Earlier this year, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) proposed that, if Australia is to meet its Paris Agreement climate change targets, all new buildings in the country must be emissions-neutral by 2030. The deadline for all existing buildings is 2050.
“More than 170 nations – including Australia – have agreed to limit global temperature rises to less than 2˚C, and to strive towards global temperature rises of no more than 1.5˚C,” says GBCA’s chief executive officer, Romilly Madew.
“As the built environment is responsible for 23 percent of Australia’s greenhouse emissions, the property and construction industry has a central role to play in meeting these targets.”
Already, several companies are aligned with GBCA’s mission to own and manage buildings with net-zero energy consumption. AMP Capital, for example, has committed to making its Wholesale Office Fund carbon-neutral by 2030. This will include key assets such as 700 Bourke Street in Melbourne’s Docklands, and the 49-storey Quay Quarter Tower in Sydney’s Circular Quay, a collaboration between BVN and 3XN.
The highly anticipated 200m high Quay Quarter Tower will feature a series of shifting glass volumes stacked upon each other, rotating from west to east as they rise. According to 3XN this rotation enhances views and creates shading benefits. The new building will incorporate two-thirds of the existing structure, the AMP Centre.
One property firm in particular is aiming to go beyond net-zero. By 2030, Mirvac’s new and existing buildings are expected to generate more water and energy than they consume, and send zero waste to landfill. David Palin, the group’s sustainability manager, says a net-positive portfolio may seem ambitious, but the company is well on the way to achieving it.
“A lot of companies have achieved or are aiming to be carbon-neutral but not necessarily carbon-positive. By FY18, [Mirvac] will reduce carbon intensity by 20 percent, reduce water intensity by 15 percent, and recycle 75 percent of waste. We have also set goals around renewables, like installing 1 megawatt of renewable energy by 2018,” Palin tells A&D.
These shorter-term goals will allow Mirvac to progressively identify the boundaries and challenges associated with designing and operating net-positive buildings, he adds. Then, it’s about scaling the proven strategies and methods.
Mirvac has already achieved its water intensity reduction target ahead of 2018, though it acknowledges this must be maintained as it continually disposes and acquires assets.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH
Mirvac’s mission to be net-positive by 2030 is part of its overarching ‘This Changes Everything’ sustainability strategy. First launched in 2014, ‘This Changes Everything’ encompasses social sustainability and community enrichment targets in addition to resource reduction goals, and was driven by various motivations.
On the one hand, Mirvac’s leadership saw the importance of recognising – and mitigating – the effects of large commercial buildings on the environment.
“We’ve only got one planet,” Palin says. “We want to be relevant and do the right thing when building and operating buildings in the 21st century.”
It also makes good business sense. Having a strong sustainability strategy gives Mirvac the social license to operate in a competitive landscape, where green buildings have been proven to have healthier and more productive indoor environments. Owning and managing buildings that are net-positive – or are on their way there – attracts like-minded, top quality tenants and investors. This is true even when prices benefit from a ‘green premium’.
Practically, Palin acknowledges that Mirvac’s integrated service delivery platform makes it easier to achieve its net-positive goals. As owner, manager, developer and builder, Mirvac is able to influence each phase of development and ensure its priorities – of health, safety and environmental (HSE) elements, as well as innovation outcomes – are at the forefront of each project.
When asked how this translates to everyday work streams and processes, Palin gives the example of being involved in fortnightly design and development meetings with Mirvac senior development manager, David Chan, to discuss the construction and delivery of Mirvac’s latest premium building in Sydney, 200 George Street. These discussions provided opportunities for the sustainability team to contribute to the design process from the get-go, and have a say about which ESD initiatives, from on-site water tanks to smart building elements, should be included or phased out.
This integrated model also helps Mirvac stay forward-looking and nimble. With its eye set on a net-positive portfolio by 2030, any sustainability strategies that have been implemented become part of a feedback loop, so that what has worked on one building can be rolled out to others. Meanwhile, those that have not performed to expectations are revisited.
EY CENTRE, 200 GEORGE STREET: A SUCCESS STORY THAT KEEPS LEARNING
The EY Centre at 200 George Street, one of Australia’s newest Smart buildings, is one example of a project that was the product of “lots of lessons and knowledge”.
Designed by FJMT and jointly owned by Mirvac and AMP Capital, the EY Centre at 200 George Street in Sydney has made headlines for many Australian firsts: the first International Gold WELL Building Institute certification; first to be fully LED-lit; and first to incorporate a pressurised closed-cavity façade system.
The building has also been billed as one of the first of a new breed of ‘Smart Buildings’ in the country, featuring technologies that monitor and enable adjustments to air quality, power and water usage, according to the needs of the building and its occupants.
But EY Centre, 200 George Street’s sustainability initiatives and achievements were not magicked out of thin air. Rather the team, taking knowledge acquired from past projects, took on a considered ESD approach. This included removing a number of technologies that were deemed ineffective, such as co-generation (the simultaneous production of electricity and heat).
According to Palin, this move saved Mirvac $7 million upfront; money that was instead put towards a good metering system that helps the company understand where and how energy and water is being used.
“EY Centre, 200 George Street is now one of few buildings that are able to monitor projected data against actual usage,” Palin says. “That’s a huge bonus and opportunity for us.”
The commissioning process was also a learning curve for Mirvac, but the company continues to dive deep with regular building tune-in meetings. This means consultants – from control contractors to HVAC designers – are together able to work out why certain things may not be working properly.
“A period of integrated building tuning is important. Smart buildings need smart people,” Palin says.
If there is one non-negotiable for Mirvac’s sustainability manager, it is this: sustainability has to be at the very forefront of any strategy. It is not enough for it to be bolted on.