New builds in Sydney subject to ‘ambitious’ energy targets under proposal

By Melissa Coade

May 24, 2021

(Image: Adobe/rudi1976)

The City of Sydney is contemplating mandated energy targets in future development applications (DAs) starting from 2023 under a new plan being touted as an ‘Australian-first’.

DAs for new office buildings, hotels and shopping centres must comply with minimum energy ratings under the proposed plan, and have achieved a net-zero energy output by 2026. Major redevelopments of existing buildings will also be subject to the same conditions.

According to the City of Sydney, the initiative can deliver annual cost savings to building owners of $2,750 per 1,000 square metres and $170 per room for hotel owners. 

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said that by targeting energy use in buildings, the city was addressing a ‘significant’ greenhouse gas emitter that would save over $1.3 billion within 17 years on energy bills. This saving would then flow to investors, business and occupants, she added. 

“Commercial office space, hotels and apartment buildings contribute 68% of total emissions in our LGA. 

“If we’re to meet our target of net-zero emissions by 2035, we need to ensure this sector is contributing to emissions reduction through increased energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy production and off-site renewable energy procurement,” Moore said.

Under the proposed planning controls, energy efficiency and the use of onsite and offsite renewables will help buildings in Sydney ‘move towards’ net zero energy use. 

Moore said that the green building performance standards were designed with support from industry bodies, consultants, government agencies and developers. She said that the step changes were ambitious but achievable and provided a ‘clear pathway’ and timeline for developers to improve the energy performance of their buildings as they transition to net zero. 

“The climate challenge is one that we can only meet with concerted action. The more we can work together and exchange information, knowledge and experiences, the greater our ability to meet the NSW government net-zero emissions target and allow us to continue to create truly liveable cities,” Moore said. 

Neil Arckless, an executive development director at Lendlease said the company supported the performance standards. He said that net-zero carbon emissions were already an industry wide trend that Lend Lease had committed to by the end of 2025, with an absolute zero goal by 2040.

We are always pushing the boundaries to innovate in sustainability and welcome the City of Sydney leading the way in the development of these performance standards. I’m confident we can all rise to the challenge,” Arckless said. 

The City of Sydney hopes that the evidence base it has collated to design the performance standards can be used by other councils across Greater Sydney. Emma Herd from the Greater Sydney Commission said the plan was a blueprint for how low carbon cities could be achieved and urged other councils to consider them as a tool for achieving targets.

“Across Greater Sydney, the changing climate is a shared problem,” Herd said.

“I would encourage councils across the Greater Sydney region to look at these performance standards […] and sustainability actions in their local strategic planning statements.” 

Lord Mayor Moore suggested that the plan, which supports the NSW net zero plan and electricity strategy, also had the potential to support investment in renewable energy and more jobs for the NSW regions.

“The performance standards […] will support investment in renewable energy and create jobs in regional areas – as we have already done through our investment in wind farms and solar farms in Inverell, Nowra and Wagga Wagga,” she said.

Other benefits of the plan quantified by the City of Sydney include public bonuses, and savings in health, energy network and emissions costs totalling $1.8 billion.

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