The City of Melbourne has announced energy rebates of up to $3000 to help established apartment buildings reduce their energy emissions and power bills in common areas.
The rebates are part of Smart Blocks, a national program that challenges strata and property managers to find cost-effective ways to reduce energy use in common areas. The Smart Blocks rebates in Melbourne will reimburse half the cost, to the maximum value of $3000, for either solar systems or energy efficient lighting upgrades that reduce energy use in common areas.
Studies have found that apartments in mid-rise and high-rise buildings consume 25 percent more energy than detached dwellings, and almost half the energy consumption occurs in common areas including foyers, corridors, pools, gyms and car parks. Most city apartment blocks can reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent by applying a range of simple measures such as solar systems and LED upgrades that also pay themselves off quickly.
At Freshwater Place Apartments, a 530-apartment development in Southbank, an energy audit and five-year energy plan persuaded the owners’ corporation to replace 1200, 20-watt, halogen lights in the common area with six-watt LED globes. This strategy was calculated to reduce annual electricity consumption by more than 62,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year and carbon dioxide emissions by more than 84,000 kilograms a year. The changeover paid itself off in just over two years.
John Larner, whose company, Woodlands Cleaning and Property Services manages three medium- to high-rise blocks in the city centre, says LED lights use 80 percent less power and have up to eight times the lifespan of halogen lights and fluorescent tubes. “It’s ludicrous not to change,” he says. “It’s not only cost-saving in terms of power – you don’t have to pay someone to change globes as often.”
Other measures that may be implemented under the Smart Blocks program include better heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system controls, central hot water system upgrades and simple improvements like carbon sensors for ventilation units in car parks and pool covers on heated pools.
Councillor Arron Wood, chair of the Environment portfolio at the City of Melbourne, says, “Building managers that introduce energy saving measures now will not only save money, they will ensure their buildings keep pace with environmental standards and remain an attractive investment option for future tenants and owners.”
In addition to rebates, the Smart Blocks program provides an interactive online toolkit to help managers audit their buildings and develop energy saving strategies. The toolkit also helps strata and building managers work with owners to audit their buildings and apply for the rebates.
The Smart Blocks program was co-designed with strata managers, facilities managers and apartment owners. It has been adopted as part of the City of Melbourne’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2020. The Smart Blocks program was developed in partnership between Strata Community Australia, City of Melbourne, City of Sydney, Owners Corporation Network of Australia and Green Strata.