Sustainability Victoria resource efficiency director Stefan Preuss

By Donna Kelly

28 May 2013 — There is a huge amount of untapped opportunities when it comes to retrofitting Victoria’s buildings, Sustainability Victoria’s resource efficiency director Stefan Preuss told last week’s Property Council of Australia’s Sustainable Development Conference.

Mr Preuss took up the role in March this year and is an advocate for sustainability and energy efficiency with particular expertise in the building design and construction sector.

He told the conference there were many resource efficiency opportunities for the built environment – coupled with increasing third party finance.

The Next Wave – Retrofitting Victoria’s Office Buildings, a recent report prepared for Sustainability Victoria by Davis Langdon, found buildings constructed between 1960 and 1999 would yield the most success from a targeted performance-based retrofitting scheme because of their large numbers across the CBD, metropolitan and regional areas, Mr Preuss said.

The report also found that lower grade buildings in the B, C and D grades represented 80 per cent of the city of Melbourne office market, with D-grade buildings representing 20 per cent.

It was also estimated that the City of Melbourne was the largest emitter of carbon emissions, cumulatively contributing an estimated 1.127 million tonnes (46 per cent) of base building carbon, while the metropolitan Melbourne market (excluding city of Melbourne) emitted a similar amount at 1.094 million tonnes (45 per cent) and regional areas emitted 215,000 tonnes of carbon (nine per cent).

The report found that the Commercial Building Disclosure thresholds – for mandatory NABERS energy ratings for offices with a gross floor area of greater than 2000 square metres– currently captured 690 existing buildings across Victoria.

If the threshold for disclosure was lowered to 500 sq m NLA, it would capture an additional 2100 buildings across the state, enabling the encouragement of retrofits in a broader market.

The key barriers to market transformation identified in the report included financial risks, disruption to tenants, a lack of tenant demand, capital constraints and industry risks while the key drivers included the establishment of interactive education tools for tenants and building managers, government procurement changes and easier access to finance for building retrofits.

Meanwhile, a heritage buildings retrofit strategy to address the considerable proportion of buildings affected by heritage overlays in the Victorian office market would have a significant impact in metropolitan and regional centres.

Mr Preuss, who said Geelong had some “interesting stock”, added it was unfortunate that “what usually gets done is the easy bits, passive cooling, daylight use…”

“Let’s be a bit more courageous when it comes to looking at old buildings,” he said.

“It may also be worth looking at what’s being done overseas. The US Government is using mortgages to retrofit.

“There is heaps more to be done.”

Mr Preuss said cluster projects were also exciting and decentralised energy could offer communities the chance to bulk buy better quality energy at a lower price.

The same model could work for small buildings, he said.

He mentioned the Kalundborg Symbiosis, the world’s most well-known example of industrial ecology and industrial symbiosis, as a role model for future developments.

Kalundborg is a medium-sized town in Denmark, home to 16,500 residents and host to eight core companies: DONG Energy Asnæs Power Station, Statoil-Hydro Refinery, Gyproc A/S, Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, recycling company RGS 90 A/S, waste company Kara Noveren I/S and Kalundborg Municipality.

Each company is bound to each other via an intricate network of flows of steam, gas, water, gypsum, fly ash and sludge.

Excess steam from Asnæs Power Station is exported to Kalundborg’s combined district heat and power supply and to both Statoil and Novo Nordisk who use it as an incoming heat source before exporting it back to Asnæs as condensed steam for cooling the plant.

Gyproc A/S receives excess gas as an input energy source from Statoil- Hydro Refinery and industrial plaster as an input material source from Asnæs power station. Calcium and recycled treated waste water are added to the sulphur extracted from the flue gas at Asnæs to form industrial plaster.

Insulin production at Novo Nordisk A/S releases material which is exported to surrounding farms as pig fodder. A by-product of the yeast fermentation process is converted into yeast slurry. This replaces approximately 70 per cent of the soy proteins in traditional feed mixes. Novo Nordisk A/S adds sugar, water and lactic acid bacteria to the yeast in order to make it more attractive to the pigs.

Mr Preuss said while other countries, like Denmark, were ahead of Australia in terms of energy efficiency solutions, Australia was innovative.

“On the brain level we compare very well – getting things on the ground we could do a little better.”

  • Image credit: Property Council of Australia

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