Sydney’s new buildings soar towards net zero

City of Sydney

New buildings will be more energy efficient, use more renewable energy and support the transition to net-zero emissions under an Australia-first plan to include energy targets in development applications.

Under the City of Sydney’s proposal, DAs for new office buildings, hotels and shopping centres and major redevelopments of existing buildings must comply with minimum energy ratings from January 2023, and achieve net-zero energy output by 2026.

The measures are expected to save more than $1.3 billion on energy bills for investors, businesses and occupants from 2023 to 2040, and help the City meet its target of net-zero emissions by 2035.

“Energy use in buildings is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Commercial office space, hotels and apartment buildings contribute 68% of total emissions in our LGA. If we’re to meet our target of net-zero emissions by 2035, we need to ensure this sector is contributing to emissions reduction through increased energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy production and off-site renewable energy procurement.

“We have worked with industry and government to develop performance standard step changes that are ambitious, but achievable. We’re providing a clear pathway and time for developers to improve energy performance and transition to net zero buildings.

“Not only will this program help us reach our target of net-zero emissions by 2035, it will provide energy savings of more than $1.3 billion for investors, businesses and occupants across Greater Sydney. As we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic, we’re helping ensure sustainability and resilience is at the core of business recovery.”

The City’s new planning controls will combine energy efficiency and the use of onsite and offsite renewables to move buildings towards net zero energy use.

Including the option to use offsite renewable energy purchases is another first for local planning controls in Australia.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the ambitious green building performance standards – a first for any Australian local council – have been created with support from developers, industry bodies, consultants and government agencies.

“The action we take locally will help reduce emissions and contribute to a positive Covid-19 business recovery for Greater Sydney,” the Lord Mayor said.

“The performance standards and evidence base can be used by all councils across Greater Sydney and will support investment in renewable energy and create jobs in regional areas – as we have already done through our investment in wind farms and solar farms in Inverell, Nowra and Wagga Wagga.

“The climate challenge is one that we can only meet with concerted action. The more we can work together and exchange information, knowledge and experiences, the greater our ability to meet the NSW Government net-zero emissions target and allow us to continue to create truly liveable cities.”

The new energy targets have the backing of leading developers, property owners and industry groups.

Greater Sydney Commission environment commissioner Emma Herd said we must accelerate industry and government action to combat global warming.

“Across Greater Sydney, the changing climate is a shared problem. These performance standards will help us meet our shared goal of net zero emissions and deliver progress against the Greater Sydney region plan low carbon city objective,” Ms Herd said.

“I would encourage councils across the Greater Sydney region to look at these performance standards as a useful tool for achieving environmental targets of net zero emissions and sustainability actions in their local strategic planning statements.”

Neil Arckless, Lendlease executive development director, said his organisation supported the ambitious performance standards.

“At Lendlease we recently set our own pathway to net zero carbon by 2025 and absolute zero by 2040. We are always pushing the boundaries to innovate in sustainability and welcome the City of Sydney leading the way in the development of these performance standards. I’m confident we can all rise to the challenge,” Mr Arckless said.

Stockland CEO Commercial Property Louise Mason said the company strongly endorsed the City’s net-zero energy buildings performance standards.

“We have brought forward our target to achieve net zero carbon emissions to 2028 and extended the commitment across our entire portfolio, covering close to 170 active assets and projects Australia-wide,” Ms Mason said.

The measures are expected to deliver substantial financial benefits. Annually office owners will save $2,750 per 1,000 square metres of floor area and hotel owners $170 per hotel room.

There are also additional public benefits and savings in health, energy network and emissions costs, worth around $1.8 billion. The planning controls also support the NSW Government’s renewable energy zones through investment, and create demand for jobs and new skills in energy efficiency.

The performance standards address requirements in the Greater Sydney region plan and respond to local, state and industry goals, including the NSW net zero plan and electricity strategy, district plans to reduce carbon emissions and sustainability actions in local planning.

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