A range of building upgrades combined with good management practices has led to the Wollongong City Council’s Administration Building becoming the first building in Australia to achieve a 5 Star Green Star – Performance rating, signifying ‘Australian Excellence’. The rating is also the highest Green Star – Performance rating achieved in Australia to date.

First occupied in June 1987, the 13-storey Administration Building houses 660 Council staff. The Council has, over the past 10 years, introduced a series of measures including upgrades and practices to improve the building’s sustainability performance, while replacing ageing equipment to meet modern building compliance standards.

The Council began a project in 2014 to improve the building’s operational performance from a sustainability perspective, using the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star – Performance rating tool.

All these efforts have resulted in energy efficiency gains of 55 per cent and water efficiency gains of 85 per cent, based on the Green Star – Performance rating tool’s calculations. According to Council estimates, the energy efficiency gains alone in the building are saving $200,000 in electricity costs each year when compared to 2007-2008 consumption.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery OAM said ensuring the sustainable operation of the Administration Building was a major step towards achieving environmental, financial and ecological sustainability. He explained that these initiatives were not only about gaining financial sustainability but ensuring that the Council has an efficient building that will consume less water and electricity, reduce waste and emissions, and also provide an enjoyable and healthy workplace for the staff.

Pointing out that the Council was able to retrofit an ageing building to achieve these significant reductions, he said the exercise demonstrated that a 5 Star Green Star rating can be achieved with an ageing building if the right methods were used.

He adds that the Council’s roadmap to sustainability could be used by other local governments or government agencies. The Council building’s rating is comparable to brand new buildings purpose-designed to achieve 5 or 6 Star Green Star ratings.

Chief Executive Officer of GBCA Romilly Madew commented that the 5 Star Green Star rating represents ‘Australian Excellence’ in building performance.

Acknowledging the efforts of the Council for taking the lead to demonstrate that investing in older buildings can deliver dividends, both in terms of environmental sustainability and efficiency, Ms Madew said that the building met best practice benchmarks for a range of environmental impacts, such as energy and water efficiency, as well as for factors that affect human health and productivity including material selection and indoor environment quality.

The Council is now developing a Sustainable Building Strategy, which will guide how it improves the operational sustainability of existing buildings, in addition to how new buildings will be designed, constructed and operated.

The experience gained in retrofitting the Administration Building, along with improving its management practices, will greatly assist the Council in developing the strategy.