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REIQ Journal : September 2008
46 COMMERCIAL & INDUSTRIAL How much is enough? While this is not necessarily true in every case, experiences abroad demonstrate that a lot can be done at a reasonable cost to add “green life” to older buildings, and there are already examples of this global trend in Australia. Arup, working with the Property Council of Australia (PCA), has compiled the handbook Existing Buildings Survival Strategies: A Toolbox for Re-energising Tired Assets for building owners, which outlines the green options currently available. Older office buildings make up more than 93 per cent of the rental office space in Australian cities and most of them were designed well before the introduction of green-rating systems. Existing stock is slowly being replaced at a rate of less than 3 per cent per year. Once built, offices need to be refurbished every 20 to 25 years, and any buildings currently undergoing major refurbishment must comply with current regulations. Building owners who do not respond to new green regulations will face compounding disadvantages, including growing operating costs, decreasing rental yields and a struggle for tenants in a competitive environment of high amenity expectations. However, this decline is far from inevitable. Not only is there scope for reducing the environmental impact and tooling up older buildings to comply with increasingly stringent green regulations, but it is a matter of urgency that this is done. “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is the environmentalists’ maxim and these three Rs apply as much to office buildings as to anything else. Reducing energy use, including from mechanical and electrical systems, can often yield the greatest benefit with the least investment of new material and energy resources. Surprisingly significant efficiencies can be made at minimal cost through a maintenance and housekeeping review. There are many ways of improving existing office buildings, with varying benefits, constraints and costs. Some initiatives are quite straightforward in terms of cost, time and disruption and produce immediate benefits. These are “quick wins”. Others involve more investment and give less demonstrable returns. Some improvement initiatives may greatly benefit the building owner, but not necessarily the tenant and vice versa. It is often difficult to distil the various options available and understand which ones may be applicable to your building and your particular targets. You may find that a simplified assessment of building performance and condition combining the feedback you have collected will help you decide on the appropriate level of refurbishment. 1 Replace existing lamps with T5 fluorescents. 2 Modify air conditioning setpoints to provide a wider control band within acceptable comfort boundaries. 3 Provide clear light-switch labelling. 4 Rebalance and recommission all plants. 5 Use low irritant or non-chemical cleaning products. 6 Implement a comprehensive preventative maintenance program. 7 Maintain up-to-date, comprehensive accessible O&MManuals and building users’ guide. 8 Provide submetering of electricity, gas and water. 9 Ensure controls are working correctly. 10 Provide water efficient appliances. Excerpt from Existing Buildings Survival Strategies: A Toolbox for Reenergising Tired Assets, which is available from the Property Council of Australia. Simple changes such as labelling zone lights clearly, modifying setpoints and procuring green energy can make a real difference. For older buildings, the second R – Reuse – leads to three more: refurbish, retrofit and rejuvenate; not just for energy efficiency, but to create working spaces full of daylight, clean air and greenery. When deciding whether to demolish and rebuild – or retain and revamp – it is important to start from a baseline against which targets can be set and ultimately measured. REIQ Journal September 2008