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    Sydney Opera House green accreditation

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    The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has awarded a 4 Star Green Star – Performance rating to the Sydney Opera House, placing the national icon among a select few World Heritage buildings that have achieved green certification globally.

    The announcement was made jointly by NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant, Sydney Opera House Building Director Greg McTaggart, and GBCA Chief Executive Officer Romilly Madew in the Concert Hall of the Opera House.

    Awarded for ‘best practice’ in the industry, the 4 Star Green Star rating is an extraordinary achievement for a heritage building and will be critical to the Opera House’s Decade of Renewal, a sequenced program of works designed to update the world-renowned performing arts centre for 21st century audiences, artists and visitors.

    Describing the Opera House as an icon of Sydney and a symbol of modern Australia, Grant said the endorsement by the GBCA sends a clear message that green buildings don't have to be new; even the most recognisable and historic landmarks can earn a place among the most celebrated sustainable buildings in the world.

    According to Madew, about 340 million square metres of commercial and public building space in Australia need to be upgraded. Though operating costs for these buildings amount to around $27 billion a year, the general consensus has been that it’s ‘too hard’ to improve their sustainability. However, the Sydney Opera House has challenged these notions with a pragmatic approach that proves even the most iconic, historic and challenging buildings can be high-performing, energy-efficient and sustainable.

    The Opera House’s 4 Star Green Star rating is attributed to several contributing factors including the installation of new energy-efficient technologies in key performance venues; use of eco-friendly cleaning products; and a robust Reconciliation Action Plan among a wide range of initiatives across three core areas: building management, environmental management and social sustainability.

    1. Building management

    Energy efficiency has been achieved through a range of lighting-retrofit and lighting-control initiatives including the award-winning Concert Hall lighting project unveiled last year. Though the Opera House calendar has been extremely busy with several performances, energy usage has been reduced by more than 10 per cent over the past five years.

    Featuring a sustainable heritage design, the Opera House continues to power its main heating and air-conditioning with a highly innovative seawater cooling system, which was considered ahead of its time when first installed.

    A range of eco-friendly cleaning methods has been developed to not only maintain the heritage value of the building but also reduce its impact on the environment. These include bicarbonate soda for cleaning concrete, olive oil for the bronze and ozone-treated water for disinfecting various areas.

    The indoor environmental quality is actively managed across theatres and rehearsal rooms to offices, bars and restaurants to ensure user comfort and wellbeing.

    2. Environmental management

    A dedicated Environmental Sustainability Manager actively engages staff and performers as well as on-site food and beverage operators and venue hirers in ways they can reduce their environmental impact.

    Systems have been implemented for effective waste management, with documented processes in place for recycling and management.

    Everything from energy performance to water usage, waste management and paper usage is monitored and regularly reported to a range of stakeholders.

    The Opera House’s proximity to the Circular Quay hub has led to increased public transport usage. A shuttle bus between the Circular Quay and the Opera House encourages less mobile patrons to take public transport.

    3. Social sustainability

    The Opera House developed the Reconciliation Action Plan, the first by a performing arts centre in Australia and also launched the Access Strategic Plan (2013 – 2015), spearheaded by the Opera House's full time Accessibility Manager.

    Greg McTaggart, Sydney Opera House Director of Building explains that the GBCA 4 Star Green Star rating, which builds on Jørn Utzon’s own legacy of sustainable design, is an important milestone but not the end of their journey. While the Green Star rating has provided an initial benchmark, the Opera House will, as part of their Decade of Renewal, continue to look at ways to improve efficiency and sustainability within the GBCA’s framework. This will ensure that the Opera House is recognised not only as one of the greatest buildings of the 20th century, but of centuries to come.

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