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Low-carbon toolkit to highlight economic reasons for upgrading buildings

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An Adelaide company is confident it can reduce Adelaide’s carbon footprint by as much as 8% by making it easier for owners and managers to see the economic benefits of upgrading their buildings.

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Sustain SA  plans to create a Low-Carbon Heritage Building Toolkit that will bring together all the component parts of the decision-making process, highlight the likely return on investment and link to sources of finance.

The toolkit will apply not just to heritage buildings, but also to older commercial buildings – those rated as C or D by the Property Council on the strength of their poor rental yield. Most have had little done to them for years if not decades, meaning systems such as lighting and air-conditioning are inefficient.

“We’ve done the numbers and are confident that with full implementation across Adelaide we can make an 8% reduction,” said director Phil Donaldson. “We know that 46% of the carbon footprint of Adelaide is linked to buildings. If we’re not addressing that 46% then we’re not fundamentally addressing what is potentially the biggest opportunity.”

Sustain SA and its local partners – dsquared Consulting and Ecocreative – were awarded $10,000 to further develop the concept as one of 11 finalists in the State Government’s inaugural Low Carbon Entrepreneur Prize.

While they weren’t awarded as overall winners of the competition, the business want to work with both State and local government, as well as the business community, to trial the toolkit on a number of CBD buildings then test the findings in the market place. The Property Council has already offered to host a business roundtable to get things moving.

“At the moment there is nothing in the market similar to what we are proposing,” Donaldson said. “There are heritage guidelines, there are a number of calculators and information about return on investment on individual systems, but no-one takes all this disparate information and integrates it. If we can save people the considerable amount of time and money it takes to decide to act then we can help make things happen.”

The trial will also assess what information may need to be added to the toolkit, such as the need to prioritise or make trade-offs, and monitor the economic and environmental performance of participating buildings after the upgrading process. University researchers will be approached to help develop a robust verification system.

Sustain SA and its local partners in the venture – dsquared Consulting and Ecocreative – are also thinking beyond the first stage. They are also looking to work with a partner to monitor the output of the building in assessing the actual energy use and monitor the performance of the building after the implementation of the energy efficiency options to verify proposed savings.

Initially they would like to create a formal link between their toolkit and the Government’s planned building upgrade finance (BUF) scheme, as well as link with council heritage grant schemes.

“BUF schemes provide the finance and the potential options to increase energy efficiency,” Donaldson said. “You still need to go through the audit process of working out what currently is occurring, what the opportunities are and the value proposition for each option.”

The toolkit will also provide pathways for owners who want to go as far as gaining carbon neutral accreditation for their buildings, including what offsets are required.

It will be a total package, and building owners make use of it to the degree they need at the time,” Donaldson said. “Our vision for the toolkit is to ensure that it is applicable to all commercial buildings, but our focus right now is the heritage, C and D grade building stock that is the hardest nut to crack and the one that Adelaide must crack to meet the governments zero carbon city target.”

The partners are already having discussions with a company in Texas about “adding an international flavour” to the toolkit.

“The pilot will be specific to Adelaide because that’s what the challenge is about – it’s about Carbon Neutral Adelaide and the CBD, which is where our trial will be,” Donaldson said. “But the potential is then there to be able to adapt if for other States and jurisdictions.”

Sustain SA is part of the Adelaide Design Alliance, who want to export South Australia’s expertise in water sensitive and smart city design. The alliance will launch tomorrow as part of Open State.

Solstice Media has partnered with the South Australian Government to provide information about the transition to a low-carbon economy. Read more stories like this here.

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