New value in Net Zero: Retrofit and Reuse

In September 2023, Hassell sponsored the inaugural Retrofit & Repurpose Summit on Gadigal Country, Sydney. 

This one-day event saw sustainability leaders, asset owners, investors, and sustainable building specialists come together to explore the opportunities and positive impacts of retrofit and repurpose strategies. 

Retrofitting and repurposing existing structures can achieve decarbonisation goals, enhance occupancy, attract investment, and rejuvenate cities – all while reducing environmental impact.

It no longer makes sense to demolish unoccupied buildings, as it’s neither cost-effective nor aligned with our circular economy aspirations. 

A recorded panel discussion Change Levers: Finding New Value in Net Zero Retrofit and Reuse Market’, allows us to bring some of the summit’s insights to the Hassell Talks audience. Featuring Principal Jeff Morgan; Green Building Council of Australia’s Elham Monavari, Solar Victoria’s Paul Corkill; Built’s Jono Cottee, and hosted by Alison Scotland, Executive Director Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council.

With an emphasis on planning, transition, and roadmaps to achieve the necessary scale of retrofitting, the experts discussed the role of incentives, regulations, and collaboration among stakeholders, as well as the value of embodied carbon and the need for prioritisation. Circular economy principles and considerations of accessibility and inclusivity in retrofitting projects were also key points of discussion.

Listen to the episode in the player below, or find and follow Hassell Talks in your podcast app for more terrific insights, solutions and conversations.

Hassell Talks

Season 6, Episode 3


Jeff Morgan, Hassell
Elham Monavari, Green Building Council of Australia
Paul Corkill, Solar Victoria
Jono Cottee, Built
Alison Scotland, Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council


Marcus Clinton

We’re grateful to the Retrofit Summit organisers for sharing the audio with us.

Watch more panel discussions from the Retrofit and Repurpose Summit.

Light music plays.

Jeff Morgan’s voice:

Hi, welcome back to Hassell Talks. In September 2023, Hassell was proud to sponsor the inaugural Retrofit and Repurpose Summit in Sydney on Gadigal Country. This one-day event brought together sustainability leaders with asset owners, investors, and sustainable building specialists to understand the opportunities and positive impacts for retrofit and repurpose strategies. Or, to put it more simply, how can we lower the environmental impact of our buildings and sustainably enhance our cities?

This is something Hassell is already really involved in, and we’re having so many more conversations with clients about these sorts of projects. Projects I know you, our listeners, are also really interested in hearing about. So why has this become such a big topic? With so many buildings sitting unoccupied in our cities, it doesn’t make sense to simply demolish them, replace them with more efficient, sustainable buildings. It’s not always cost-effective, and importantly, it doesn’t fit with our aspirations to nurture a circular economy that minimises the impact of building materials and construction processes on the environment.

So if we take those existing buildings and retrofit them, we can better meet our de-carbonisation goals, improve occupancy, drive investment, and regenerate our cities. There’s a big opportunity here to make a difference to our cities and communities. I’m Jeff Morgan, I’m a principal at Hassell in the Sydney studio, and I acknowledge the Gadigal people as the traditional custodians of the lands on which the summit and this podcast are recorded, and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I’m really pleased to be able to share a recording from the panel event I took part in at the summit, examining the value in the retrofit market. The panel was chaired by Alison Scotland, executive director of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, and I am grateful to the summit organisers for allowing Hassell the opportunity to share the insights and inspiration from the event on Hassell Talks. We’ll put a link so you can check out more of the panel events in the show notes. Enjoy the insights.

Alison Scotland speaks.

So the title of our panel session is called Change Leavers, Finding New Value in Net Zero Retrofit and Reuse Market. As I call out your names, panel members, would you mind coming up onto the stage? So we have Jeff Morgan, who is a principal at Hassell. We have Elham Monavari, who is the head of Green Star Strategic Delivery at the Green Building Council. We have Paul Corkill, who’s the Executive Director of Policy, Programmes and Industry Development at Solar Victoria. And we have Jono Cottee, Development Director of Built. So thank you. Welcome to the stage, everyone. I might start with Jono first, if I may. What do you see the challenges and opportunities for retrofit and net-zero are in the current market?

