Wollongong City Council’s Administration Building has become the first building in Australia to achieve a 5 Star Green Star – Performance rating, signifying ‘Australian Excellence’. The rating is also the highest Green Star – Performance rating achieved in Australia to date.

The 13-story Administration Building was first occupied in June 1987 and houses 660 Council staff.

Over the past 10 years, Council has introduced a range of building upgrades and management practices to improve the building’s sustainability performance, replacing ageing equipment to meet modern building compliance standards. In 2014 Council began a project to improve the building’s operational performance, from a sustainability perspective, using the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star – Performance rating tool.

The upgrades and altered practices have resulted in energy efficiency gains of 55 per cent and water efficiency gains of 85 per cent, based on the Green Star – Performance rating tool’s calculations. Council estimates that the energy efficiency gains alone in the building are saving $200,000 in electricity costs each year when compared to 2007-2008 consumption.

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery OAM said ensuring the sustainable operation of the Administration Building is a major step towards achieving environmental, financial and ecological sustainability. “As a Council we recognise the equal importance of the three elements of sustainability to ensure a holistic outcome is achieved,” Cr Bradbery said.

“This is not just about gaining financial sustainability but ensuring that we have an efficient building that will consume less water and electricity, reduce the waste it generates and emissions it releases and also provide an enjoyable and healthy workplace for our staff.

“We have been able to retrofit an ageing building – remember it is coming up to 30 years old – to achieve these significant reductions. This demonstrates that you can gain a 5 Star Green Star rating with an ageing building if you use the right methods and programs. We have shown that this pathway to sustainability could be used by other local governments or government agencies. We have also shown that we can gain a rating comparable to brand spanking new buildings that are purpose-designed to achieve 5 or 6 Star Green Star ratings.”

Chief Executive Officer of GBCA Romilly Madew said: “This 5 Star Green Star rating represents ‘Australian Excellence’ in building performance. We applaud Council for taking the lead to demonstrate that investing in older buildings can deliver dividends – both in terms of environmental sustainability and efficiency.

“The building meets best practice benchmarks for a range of environmental impacts, such as energy and water efficiency, but also for factors that affect human health and productivity, such as material selection and indoor environment quality. The people of Wollongong now have independent proof that their building stacks up against some of the newest green icons around the country – and that they have a community asset that is efficient, productive and healthy,” Ms Madew said.

Council is now developing a Sustainable Building Strategy which will guide how it improves the operational sustainability of existing buildings, in addition to how new buildings will be designed, constructed and operated. The experience gained in retrofitting the Administration Building, along with improving its management practices, will greatly assist Council in developing the strategy.

 With the 5 Star Green Star rating, Council has demonstrated its commitment to the sustainable operation of its assets. We have set a high benchmark – one that is independently verified – and we are proud to be leading Australia with respect to the sustainable operation of buildings,” Cr Bradbery said.