Why some office buildings don't pass the emissions test

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Better buildings by Sustainability Victoria

Buildings account for 23 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions after energy generation and transport. A report commissioned by Victorian government agency Sustainability Victoria demonstrates that privately owned lower-grade office buildings is hampering Australia's ability to curb built-environment emissions as individual owners are less likely, or less able, to invest in environmental upgrades. 

The problem is compounded when lower-grade buildings suffer high vacancy rates, as private owners – whether individuals or family trusts, owner-occupiers, foreign owners or strata bodies – become even less willing to invest in their environmental performance, the report shows. 

"There is this emerging gap," said Stan Krpan, the Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability Victoria, the Victorian agency that commissioned this national study on behalf of the federal government. 

"Some [owners] are more focused on the productivity of their asset and others less so. It is becoming apparent that the gap is in the non-institution owned buildings. Where there is a really high vacancy rate and it's so much harder to focus peoples' attention on energy." [Refer figures below depicting mid-tier office buildings by ownership type and State, below.]

Owners of lower-grade buildings with high vacancy rates were more likely to focus on how to fill their buildings or to dispose of them rather than to invest in them, Mr Krpan said. 

A one-star improvement in NABERS rating can be made with a $30,000 investment. Sustainability Victoria offer grants for upgrades for commercial buildings in need of upgrades.

This article has been adapted from the Australian Financial Review.