Last week Baker & McKenzie’s Sydney and Melbourne offices hosted the first of five workshops looking at ways of improving the greenhouse gas emission performance of Australia’s existing office buildings.
The workshops form part of the “Existing Building Project”, a collaboration between the Total Environment Centre and 25 commercial property trusts which together hold around 80 per cent of the investment-grade office floor space in Australia. Five of those trusts — the Australian Prime Property Fund (Lend Lease), Becton Property Group, the GPT Group, the Local Government Superannuation Scheme and Macquarie Office Trust — have also committed to significantly improving the energy efficiency of their stock by bringing their portfolio average up to 4.5 or 4.0 Australian Building Greenhouse Rating (ABGR) average by 2012.
According to Matthew Clark, a speaker at the workshop from the NSW Government’s Department of Environment and Climate Change, the commercial sector currently makes up around 11 per cent of Australia’s total emissions, with office buildings responsible for around 30 per cent of the emissions from that sector.
A reoccurring issue brought up by the speakers was the fact that while at the moment the measures being taken by the trusts involved in the project are voluntary, the sector could be caught by future regulatory developments in the climate change arena.
Clark pointed out that the commercial property sector would be in serious trouble if government passed legislation requiring all sectors to achieve deep emissions cuts of 60 per cent by 2050. Based on current predictions, the sector will be producing 10 times that amount by 2050 if business continues as usual, Clark said.
Baker & McKenzie senior associate, Lily Mitchell, who spoke about the forthcoming Australian Emission Trading Scheme, said the while commercial property trusts won’t be directly caught under the scheme, they will be indirectly affected by the flow-on rise in electricity prices.
The remaining four workshops in the series, also to be hosted by Bakers, will explore a range of areas relating building sustainability, including the various subsidies and financing mechanisms available to property trusts wanting to improve their emissions performance.