Accounting for around 55 per cent, the City of Sydney (the City) recognised that energy used in the operation of buildings is the largest contributor to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in Greater Sydney.
The City commissioned a report looking at how the City and other Greater Sydney councils can embed optimum energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy and off-site renewable energy to set a path to net zero in the planning and design process for larger buildings.
Authored by WSP together with Common Capital and WT Partnership, the 'Planning for Net Zero Energy Buildings' technical project report focused on reviewing performance standards to achieve high-performing net zero energy buildings in Greater Sydney, proposing performance standards as well as controls within the planning system.
Acknowledging performance standards are step change improvements in energy performance to transition to net zero energy developments and implementing the standards has a tangible impact on lowering GHG emissions in the built environment, in 2021 the City announced that new developments in Sydney's CBD and surrounding suburbs must be able to offset as much energy as they expand. Under the new requirements, development applications for office buildings, hotels and high-rise apartment blocks must comply with minimum energy ratings from January 2023 and achieve net-zero energy output from 2026.
Developing performance standards
Beginning in 2018, the program of work undertaken for the report included:
- Identifying the most appropriate performance standards (or targets) that, if met, can achieve high-performing, net zero energy office, shopping centre, hotel, multi-unit residential, and mixed-use developments (including new and major refurbishments) and that could be incorporated into planning controls.
- Developing an evidence base, including stakeholder engagement and a robust cost benefit analysis, to support the recommended performance standards.
- Recommending approaches to implement the performance standards within the NSW planning system.
The program of work was informed by two City of Sydney-facilitated industry and government forums held in 2018 and the performance standards presented at a briefing in March 2021.
The building and construction sector remain a critical element in the race to keep carbon emissions below dangerous levels for our planet. Buildings consume 36 per cent of energy produced and are responsible for 39 per cent of global carbon emissions, making it the largest contributing sector to climate change, according to the Advancing Net Zero Status Report 2020 produced by the World Green Building Council.
Recommendations included in the Planning for Net Zero Energy Buildings report for the City of Sydney are:
- Incorporate targets into planning controls
- Advocate to implement targets in legislation and state policies
- Update regional and district plans to support implementation
- Embed methods to recognise off-site renewables in planning
- Update design and planning tools to maintain relevance
- Provide education programs for councils, industry and community
- Explore mandatory building performance disclosure for more asset classes
- Advocate for the extension of targets to support the use of off-site renewables.