With attention focused on the Abbott Government’s commitments ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris in December, it is of note that there is one Australian industry considered a global leader in its efforts to improve sustainability outcomes and reduce emissions – Property.
And the leader among the Australian property companies is GPT Group.
GPT’s office, shopping centre and logistics properties are used by millions of Australians every week and this challenges the argument that efforts to reduce emissions will come at an economic cost.
Alongside GPT’s recently well-received financial results, the company has marked a significant milestone in reducing its emissions.
Midway through this year, GPT achieved a 50 per cent reduction in the emissions intensity of its operations compared to what it was using in 2005, which is its baseline.
“We have a policy of achieving zero emissions. So this 50 per cent emissions reduction milestone represents the halfway point,” says GPT’s Head of Asset Management Matt Faddy.
“We certainly have no intention of slowing down in our pursuit of this goal because it makes perfect financial and environmental sense,” he said.
GPT’s base building energy costs would have been $24 million higher in 2014, if not for the emission cuts.
The emissions milestone comes as GPT again achieved industry leading results in the 2015 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) Survey.
Compounding the wins, improved building efficiency generally has reduced maintenance costs.
The ultimate win for GPT lies in its core business – with better buildings commanding higher rents and achieving higher occupancy rates.
GPT’s Head of Sustainability, Bruce Precious broke down the simple approach to achieving the zero carbon target.
“We are doing three simple things – improving energy productivity, implementing on-site renewable generation and when that’s not viable, using off-site renewable generation,’’ he says.
“Improving energy productivity through a range of efficiency programs has been the chief tool to reduce carbon emissions. We need to treat energy like any other input to business and maximise the productive output of each unit, monitor it closely and eliminate waste.”
GPT has been delivering efficiencies in its buildings for the past decade through:
– Plant upgrades to improve the performance of HVAC systems.
– Improved controls to ensure that building conditions and lighting are achieved efficiently and on an as needs basis.
– Lighting upgrades including the use of LEDs, motion and light level sensors.
As important as delivering the efficiency gains is, GPT is working equally hard to maintain these savings by investing in sub-metering and monitoring platforms. “Our goal is to be able to identify and rectify any issues that cause undue increases in consumption within 24 hours,’’ says Precious.
“Not only that, we want to automate monitoring and maintenance processes as much as possible so our team can then focus their time on the next opportunities to drive our consumption even lower.”
The combination of driving energy productivity and maintaining it through monitoring processes has resulted in a nearly 40 per cent reduction in energy intensity for GPT. In parallel, the additional strategies of using on-site and off-site renewable and lower carbon energy have been implemented to reduce the carbon emissions by more than energy intensity reductions.
By the end of 2015, GPT will boast nearly 2 megawatts of installed solar PV capacity, gas fired cogeneration facilities operating at four assets and green power components in nearly all of its base building electricity contracts.
All of these strategies have combined to take GPT past the milestone of a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. The strategies that have taken GPT to the halfway point on its zero carbon journey are bound to stand it in good stead to complete that journey.
Steve Ford is GPT’s Group National Manager – Sustainability Performance