Jono Cottee speaks:

Yeah, thanks. Yeah, I guess we’re all here today because we’re kind of really aware of the challenges that we’re facing in our industry, particularly regarding net-zero and the buildings that we occupy. So we hear some of the stats, 80% of the buildings that are currently in our CBDs today will be here by 2050, and we need to retrofit a significant amount of them, so 3 to 5% of those buildings every year to be able to meet with the commitments that we’ve actually made to ourselves and to the environment to keep up with that. So breaking that down, so I’m focused on the commercial office sector particularly, that sort of half a million square metres each year that we need to retrofit as well.

So that challenge is really, really significant because it is a challenging problem to tackle, as a lot of you will be kind of aware, and how we go about that is really interesting. On the opportunity side, though, however, we’re sort of in a really interesting point of the market at the moment with, I’m sure all of you have read about the sort of challenges that the commercial office market’s dealing with at the moment. So it gives us an opportunity to kind of re-look at about how we’ve been traditionally dealing with the problem of knocking down buildings and building brand new ones where we have an opportunity to give these buildings their second and third lives as well.

Tenants are demanding sustainability from the real estate that they occupy, but they’re also demanding a little bit more character and authenticity in the buildings that they create as well. So rather than being part of larger glass towers particularly around the heritage items, we’re seeing in some of the buildings that we’ve produced in Sydney in substation 164 in Melbourne, we’re doing adaptive reuse of a heritage kind of wall store building into commercial office.

But tenants really are sort of looking for that point of difference in those buildings. So being able to give them their second and third lives creates a real opportunity for that embodied carbon, which I think is a really we’re all moved up the curve on the operational side of things and sustainability, but the embodied carbon challenges is what we’re focused on.

Alison Scotland speaks:

Beautiful. Thanks, Jono. And we’ll get to that adaptive reuse part later. I think that’s so fascinating. But I’ll go back to what you said earlier in the sense of the scale at which we need to do this. We need some sort of planning. We need some sort of transition. We need some sort of roadmap about what we need to do. And it’s a good segue to Elham because I know the Green Building Council have been thought leaders in this space. You produced your climate positive roadmap. You know what needs to happen with our built environment. Did you want to give us a little bit of an understanding about what that means and what’s involved?

Elham Monavari speaks:

Sure. This was something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time and we did think about back in 2018, which is when we first released the climate positive roadmap. At the time, that roadmap, it took a lot of consultation with industry. So a lot of it, I think you probably think is a given now, given how far we’ve come. But at the time, it was really trying to tackle a big problem. And really at the top of that was our Paris Agreement targets and identifying ways that the built environment needed to work towards meeting the Paris Agreement targets. So really looking at the highly efficient fossil fuel free, built with lower up front carbon emissions, fully powered by renewables and offset with nature.

Again, this is like a formula that you’ve become accustomed to, but at the time, it was definitely very new and let’s call it groundbreaking. So that framework that was established has been really instrumental in the way that we as an organisation move forward with all of the rating tools. The GBCA, as many of you in the room may or may not know, we’re an organisation, we develop rating tools and we do certification and that certification is independent. So it’s really important to be able to validate the claims made. So the climate positive roadmap was really helpful in that it set up that framework, but also started to embed it​.It allowed us to find ways to try and incorporate it into all of the different rating tools that we have.

So starting off with the buildings rating tool, which is obviously for new builds, but it’s also been part of all of the subsequent rating tools that we’ve developed. For example, the Green Star performance one, which is probably from when we’re talking about retrofit and repurpose, is a really important rating tool. But now we’re moving into our fit outs rating tool as well. And the whole concept of circular economy is going to be really fundamental to that particular rating tool. But as well as developing roadmaps, the GBCA and rating tools, the GBCA knows that we need to help industry to try and move towards that pathway as well.

