Waverley Council Mayor John Wakefield at 151 East. Photo: Bob Hughes

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BY JOHN MOYLE

Buildings directly and indirectly account for almost 40 per cent of global energy consumption and that is why this week Waverley Council rolled out the second phase of its Building Futures program aimed at reducing energy costs across the municipality’s strata buildings.

To date, 10 buildings have completed this first roll-out of the program that originated in May 2018 as part of Waverley Council’s Green Infrastructure Master Plan that maps a sustainable future for Bondi Junction.

Out of the 30 or so high-rise buildings in Bondi Junction, more than 10 buildings have participated in the program over the past two years.

This second phase will see another 10 strata buildings participate in the program that is designed to save each strata management up to 20 per cent from their common area usage resulting in savings of tens of thousands of dollars and a reduction in climate change output.

Matched funding for program

The program is free and provides matched funding up to $5,000 towards energy assessments and the retrofitting of common area lighting and CO2 monitoring and ventilation equipment for carparks.

“It also drills down into areas like swimming pools, air-conditioning use, and savings in greenhouse gases emission, water usage, leaking taps and waste management, which are audited,” John Wakefield, Mayor of Waverley Council said.

The first part of the program concentrated on buildings in Bondi Junction, including the Oscar on Hollywood, The Crown, Spring Street Apartments and Vue Apartments.

“The pro-active support that we received from the Building Futures program encompassed broad technical knowledge and experience that was all coordinated via one channel,” Ken Murphy, Treasurer, The Oscar on Hollywood said.

The most common item to be eliminated are highly inefficient halogen downlights, often referred to in the industry as the cockroaches of the lighting world due to their high energy usage and propensity to become fire hazards.

These are replaced by low-energy downlight fittings such as the more efficient and safer LEDs or compact fluorescent lamps.

Each building on average is expected to save more than $10,000 per annum from their electricity bills with a payback period of around 2.5 years, while saving an estimated 535 tonnes per annum on carbon emissions.

Around 83 per cent of the population live in multi-unit dwellings where up to 60 per cent of energy usage is in the common area.

Strata owners and body corporates often find themselves facing situations of which they have little or no knowledge or expertise.

“Council is in a prime position to support local building owners in their goals for more carbon-friendly and budget-friendly buildings, especially where related incentives for apartment buildings fall short,” Mayor Wakefield said.

“Local government support programs like Building Futures are championing sustainable solutions for strata on the ground when they are often left behind in other residential policies and incentives,” Christine Byrne, Director of the not-for-profit Green Strata said.

The fact that these often recently built buildings require remedial action can be attributed to the lax implementation of state building codes, the pressure from developers to cut costs and the push for aesthetics ahead of environmental outcomes.

NABERS is the National Australian Built Environment Rating System with the goal of “supporting a more sustainable built environment through a relevant, reliable and practical measure of building performance”.

The organisation rates the energy performance of buildings on a zero to six scale.

Mayor Wakefield said, “Building Futures is part of NABERS, and the idea is to get these buildings into the NABERS program either to start with or to get their NABERS rating higher”.

“All of these buildings are existing buildings and some of them are fairly new and we would have hoped that they would have rated higher.

“We try and capture through the DA process the design outcomes that will lead to energy efficiency but often aesthetic and cost concerns are at the top of the designers and developers list when it comes to new buildings.”

Plenty of room for uptake

With around 200 high-rise apartments buildings in the Waverley municipality there is still plenty of room for uptake.

“We hope that most or all of the medium to high-rise buildings in the municipality in the next few years will take up the program,” Mayor Wakefield said.

Waverley Council is also working to reduce its own carbon footprint in its own business practices by completing energy efficiency upgrades, installing solar and constructing rain gardens for its own facilities.

“This is our contribution to climate change action and it is something that we have factored into the budget over the next few years, but it is also part of our belief in practical change for climate change outcomes,” Mayor Wakefield said.