Driving improved environmental performance in the Residential Apartment Sector

Driving improved environmental performance in the Residential Apartment Sector


Melinda Dewsnap and Laura Woollacott

Organisation of Presenter:

City of Sydney Council, Australia


Around three-quarters of the City of Sydney (the City)’s residents live in apartment buildings. The residential apartment sector is responsible for 10 percent of the City Local Government Area (LGA) greenhouse gas emissions. The City‘s council endorsed the Residential Apartment Sustainability Plan in August 2015 which seeks to drive better environmental performance within the residential apartment community. The plan targets a 40 percent emissions reduction in the sector by 2030 and sets out 30 key actions to achieve this.
These actions fit within 5 key outcome streams: 1) Build capacity of owners, building and strata managers to identify/approve/implement projects to improve building efficiency/operations; 2) Activate upgrades through incentives and support to overcome the challenges of implementation in strata buildings; 3) Empower strata communities to influence building performance; advocate for an independent performance rating tool to drive upgrades and inform leasing/purchase decisions; 4) Foster innovation in sustainable design/construction of new apartment developments; and 5) Raise the bar by advocating for increased minimum environmental performance targets in new buildings.
Modelling suggest that the largest emissions reduction will be achieved through improved performance standards in new buildings, the development/uptake of a ratings tool for residential apartment buildings and the mandatory disclosure of these ratings.
The City’s identified significant opportunity for emissions reduction through retrofitting existing building stock. Results from the City’s Smart Green Apartments program indicate that on average, common area energy consumption can be reduced by 30 percent through cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades/measures. Despite evidenced savings potential for residential owners, a number of barriers including the complexity of strata governance; lack of access to accurate information; lack of time, expertise and support, mean investment is unlikely across the Sydney LGA without direct action to support/demonstrate the opportunities for environmental retrofits.
The second iteration of the Smart Green Apartments program, launched in August 2016, will support 20 buildings per year over 10 years to better understand building performance/upgrade opportunities to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
With increasing housing density in and around Australian cities it’s important to better understand the mechanisms to drive rapid uptake of environmental performance in this sector.