And we provide supportive documents that sit alongside that. And one that I think is a really good one for a lot of people in the room to have a look at is the different practical guides that we have. So there are practical guides for the electrification, for example, of new buildings, of existing buildings, the practical guide for upfront carbon emissions as well. So I think that practical guide is where we start to break down what needs to be done in a building to try and get it to incorporate some of the requirements and the strategies that we’ve set in place.

Alison Scotland speaks:

Beautiful. Absolutely. Because it’s a conflation of everything. If you’re retrofitting a building, you don’t want to electrify before you look at the thermal shell. So I think your guides are such a wonderful tool. And if anyone hasn’t seen them, I think you should definitely check them out because they are so useful. So touching on the electrification, and I might jump to you, Paul, if I can. So the thing that’s exciting about electrification, and especially household electrification, is that the consumer is at the centre. So we’ve got a lot of collective experience on the panel in supporting consumers to electrify. But could you provide a bit of your insight in relation to your experience helping consumers electrify?

Paul Corkill speaks:

Yeah, hi, Alison. Hi, everybody. Thanks for that. Solar Victoria is an agency within the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action within Victoria. And I’m aware there’s probably many people here from Victoria today, there’s a very active conversation around replacing gas in the home in Victoria. And what we’ve seen from our perspective from Solar Victoria is we’ve been running now for five years with the Solar Homes Programme, which is our flagship programme, and we’ve seen over 260,000 Victorian households move to put solar on the rooftop of their buildings. That brings the number of houses in Victoria to 600,000 that have got solar.

And it’s from within that cohort that we’re seeing, because the way that Solar Victoria delivers our programme and we have really great data around customer, around what their motivators are, what they’re doing next, and really significant move for those customers who are really primed on that electrification journey, which is really exciting. So we’re seeing we also deliver an incentive for hot water, for energy-efficient hot water, for heat pumps. And in that programme, which we’ve had significant uplift in customer interest in that in the past six months, largely about that as a result of that conversation around electrification.

Traditionally, most hot water and heating in the home is delivered by a gas-powered appliance. So there’s a big challenge for us with so much of our carbon emissions coming from homes and therefore from their use of gas. So that move to heat pumps, moving to electric appliances, which are efficient, and understanding that as a result of their own solar generation, it’s on their rooftop now, and their ability to be able to think about that and improve their energy literacy as a result of having solar and be able to use that, think about how they can use more of that solar for other appliances within the home, and it seems to be that hot water is the next cab off the ranks.

Alison Scotland speaks:

Beautiful. That sounds great. And they can obviously see the benefits. Not everyone is motivated by an energy bill, are you finding anything particular that really helps a consumer make that jump, what speaks to their heart?

Paul Corkill speaks:

Yeah, it’s a really good question. Overwhelmingly, the primary motivator that we’ve seen over the five years of the programme has been the cost, and certainly I think if anyone has dipped a toe into the solar industry, you would see that that industry is very much aligned to a payback period, but we are starting to see that conversation broaden to other factors as well. Household motivations around doing their bit for the environment is increasing significantly. It was a few percent when we first started as a motivator. That cost was that primary thing, but then also there’s been more conversation around providing a home that’s healthier, that’s more comfortable to live in. Those sorts of factors are starting to come up higher in terms of the motivators for people in terms of what they’re doing, and I’m talking about in the retrofit space.

In the new builds, it’s probably a bit of a different discussion now, particularly Victoria’s announced a ban on gas connections for new planning permits from next year, which is actually a small number of buildings for houses for next year and beyond, but it’s actually definitely been a lightning rod for a discussion further with the community around the role of gas in the home and also their investment in appliances that we know last for 10 or 20 years. That’s certainly extended to things like using reverse cycle air conditioners for heating in the home and induction cooking, those sorts of things, and also obviously the thermal envelope is part of the NCC 2022 as well.

Alison Scotland speaks:

Beautiful, thanks Paul. Taking that theme of motivation, if we look at another area of opportunity, perhaps more in our inner city office and residential building stock, it seems far too often that underperforming assets are left to rot until someone comes along with the motivation or the plan to knock down and rebuild. Do you see this as an opportunity, Jeff?

