11 June 2013 — The City of Greater Geelong is leading the way to sustainability through a range of initiatives including the launch of Cleantech Innovations Geelong, the city’s first Green Star rated building – a $45 million library redevelopment – and new Living Greener courses being offered by the Geelong Sustainability Group.

Cleantech Innovations Geelong is an alliance of local business and industry aimed at building Geelong into a national centre of excellence for clean technologies.

Mayor Keith Fagg (pictured at last year’s Gala Day Parade) said the launch was another example of the work being done by government, industry and the community to transition Geelong’s economy.

“Cleantech Innovations Geelong is an example of business, industry and government coming together to make Geelong a more productive, sustainable and liveable city… in effect, helping to future-proof Geelong,” he said.

“Cleantech Innovations Geelong will provide businesses and industry with an opportunity to transition from business-as-usual to the next generation.

“According to research from Denmark the global cleantech sector will continue to grow in coming years with green buildings, smart grid and offshore wind power the fastest-growing platforms.”

In December 2012, the Victorian state government through its Manufacturing Productivity Network program provided funding to the Geelong Manufacturing Council and Future Proofing Geelong to assist with establishment of Cleantech Innovations Geelong.

Meanwhile, Geelong is set for a $45 million library redevelopment including a new heritage centre following approval by Planning Minister Matthew Guy. Demolition of the current library, which has been operating since 1969, will start in a few months.

Greater Geelong City Council’s Capital Projects manager Scott Cavanagh said the building was aiming at a five-star Green Star certified design under the Green Building Council of Australia’s pilot program for libraries. It is the city’s first Green Star-rated building.

Mr Cavanagh said the sustainability aspect of the new nine-storey building started with its demolition, and while a tender had not yet been accepted, those putting their hands up were quoting up to 80 per cent plus recycling of existing materials.

“They are quoting some pretty high figures – and that is a high consideration for the tender,” he said.

Mr Cavanagh said although there had been a few obstacles to gaining a Green Star rating, such as a lack of public transport in rural areas, providing a heritage repository that needed to be at a certain humidity, and ensuring there was enough light for users, the city was keen to create a flagship showcasing its abilities.

“This is the first Green Star certified building for the city but that is not to say we don’t build energy efficient buildings,” he said.

“Council’s policy has been to build to a five-star equivalent – but you can make a real investment in ESD initiatives rather than go for certification.”

Sustainability initiatives in the new building, which covers 6300 square metres, include using greywater for toilets, a “fairly sizeable” solar array, displacement airconditioning, LED lighting and making the most of natural light without overuse of glass.

Mr Cavanagh said the existing library had been built in the ’50s with an extension in the ’70s.

“It’s had its day – and we will now have a state-of-the-art, modern facility.”

The building will include a main library with a mix of reading areas for adults, youth and children located on three separate levels, a cafe and courtyard and specifically designed reading room. It will be completed in 2015.

And back to the bigger community picture is the Geelong Sustainability Group. It has a range of initiatives including Living Greener Community Courses, the Reclaim Victoria’s Environment Campaign and the creation of a community directory of sustainability groups.

Two Living Greener courses have been developed after the group received a grant from Future Proofing Geelong. The courses will provide participants with knowledge and practical skills to enable them to assess their carbon footprint and to evaluate options for making their homes more sustainable.

And the group is cooperating with Environment Victoria to help obtain signatures for their Reclaim Victoria’s Environment petition. The petition puts pressure on the Victorian government to change some of its environmental policies such as:

  • walking away from a commitment to close Hazelwood, Australia’s dirtiest power station
  • getting rid of Target 155 for water consumption
  • passing laws that make it harder to find a location for a wind farm than a coal-fired power station.
  • slashing the feed-in tariff for household solar power

Finally, a second grant from Future Proofing Geelong will help prepare a community directory for the Greater Geelong region. It will include not-for profit, community organisations whose focus and effort contribute to the overall sustainability, liveability and productivity of Geelong.

Dave Campbell

President Dave Campbell said annual Sustainable House Day was also popular with “a huge demand from people wanting to find information on how to change their homes to make them more sustainable”.

“Last year we had nine houses open and we had about 2500 through them,” he said.

“Some people think that solar panels are just for richer people but areas like Geelong are at the forefront of the take-up.

“It is a quiet revolution and people are doing the things that they can. When we had droughts and water restrictions people here quickly changed their behaviours.”

Mr Campbell said Greater Geelong Council had done a low carbon growth plan some years back and identified retrofitting business buildings as one of the priorities.

But he said with council money scarce, the Geelong Sustainability Group was also lobbying council not to cut its sustainability initiatives.

“Sustainability saves money, so we met with councillors, but we will have to wait and see.”

Mr Campbell said Australians needed to take “more and more” drastic action to save the planet.

“People can feel pessimistic but an individual can do things. And then the next step is political campaigning.”

Also setting the pace in Geelong is Future Proofing Geelong, a group of organisations working together and providing grants as above.

The group includes the City of Greater Geelong, EPA Victoria, Barwon Water, Deakin University, Committee for Geelong, Geelong Manufacturing Council and Geelong Chamber of Commerce.

A sustainable covenant was signed on 12 May 2011, in which the partners of Future Proofing Geelong agreed to work together to see Geelong become nationally recognised as a city demonstrating sustainability leadership.

The purpose of Future Proofing Geelong is to promote and support new and existing initiatives that seek to improve environmental outcomes for Geelong, making it an economically productive, vibrant and liveable city.