Ansett building ready for green life in $7m retrofit

melbourne skyline
Melbourne City Council has been nominated for an international leadership award for its sustainable buildings policy. Image:

A 1970s office tower has been signed up for a $7 million environmental upgrade as part of Melbourne City Council’s ambitious target to retrofit up to two-thirds of the municipality’s commercial buildings.

The 19-storey former Ansett building in Swanston Street will have its lifts, cooling and heating systems upgraded with estimated annual savings of 606,700 kilograms in carbon emissions and an $80,000 reduction in the building’s yearly energy bills.

The building is part of the council’s ambitious 1200 buildings program in which building owners have access to finance to upgrade the building with the loan repaid through council rates.

The council said the upgrades boosted the capital and rental value of the building and attracted tenants. The Swanston Street upgrade was the biggest single investment in the program so far.

Melbourne City Council says the building upgrade strategy has been an economic fillip, boosting jobs and expertise in the growing green economy.

But progress has been glacial with only seven buildings added in the past two years and 57 signed up to the program since it began in 2010.

Lord mayor Robert Doyle said the 1200 figure was not really a ”target”, but part of a strategy to change habits for building renovations.

”It’s a nice figure because it represents the proportion of lettable floor space in the city that makes a huge difference. The object is really to just keep on climbing to where it becomes the norm that you don’t just do a recarpet and a repaint, you actually do a proper retrofit and that’s what it is all about,” he said.

Cr Doyle said there was still strong interest in upgrading office buildings. ”We are starting to see pay-back periods that are much quicker than we had thought, the economics are stacking up,” he said.

Melbourne City has committed to be carbon-neutral by 2020 and half of its greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the commercial sector.

Melbourne City Council has been nominated for an international leadership award for its sustainable buildings policy. The awards will be announced in London next month. New York and Berlin have also been shortlisted.

Green Building Council of Australia’s Robin Mellon said Victoria was leading the way with its number of sustainable buildings.

”Melbourne has the greatest concentration of green-star buildings anywhere in Australia,” he said. Green-star buildings were more efficient, healthy to work in and improved productivity.

”Whether you believe in climate change or not, people still want efficient buildings,” he said.

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