Jeff Morgan responds:

Yeah, absolutely I do. I think as Jono pointed out, we’ve got, it’s predicted that 80% of our buildings will be built, are already built by 2050, but I think also in particular over the past few years with the pandemic, there’s been a lot of new opportunities emerging. We’re certainly seeing markets of underperforming assets being looked at much more critically now, both for the potential to remain as offices, but also to be adaptively reused as into apartments. But in the office market, I think there’s still really strong demand for quality buildings and quality precincts, and there’s a lot of interest in trying to identify those opportunities to increase their value.

I think in Sydney alone, we’re currently working on four adaptive reuse projects at the moment, not including the adaptive reuse of the lands building we’ve built, and we’re seeing also strong interest from both domestic and international developers looking to adaptively reuse their existing assets in the past year, much more compared to years previous. In some of these early proposals, the planning authorities, much to their credit, are really starting to look at ways to incentivize developers, potentially through either increased height or area, obviously within the bounds of design excellence and local environmental impacts. But I also think that some of this interest around embodying carbon from their perspective is around looking to create narratives around their products and how do they sell these products.

Obviously, funny enough, having a strong narrative that will help you attract like-minded, socially conscious investors or tenants or buyers is a really strong way of selling their product. Also, I think Hassell’s been really involved, particularly down in Melbourne over the past few months in doing a bit of research that’s got a lot of interest, looking at the commercial office market there and identifying opportunities to convert those existing buildings into apartment buildings, and that’s something now that we’re just getting underway with extending that research here to the Sydney market, but trying to understand the particular differences in land values and planning regulations. But I think there’ll be something really compelling to share there as well.

Alison Scotland responds:

That’s so exciting. If you think about pre-COVID versus post-COVID, working from home is becoming more of a norm, so what to do with all those empty office buildings? It seems like such a logical pathway, isn’t it? And with that inside, touching on the narrative that you were talking about, Jono, are you talking about the opportunities in relation to red flags and green flags, can you talk a bit more about what that means for you in terms of the opportunities you see?

Jono Cottee speaks:

Yeah, so I actually met with the Hassell guys a few times about their piece of work that they’ve done. It’s really interesting because you start with the big data set of all the buildings in the CBD and it slowly narrows down by certain characteristics that make it possible or impossible to retrofit these buildings as well. So I think the really obvious ones are even outside the building form in itself, like having a built form located in good locations, near amenity, public transport, part of communities and where people really want to be is really important for being able to put several uses in that kind of place as well.

And then going to the built form, there’s a lot of technical challenges as well, but having good floor-to-ceiling heights, the structures are main part of what we can reuse and main part of any of the embodied carbon in these kind of buildings, so having those robust structures, the right floor-to-ceiling heights, are really important and it goes to a wider conversation about sustainability and looking at sort of, I love working with the heritage buildings, those buildings that have been there for 100 years plus and we’re working on a couple of them at the moment, but they were built really solidly and well and are able to be reused in many purposes, the old bank buildings and inter-commercial offices, the lands and education buildings down the city into a hotel.

And I think it’s an interesting discussion that we can start to have about maybe building buildings not just for the minimal sort of redundancy that we have now, but allowing them to think about how they would look like in their second and third lives before we already build them, so thinking about the retrofitting opportunities in the future as well is really what we’re sort of focused on as well as how we then retrofit those existing buildings because we’re aware of the challenges of the projects that don’t have the right structural integrity or have the wrong façade or have smaller floor to ceiling heights that were built for a very specific purpose and it’s a bit of a missed opportunity there as well.

Alison Scotland responds:

Yeah, so thinking of sort of risky building typologies, heritage buildings are beautiful and if you build beautiful buildings of course people want to keep them around, what about the glass towers, are they a building typology that you see as potentially risky in terms of the second and third life?

