Green building guide helps developers get off gas

The Green Building Council of Australia has published a guide to help developers electrify new buildings and achieve better sustainability results as the industry moves away from gas.

Moving away from reliance on gas and growing market demand for sustainable building outcomes were key themes at the recent Green Building Australia conference in Sydney.

The guide provides information on how developers can engage with stakeholders, what type of initiatives and design options are available, and how to determine what is feasible.

It also features several fully electrified buildings and development projects with information on how the projects were designed, planned and communicated to stakeholders.

One of the projects featured was Fraser’s Burwood Brickworks project in Melbourne.

The project, which bills itself as the most sustainable shopping mall in the world, has just received a 6-star Green Star Design & As Built rating from the GBCA.

The center has an integrated thermal and electrical network that includes a 1,000 kW photovoltaic solar generator, generating more energy than it uses throughout the year.

The center also uses responsibly sourced, low-VOC, red-list-free materials and an innovative water management approach that captures and uses all water that falls on site.

Reviewing environmental product declarations, using reclaimed and highly recycled materials, and focusing on locally sourced materials has reduced embodied carbon emissions to half of what would be emitted by a building of comparison.

▲ The GBCA guide featured the 5 Parramatta Street project in Sydney as an example of fully electrified and sustainable buildings. Source: Green Building Council Australia

Other case studies in the guide include the 5 Parramatta Street building in Sydney as well as the Nightingale 1 residential project in Melbourne which hosts chef-initiated events for residents to educate them on the health benefits of cooking with electricity instead of gas.

Nightingale 1 also has a solar panel to help generate electricity and provisions to access green energy at wholesale prices, allowing residents to cover their energy costs at a lower cost.

The building was also designed to eliminate the need for air conditioning with high thermal insulation, a tight thermal envelope, passive ventilation and solar protection. Space heating is provided by heat pumps connected to hydronic heating.

The GBCA plans to explain how to retrofit renewable infrastructure in existing buildings in a future guide.

GBCA Market Transformation Manager Jorge Chapa said the guide will help developers guide developers through the process.

“What excites us about this guide is that it not only showcases existing all-electric buildings powered by renewable energy, but it also shows how all new buildings can reach this point,” Chapa said.

“As industry and community demand for these buildings increases, the technology is already being used successfully today.

“There’s no reason why all new buildings shouldn’t be fully electric from now on.”

The GBCA said natural gas accounts for between 10-30% of buildings GHG emissions and the electricity grid is rapidly decarbonizing, while decarbonizing the natural gas grid is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Chapa said electrification has many benefits, with properties becoming easier to upgrade.

“An all-electric building has many benefits, from easy access to renewable energy to healthy spaces for occupants,” Chapa said.

“As we move into a decarbonized world, all-electric buildings are future-proof and don’t need to be retrofitted to eliminate outdated technology.

“They are less likely to become stranded assets.”

The guide was funded by CEFC and the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment, with Cundall providing technical information.

Cundall partner David Clark said market demand for sustainable property was growing.

“Our customers want reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon solutions, and we know those solutions work,” Clark said.

“What has held many developers and asset owners back is the lack of clear, actionable guidance that will support decision-making and alleviate concerns about yesterday’s departure from normal.

“All-electric buildings will soon be the new normal.”

▲ Hip v Hype’s latest carbon-neutral project takes place at a site in inner Melbourne. Source: Hip v Hype.

The newest carbon neutral project is Hip v Hype, Westgarth and High’s latest project at 48 High Street in Melbourne’s inner suburb of Northcote.

Plans for the project before Darebin Town Council propose 22 carbon neutral units and aim for an 8-star Nathers rating.

It will use 100% renewable energy sources in the building. All building infrastructure will be electrical.

Hip v Hype founder Liam Wallis said the company and the community want sustainable properties that have the least negative impact on the environment.

“We know there’s an appetite in the community for housing that’s generating the kind of positive impact our cities deserve,” Wallis said.

“Our proximity to natural assets, such as the Merri Creek Parks, constantly reminds us of the value that natural resources can bring to a community.

“Our goal is to always create buildings that serve us, rather than harm the living systems of which we are a part.”

The developer has also done this before – its previous Ferrars and York development in South Melbourne currently under construction also has 22 carbon neutral units and an 8.6 Nathans rating.

The Ferrars and York project is expected to be completed in mid-2022.

▲ Aria’s Trellis project has an extended roof to allow for a solar panel that will power the common areas of the building. Source: Aria real estate group.

Other recent developments targeting carbon neutral or reduced emissions include Aria Property Group’s South Brisbane Trellis apartment tower project, which has its factory on the mezzanine level to make as much space as possible for the solar panels generate enough energy for the common areas of the building.

Electrification isn’t the only way to achieve sustainability – Aria’s Treehouse project involves planting 70 mature trees throughout the tower, which will help save energy by cooling the building.

Aria Property Group development director Brent Liddell agreed there was demand for future properties aiming to become more sustainable.

“We are seeing a shift in the demand for sustainability,” he said.

“Going all-electric is the future.”