Are sustainable building retrofits delivering sustainable outcomes?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Pacific Rim Property Research Journal, 2013, 19 (2), pp. 211 - 222
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© 2013, University of Western Sydney. All rights reserved. Retrofit is driven by numerous drivers such as building obsolescence and the need to attract new tenants, another driver over recent years being the goal of sustainability. Pointedly, most existing stock was built without consideration of sustainability. Sustainability was legislated in 2006 in the Building Code of Australia, with minimum standards established for energy efficiency. In 2008, Melbourne launched the 1200 Buildings Program to deliver carbon neutrality by 2020 on the premise that retrofitting two thirds of the office stock would deliver a 38% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Further Australian legislation followed in respect of energy and buildings. In 2010, the Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act, focused attention on minimum energy standards when leasing or selling office space.In this research, a series of illustrative case studies are used to examine two research aims, being to gain a deeper understanding of the improvements made to offices retrofitted within the 1200 Buildings Program and, secondly, to evaluate the outcomes against the project objectives. The case studies cover the Melbourne CBD area in Victoria, Australia.The results show that the measures taken by owners were mostly focussed on building services and energy efficiency. Overall, far less work was undertaken to thermally upgrade the building fabric, to address issues such as water economy or related to social sustainability. This was acceptable to some extent as the program within which the works were taken, the 1200 Buildings Program, is primarily focussed on reducing building related carbon emissions. However, the results reveal that even when opportunities are there for other sustainability measures to be adopted, owners do not always take those opportunities and that wider sustainability issues are not necessarily that important in this market.
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