Jono Cottee responds:

Yeah, I think so. I think we need to be really careful about those types of buildings and they can be reused but they are harder, the work done around the residential space, not commercial buildings, not all of them, it’s quite a smaller percentage of them are able to be reused into residential. Some of them because of the planning rules, but some of them because of the actual amenity and the specific nature that they’re built with so I think some of those typologies are the ones that are most challenging to be able to retrofit.

Alison Scotland asks:

So going back to Elham and back to the thought leadership of the GBCA, we’re talking about heritage, we’re talking about reuse and repurposing and second and third lives, you’ve been researching or the GBCA has been researching circular economy opportunities for quite some time, can you give us a summary of what you’ve found and where the opportunities lie there?

Elham Monavari resonds:

Interestingly pre-COVID things were better from a circular economy point of view, yes, I got the stats from a colleague and yes, it was like 9%, let’s call it circular economy, now it’s gone down to 7%. So I think that’s an interesting shift post-COVID because one would have thought it would have gone in reverse given the advancements in our thinking and all the rest of it but yes, for the GBCA we’ve tried to, circular economy is definitely an area that we need to continue to grow into. I don’t think we have the full answers yet, so at some point there’s going to no doubt be a road map for circular economy but not yet.

However, having said that, we have been doing a lot of work with organisations like the Better Buildings Partnership, I think there was a summit or something held a few weeks ago, as well as releasing the Circular Economy Innovation Challenge into Green Star Buildings. And as I said, with the new rating tool we’re finding the same thing with the, I suppose like what we’re hearing, the engagement that we’re doing and just the level of excitement that people have currently for, we don’t even have the discussion paper out for the fit outs rating tool but there’s so much buzz about it that we’re like, wow, okay, it is the last of the suite that we’ve been developing and we deliberately had it last because of COVID and we just really wanted to sit and think about what does the future of work I suppose look like.

But yeah, so that will definitely be like a common theme within that particular rating tool but the main research that we’ve found, we’ve tried to embed it into the rating tools where we can and certainly into the product space as well where we’ve looked at the responsible products’ framework which looks at the different materials and incentivizing those that are reusable, recyclable, that are easy to deconstruct as well. So I suppose the evolution of Green Star has changed over time as well whereas previously we used to have a design for disassembly kind of credit, it was very sort of singular. There was the concrete credit, there was the steel credit, we’ve tried to be more holistic in our viewpoint and certainly working a lot with the manufacturers directly as well to try and get that sort of thinking moving and shifting as well.

Alison Scotland asks:

Beautiful. Thanks, Elham. When you mentioned the fit out, I thought about Jeff and Hassell, you’ve lived the adaptive reuse in Hassell, seeing your offices and seeing the journey in your offices about what you’ve done to repurpose even down to your furniture, I think that’s such a beautiful story. So did you want to touch on that or maybe even looking at that as an opportunity or a challenge to really realise this reuse across at a broad scale?

Jeff Morgan responds:

Yeah absolutely, I mean I think our office really is as you point out like a living example and that kind of fact is pointed out to people who visit us but also to our staff and we have just recently undertaken a bit of a refresh of our studio, after the first seven or eight years of being there and yeah, we reused and repurposed a lot of furniture, moved it around, chopped it up, adapted it as best we could. Obviously, budgets were tight for us all but I think it was a really clear and easy lesson for our people working with us to say that this is the way you do it. So that certainly has been a really great tool to use very directly for our own people.

Alison Scotland asks:

Did you find any challenges with it? Have you learned anything through that process that could inspire people in the room today?

Jeff Morgan asks:

Well, actually, I was more thinking about the work that we’re doing with built on the lands building. That’s been an incredibly challenging building but incredibly rewarding process. As Jono was saying, it’s built incredibly well but when you start to upgrade these buildings to current codes and standards not quite well enough. So actually figuring out how you provide the necessary structural integrity to the certain concrete jack arches which aren’t really concrete and have no reinforcing but have been there for 150 years. How you provide fire ratings to certain elements. It’s been an incredibly technical challenge.

