A quarter of buildings surveyed have undergone or are undergoing retrofits.

By Willow Aliento

11 December 2013 — 2014 looks like a good year to be working in energy-efficient lighting in Melbourne, according to analysis in the 1200 Buildings, Melbourne Retrofit Survey 2013, which reveals the retrofit trend is continuing to gather momentum, with lighting upgrades the most popular activity.

This has also been a focus for the Victorian government, with the Energy Saver Incentive program, offering rebates for commercial lighting upgrades.

After lighting (83 per cent), the most popular retrofit actions were installing or upgrading the building management system (59 per cent), metering (59 per cent) and/or upgrading the chiller (54 per cent). The “Other” category accounted for 70 per cent of retrofit activity, and included building sealing, insulation, cogeneration, lifts, solar panels, facade upgrades (glazing), pumping, HVAC upgrades other than boiler, chiller or VSD, cooling tower retrofits and internal blinds.

For the trade, supplier and consultant sector, the report’s indications that 16 per cent of building owners and representatives surveyed plan to undertake a retrofit in the next five years means the upgrade business will continue on the upswing.

A quarter of buildings in the survey had undergone or were currently undergoing retrofit activity.

The cogeneration sector is growing, with the number of boiler upgrades declining and cogeneration installations recently undertaken up to five per cent from one per cent in 2011, with 26 cogeneration installations predicted for the next five years. Other areas of increasing opportunity include BMS and solar panel installations.

The report revealed that the majority of retrofit activity is happening in commercial office buildings owned by institutional or corporate investors. A quarter of those surveyed were undertaking ongoing retrofit activity, and a full half of all corporate owners and representatives said they had prepared a business case for building efficiency measures before proceeding.

Preparing the business case is also an activity which can attract State support throughout 2014, under Sustainability Victoria’s Smarter Resources, Smarter Business – Energy Efficient Office Buildings program.

Matched funding between $20,000 and $150,000 and support will be provided for owners of mid-tier commercial office buildings (PCA B or C grade equivalent) to carry out an opportunities analysis, undertake building tuning and implement metering. Importantly, this will also create opportunities for specialists in the mechanical services, sustainability assessment and digital metering fields.

One of the key motivators for all retrofit activity in the 2011-13 period was replacing a broken asset (39 per cent) followed by improving energy-efficiency (31 per cent). The priority of attracting new tenants accounted for 21 per cent of retrofits, with retaining existing tenants only inspiring 12 per cent of activity.

In total between 2008 and 2018, the 1200 Buildings, Melbourne Retrofit Survey 2013 research team estimates 32 per cent of City of Melbourne’s buildings will be doing or will have done work that improves environmental outcomes.

“The survey results have confirmed what we already suspected – that a lot more retrofitting is going on in our city than we knew about,” said City of Melbourne environment portfolio chair, Councillor Arron Wood.

“Taking this temperature check gives us a better understanding of building managers’ motivations and helps us adapt our own programs to better address their needs.

“In recent months the City of Melbourne has received a number of awards for its work in sustainability including a C40 award in London and awards for our Smart Blocks and 1200 Buildings programs. Just last week 1200 Buildings received further recognition at the Energy Efficiency Council Industry Awards, as joint winners of the Best Energy Savings Program.

“It takes the efforts of an entire city however to be recognised on this level. We know that achieving some of our goals including becoming carbon neutral by 2020 cannot be done alone. We applaud the buildings that have already embraced these changes and we will continue to work with other building managers through programs like 1200 Buildings to encourage more of this activity.”

The report is available here.