. Retrofitting lights, fabric upgrades, space conditioning, hot water, cooking and equipment delivered around a 75 per cent reduction in energy use.

Founding director of the Living Future Institute Dominique Hes said the building plan was an important piece of work.

“It is exciting to see something that comprehensively looks at how buildings could move towards being zero carbon,” Dr Hes said. “The case studies and depth of research provide a clear road map for Australia’s built environment.”

Buildings Alive chief executive Craig Roussac said it should be compulsory reading for anyone who aspires to design, construct or operate buildings in Australia.

“BZE’s recommendations deserve to be taken very seriously,” he said.

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  1. I’m assuming “efficient window glazing” means using window films and/or retrofitted double glazing. This would mean reduced intial capital outlay with greater ongoing savings.
    There is also the possibility of retrofitting frame capping to reduce markedly the energy both gained and lost through aluminium frames.

  2. An article “Comfort vs. Energy Use ” by Dan Int-Hout, Fellow ASHRAE in the July issue of ASHRAE Journal, shows a different perspective to that in this article.
    Using the least amount of energy is part of the process and not the end goal; that is providing a safe and comfortable environment for building occupants. Even that observation does not go far enough.
    High quality indoor air is essential for a healthy environment for building occupants, although treated only as an element of IEQ in building rating schemes. Rather the emphasis is on thermal comfort.
    Tenants fail to renew leases because the “safe and comfortable environment” may be “as designed” but is not “as delivered”
    Salary costs are approximately 100 times the HVAC costs so a “net zero energy” building is saving only 1% of salary costs.
    To quote Dan Int-Hout “the whole issue of energy use and the prediction of energy consumption has corrupted the goal of providing efficient and comfortable buildings.”
    Ronald Wood

  3. If you’d like to go to the launch of the Buildings Plan in Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney book a free ticket at:
    Melbourne (possibly booked out) – 8th August – https://zcabuildingsplan-eorg.eventbrite.com.au/
    Brisbane – 12th August – https://zcabuildingsplanbrisbane-eorg.eventbrite.com.au/
    Sydney – 14th August – https://zcabuildingsplansydney-eorg.eventbrite.com.au/