And I’ve got to give my hat off to Jono and his team, it’s been a really immense pleasure working with them, very professional going through each challenge that we face, working through it one by one, getting in the necessary experts, consulting with who we need to consult with and yeah, we’ve just kicked off the last phase. We’ve got about another two years to go, maybe a bit more to complete but it’s yeah, really starting to take place now and I think it’s going to be a real joy for the rest of the city to go into a building that was otherwise really not open to the public and see it properly for the first time.

Alison Scotland responds:

That’s so beautiful and I love it. It’s going back to this whole collaboration, it’s such a team sport. You can achieve so much working together and really bringing in all parts of the building chain to really try and find solutions that are going to mean something for people and building occupants so yeah, that’s fantastic. Going into the adaptive reuse question back to electric homes, a lot of this is work and people with budgets. It’s wonderful that they can enjoy these beautiful projects, but equity and access are just as important and we need to be aware of this with our energy transition, with our electrification. Paul, can you help us understand or give us some guidance to make sure there’s nobody left out on the way?

Paul Corkill asks:

Thanks Alison. I can provide some guidance. This is a really tricky problem. It’s certainly occupying our minds at the moment particularly noting that where we are in the maturity of the programme that we’re now delivering. We’re five years in. The top 20 suburbs hat have received solar rebates from us over the first five years are all out of growth ring suburbs of Melbourne. They’re low hanging fruit when it comes to detached homes suitable for solar, large rooftops, modern switchboards, all the rest of it. They’re the low hanging fruit for that industry but they have… So there’s probably two points for me to make.

One is how do we get an industry who is geared up and able to tackle the tricky problems and that despite the fact that that has been a low hanging fruit has helped actually to create a really strong supply chain. We’ve been able to work with industry on quality standards, on competencies of installers, those sorts of things and they are looking for the next thing in terms of that. And so we continue to want to work with industry I think in terms of those capabilities and seeing more not just a discrete product like a solar system but also how you have a longer term relationship with a household so that sees opportunities to do further upgrades either as part of a deep retrofit up front, if they’ve got the financial wherewithal to do that. Or if it’s a progressive thing that happens over a few years and that they’re given that advice that comes from an industry who they actually have a very high rating and trust in to be able to do that.

The second point I think though is around getting the incentives right to get through some of those barriers and disincentives and we’re really excited. Last week our minister and the federal minister announced a new programme to tackle rooftop solar for people who live in apartment buildings that will see a doubling of our incentive to $2,800 per apartment. And so that is traditionally a harder to reach but there are solutions available that do enable those people to and we’ve actually put some of them in place already that will create opportunities for access to renewable energy and then again there’s that same starting of the conversation that vehicle around electrification, thermal envelope, and continuing to do things with those households.

And then the other I think is opportunities in the social housing space as well. There’s similarly an announcement last week around a big increase to Victoria’s energy efficiency and social housing programme. That’s really exciting as well because it will see us be able to shift to a deeper retrofit of those homes which will be great for the beneficiaries of those homes who can least afford to do that. In fact they can’t because the homes are owned by the state, but certainly it’s out of reach for them. But also it’s creating an industry who has capability to be able to do that and hopefully we can see ways to leverage that to provide more commercial opportunities that more of the households can access.

Alison Scotland asks:

That’s beautiful and great lessons for the rest of the country I think learning from say the pilots to figure out what works at scale, we could really learn from what the Victorian government’s done, especially via Solar Victoria. And that’s probably a good segue to my final question before we go to the audience. And it’s just a quick-fire question to each of the panel members, and I might start with you, Paul. If you could pick one lever to pull to achieve that broad-scale impact across Australia, based on what you’ve learnt, what would it be?

Paul Corkill responds:

Okay, well, look, I think we’re actively having a conversation with the community about the need to do upgrades to their homes and to be able to… And so I think we are unpacking that with the community, and that’s really going along well. We’re using, from Solar Victoria’s point of view, we’ve got incentives that are really helping to enable that conversation, build capability, build a much higher percentage of homes that are more comfortable, that are more energy-efficient and are generating their own power.

