Parramatta Square, image: WSP

We’ve been waiting for this since Tomorrowland 2019. Now it’s official. Parramatta is stepping out strongly to mandate higher sustainability performance targets, with incentives.

New commercial buildings in Paramatta will need to outrank their peers on energy and water efficiency to meet new planning controls proposed by the City of Parramatta.

The high performance building clause features in the council’s draft Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and is part of the council’s strategy to lift the sustainability standards of the city’s fast-expanding building stock.

The move was flagged  at The Fifth Estate’s Tomorrowland event in 2019, by a panel member City of Parramatta manager, environmental outcomes, city strategy Helen Papathanasiou.

According to a City of Parramatta spokesperson, the council is leveraging planning controls to deliver a “smart, sustainable and resilient city”.

“For the Parramatta CBD this means reducing energy and water utility costs for businesses and residents, enabling more resilient infrastructure, making Parramatta more attractive to A-grade commercial tenants, and assisting to reduce utility infrastructure works.”

One of the first “best in market” building performance mechanism in Australia

Under the council’s unique “best-in-market” approach, all non-residential developments in the Paramatta CBD will need to perform as well as the top 15 per cent of comparable existing buildings in the Sydney metropolitan region on energy and water efficiency. The federal government’s NABERS rating scheme will be used to identify the 15th percentile of buildings.

The “best-in-market” approach, which is a first for a local government in Australia as far as the council is aware, was chosen because it represents “genuine best practice” that’s financially within reach as 15 per cent of buildings are already meeting those standards.

Parramatta Square

While new to Australian planning controls, using the 15th percentile of current market performance is an instrument that’s gaining popularity.

It’s used by International Climate Bond Standard to derive city specific emission intensity benchmarks for low carbon buildings. It’s now used to establish baselines for cities including New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, and London.

The council will review the planning instrument over time to respond to new technologies and commercial viability.

There’s floor space incentives for residential developers

For apartment blocks and multi use developments, the council has opted for a 5 per cent floor space bonus for developments that deliver above minimum BASIX standards.

To qualify for the floor space incentive, the council is looking for a 25 per cent increase in energy efficiency and 15 per cent increase in water efficiency compared to the current minimum targets on emissions and water set for new homes and major renovations under the state government’s BASIX scheme.

Water recycling – get your piping present and ready

While the council is not responsible for delivering water recycling services to the entire local government area, it wants the infrastructure to be ready for recycled water providers to service the community once the industry matures.

Mindful of increasing demand on potable water supplies as the central city’s population grows, the council’s draft LEP is also mandating recycled water piping in all new developments.

The pipes will have to service both internal uses (such as toilet flushing) and outdoor uses (watering gardens) and is mandatory for all new builds as well as major renovations or add ons.

While the council is not responsible for delivering water recycling services to the entire local government area, it wants the infrastructure to be ready for recycled water providers to service the community once the industry matures.

There are already two existing recycled water networks in the area – one in Rosehill, operated by AquaNet, and another in Sydney Olympic Park, which is operated by Sydney Olympic Park Authority.

The Draft Greater Parramatta and Olympic Peninsula Place-based Infrastructure Compact has also identified a recycled water network for the region as an action

More cycling and walking

The council also wants to drive down car dependency and ramp up low carbon transport options. Its ambitions are to match the City of Sydney’s car parking program that strives to minimise on site parking.

Parramatta plans to meet its goals by mandating end of trip facilities in commercial buildings, and is also encouraging a revision of the number of CBD parking spaces in existing site-specific Planning Proposals and design competitions within the Parramatta CBD.

The completion of the Parramatta Light Rail and Sydney Metro West is also expected to make it easier to hit these targets.

The council is also responding to increasing risk of floods, extreme heat and other weather events exacerbated by climate change, including the addition of a new clause in the draft LEP to improve management of flood risks and ensure a suitable flood emergency response strategy is implemented.

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