Back to the future: heritage Buildings, sustainability and adaptation in the Melbourne Central Business District

Australia ICOMOS IInternational Council on Monuments and Sites)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Historic Environment, 2012, 24 (2), pp. 7 - 13
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Humans have adapted buildings for almost as long as they have constructed shelters. With an acceptance of links between energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change, many perceive the built environment as a sector with high potential to reduce overall emissions. The built environment is responsible for around half of all greenhouse gas emissions and could play an important role in mitigating global warming. Many global cities aim to become carbon neutral, Melbourne leads the way with a target of neutrality by 2020 with others following such as San Francisco with a 2030 target. With only around two per cent of new buildings added to the existing stock each year, clearly the scope for emissions reductions lies largely within the adaptation of existing buildings. Buildings have to meet the needs of users and the wider community. As such, successful adaptation requires stakeholders to address social, technological, environmental, economic, and legislative criteria. Heritage buildings often account well in terms of embodied energy, though they may not be energy efficient. Whilst unlisted buildings present their own challenges and opportunities, heritage stock adds another layer of complexity to adaptation and sustainability practices, given the varied heritage-related restrictions on the nature and extent of retrofit measures that may reduce energy, water, and resource consumption. Concentrating on Melbourne, Australia, this paper addresses the question: what is the nature of adaptations in relation to heritage and non-heritage office building stock in the Central Business District (CBD)? The study analyses 1,548 commercial building adaptation events of heritage buildings, surveys the extent and nature of adaptations between 1998 and 2008, and identifies future considerations for integrating sustainability into heritage retrofits.
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