My latest article for Citiscope takes a look at Melbourne’s 1200 Buildings program, which the city launched in 2010 to encourage energy-efficiency upgrades to commercial buildings so that they guzzle less water and electricity. Read the intro here and go to Citiscope for the full story.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The octagonal office tower that sits above a Maserati dealership here has seen a lot of change since it was built for an airline tycoon in the late 1970s.
For one thing, the helipad on the roof has been replaced with a black “plant room.” This space houses the mechanical guts of the building’s new heating and cooling system — a much more energy-efficient version than its predecessor.
The current owners also installed new elevators that use a regenerative braking system to generate power for the building. These upgrades were part of a retrofit completed earlier this year. The changes cut the building’s energy bills by 25 percent, producing energy savings equivalent to removing the carbon emissions of 55 homes a year.
“We wanted to update the plant and the lifts so we effectively had a ‘brand new building’ with a shell from 1979,” says Barry Calnon, chief financial officer at PDG Corporation. PDG is a large developer and manager of commercial and residential buildings in Melbourne. It co-owns the tower at 501 Swanston with Bobby Zagame, who owns the Maserati dealership as well as an Audi dealership downstairs.
Calnon, looking sharp in a navy blue suit with a set of little silver cars for cufflinks, explains that the retrofit was part of a larger refurbishment meant to attract premium corporate tenants. It cost a few Maseratis’ worth, and was paid for with a US$5 million loan through a Melbourne City Council fund for financing energy-efficiency upgrades in commercial buildings.
PDG Corporation’s Barry Calnon: “We wanted to update the plant and the lifts so we effectively had a ‘brand new building’.” (Brendon Bosworth)
The retrofit at 501 Swanston is just one of many undertaken through the city of Melbourne’s 1200 Buildings program. It’s a multi-pronged strategy launched in 2010 to encourage energy-efficiency upgrades to commercial buildings so that they guzzle less water and electricity. The office buildings that dot the skyline in Australia’s fastest-growing and “most livable” city produce more than half of its greenhouse gas emissions. That needs to change if Melbourne is to reach its ambitious goal of being carbon-neutral by 2020.