Melbourne's big green overhaul



500 Collins Street

500 Collins Street is a retrofitting success story, and one of the first steps in bringing sustainability to Melbourne's city.

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Over two thirds of Melbourne's commercial buildings are to be given a sustainability overhaul, as part of a large-scale retrofitting initiative announced yesterday.

The Australian-first '1200 Buildings' program will see the City of Melbourne undergo its largest transformation in over 150 years, is expected to create around 800 green employment opportunities and, according to Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, will bring about a "green gold rush", generating around $1.3 billion in economic activity.

The project aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 380,000 tonnes each year by overhauling older buildings to promote energy efficiency. This will involve the introduction of a range of energy-saving technologies, from simple lighting options, solar power and natural ventilation additions to energy cogeneration systems, cooling towers and computerised building monitoring systems.

The retrofits will also see improvements in waste management and water efficiency, as well as the use of sustainable construction materials.

"The 1200 Buildings program is one of the greatest economic and environmental opportunities we have and will place Melbourne at the cutting edge of the green building movement. It will transform existing commercial buildings into centres of environmental innovation, showcases of engineering excellence and engines of economic growth," Doyle said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

"Sixteen corporates, including the City of Melbourne, managing 30 buildings, have taken a leadership role in signing up to the program - each committing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 38 per cent," he said.

Improvements to existing buildings have already been going on in the background prior to yesterday's official launch. The 500 Collins Street building, built in 1970, was among the first to be completely transformed through retrofitting - becoming Australia's first CBD building to received a 5 Green Star v1 Design rating.

The building has now reduced energy use significantly across the board, with a 50 per cent cut in lighting energy use and a 30 per cent cut for air conditioning, with the use of solar also reducing hot water-related energy consumption by 15 per cent. It also uses up to 50 per cent less water, thanks to additions such as waterless urinals, flow restricting devices and rainwater collection.

Similar improvements are expected to boost energy and water efficiencies across the CBD. Though an exact time frame for the program is yet to be set, Doyle told reporters at the launch conference he expected to be "substantially into" the program in 10 year's time. This is in step, he said, with the City of Melbourne's overarching goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020.