Property Australia

Wollongong City Council continues to shoot for the Green Stars


“With smart decisions, old buildings can become high performing buildings – and you can achieve this without shutting them down and stripping them out,” says Wollongong City Council’s Dr Carl Hopley. Find out how.

Wollongong City Council’s Administration Building – a spritely 32 years old – was recently awarded the highest sustainability rating from the Green Building Council of Australia, a 6 Star Green Star rating, for its operational performance.

Just 21 buildings in Australia have achieved a 6 Star Green Star – Performance rating, and no other building of such age has gained ‘world leadership’ status.

According to Greg Doyle, the council’s general manager, work to maintain and manage the Administration Building has been an ongoing project for 15 years. Progressive upgrades were recognised with Australia’s first 5 Star Green Star rating for operational performance in 2015.

Strategic decision-making and sustained effort are the secrets to success, Doyle says.

For example, the installation of a “super smart” lighting upgrade in 2017 is “trimming 200,000 kilowatt hours from the building a year”. This has reduced the building’s energy consumption and carbon footprint, while also boosting occupant comfort.

Hopley, the Council’s buildings and facilities sustainability planner and Green Star Accredited Professional, says the installation of Eagle Lighting Australia’s luminaries, when paired with “organic response” controls, means that “each light has its own brain and communicates via Radio Frequency (RF)”.

The lighting system is programmed to illuminate only the areas being occupied.

“This makes sense from an economic and occupant perspective. Because we can control each individual light, we can deal with staff sensitivity issues, and dim the lights or turn them off as needed. It’s a big win for occupant comfort,” Hopley says.

The lighting upgrade got a tip of the hat from the GBCA, with Green Star innovation points. And it is saving about 184 tonnes of emissions each year.

“The building is running 64 per cent more efficiently than it was when compared to the buildings baseline. If we were still consuming at our 2007/08 baseline levels, we’d be spending $250,000 a year more on electricity. Instead we can reinvest that money back into our community.”

This reinvestment is a win-win for the community says Wollongong Lord Mayor, councillor Gordon Bradbery AM.

“While we’re focused on offering programs through the Wollongong Botanic Garden on home composting, provide new parents with information about cloth nappies and looking for cutting-edge ways to reduce waste, it’s important we’re not just telling but doing,’’ the Lord Mayor says.

‘’The Green Star rating is evidence we’re following our own advice and our Administration Building is also becoming more environmentally sustainable.”

Doyle emphasises that the results are a team effort and applauds the work of council’s staff who have worked collaboratively on the ongoing project.

“The message we are trying to push is that old buildings, when managed well, can be high performance buildings,’’ Doyle says.

“Most buildings out there will be with us in 50-plus years – so they need to be a focus if the property industry wants to make a meaningful and tangible impact on climate change.”

What’s next for the Administration Building?

“We’ve a range of possibilities we’re exploring including looking at solar, which has been successfully incorporated into other Council-owned buildings like Dapto Ribbonwood Centre and Beaton Park. This is not the end of the story, just the latest chapter in the book,” Hopley concludes.