Under the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change, Australia is expected to reduce emissions by 26-28 percent on 2005 levels by 2030. By 2050, achieving net-zero carbon emissions must be the new normal if international climate commitments are to be met.
With our built environment being one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, there has been an increasing focus on making our existing and new buildings more energy-efficient and, ultimately, net-zero carbon.
But how do we get there? What initiatives should developers and builders, architects and engineers put in place to reach those targets?
In response to the lack of information about best-practice energy initiatives in the property sector, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) commissioned a practical, user-friendly handbook that will help building owners and managers identify and implement initiatives that will cut energy costs and emissions.
“Property accounts for almost a quarter of Australia’s carbon emissions, confirming there is a pressing need for action in this area. Through this report, we are highlighting a wide range of clean energy technologies that currently aren’t prescribed by the National Construction Code (NCC), but which are proven, readily available and can be deployed immediately,” says CEFC property sector head, Chris Wade.
Titled “Energy in Buildings: 50 Best Practice Initiatives”, the report was produced with engineering consultants Norman Disney & Young (NDY) and includes measures that have relatively short-term paybacks.
“For the right market sector and climate zone, 16 of the initiatives could typically pay back inside five years, and 36 of them within 10 years,” the report states in its introduction.
“Many of those 36 initiatives are also relatively affordable: about one third, in a new-build scenario, would require an additional cost less than 0.1 percent of overall asset value. Most are also appropriate for existing buildings, depending on the scope of the retrofit.”
The initiatives in the guide have been demonstrated as technically viable at a commercial scale, and applicable at a building scale. The handbook further indicates the climate zones where specific initiatives are more likely to deliver the best positive benefits, and even indicates potential upfront costs and typical payback periods.
Solar PV, LED lighting and improved HVAC systems are some of the more familiar technologies noted in the report. Other best practice measures include:
- Light colour and reflective external materials, which typically cost less than 0.1 per cent of the building's cost to implement and pay back in less than five years
- Data analytics for building management systems in existing buildings, which typically cost less than 0.3 per cent of the building's cost and have an investment payback period of less than five years
- Electronically commutated fans, using microprocessor-controlled brushless motors, which also typically cost less than 0.3 per cent of the building's cost to implement and pay back in less than five years.
“Greater availability of useful, practical information on efficiency measures will accelerate the market transformation needed to deliver high performance, low-carbon buildings,” Tony Arnel, Global Director of Sustainability at NDY, said.
“We hope these 50 best-practice initiatives will encourage building owners to be more ambitious about the energy performance of their buildings, helping to reduce energy costs and position their assets for a low-carbon future."