There is a point though where I think we’re going to have to have a bit more of a conversation around regulation so I think there’s, I guess I’d probably say my one wish is just we probably need to bring that forward now. It’s time to start having that conversation around, even if it’s into the future and it’s a long-term consideration that this is coming, but that it will become ubiquitous, that you’ll live in an energy-efficient home that is comfortable and that is doing its bit for the environment, yeah.

Alison Scotland asks:

Yeah, signal’s very important. Neighbours is fabulous at signals. I love it. And Jeff, if you had a magic wand, what would it be?

Jeff Morgan responds:

Well, I think we need to start really placing a value on and body carbon. It’s true that I think the greenest building is the one that’s already built, and at the moment, our kind of current decision-making frameworks really only prioritise cost, time, and commercial risk. And in my work with MECLA, chairing the aluminium Working Group, we’ve seen what the effect that’s had on industry where so much of what we make and produce comes from overseas, and our own local domestic capability and capacities are really, in some areas, teetering or non-existence. So yeah, I think we’ve got to start to look at carbon sitting equal to alongside all the other metrics that we traditionally have considered.

Alison Scotland asks:

Hear, hear. And, Elham?

Elham Monavari responds:

Hmm, good question. I’ve been listening to the other panellists, and I’m thinking, okay, we’ve ticked off regulation, we’ve ticked off having value. I would say, in addition to what the other panellists have said, I think it’s important to be able to also have a… I mean, I think the neighbours, sort of, what was presented earlier was really great, because a common way of being able to measure these things and verifying them is really important as well, because without that, then it’s hard to really measure the scale of the impact and to demonstrate that, things have been delivered.

Obviously, having the finance sector really driving that as well is really important, and that’s certainly what we’ve found through the work that we’ve done, and having that sort of recognition by different financial institutions is really important because it’s been able to really help us scale up a lot of the programme, and certainly, I think, has been helpful in driving a lot of the demand that we’re seeing for rating tools like Green Star. So yeah, having the comparability and mensurability, and then having the finance sector be able to, again, another form of signalling I suppose, to say that this is really important, I think those two together can be very impactful.

Alison Scotland responds:

Absolutely. Thank you. And last but not least, Jono, what do you think?

Jono Cottee asks:

Yeah, so I think, look, I’ve been talking really high level today, and I think for the rest of the day, the exciting part is being able to listen to some more theoretical and real case studies on the retrofit. But some of these are only possible and possible at large scale if we both incentivize and change some of our sort of planning regulations as well. So we really need to, and all of us have an opportunity to do this, push on our authorities to create incentives and flexibility around buildings that are working with adaptive reuse projects and are working with that embodied carbon framework as well.

At the moment, there’s almost a bit of a penalty by how hard they are to do compared to new builds that we need to really continue to push our authorities, particularly around planning and our councils and governments about how we can incentivize people to reuse these existing buildings. I’m doing some work with the Property Council of Australia at the moment, for example, and we’re really sort of focused on that, but I think everybody in their own industry has an opportunity to push where they can to help sort of change that as well.

Alison Scotland responds:

Beautiful. Oh, that’s music to my ears. I think you’ve all hit the nail on the head. What I might do now is ask the audience if you have any questions for our panel members in relation to, oh, we’ve covered a whole range of topics, but adaptive reuse, electrification, the journey. We have Sam over here, oh, and we’ve got one microphone, so we’ll go Stanford first and then Sam. Thank you.

Stanford Harrison asks a question from the audience:

Hi, I’ve got the mic. Hi, Stanford Harrison from the Commonwealth. Just a question, when talking about retrofits and adaptive reuse, you talked about the land values, practical considerations, planning regulations, one of the important regulatory tools in the landscape is to do with the National Construction Code, and of course everybody knows it applies to new construction, also applies to renovations and refurbishments in a different way in each state, and it’s applied in different ways. I’m really interested in how important is this and how much of a factor is it in retrofits and adaptive reuse considerations?

Jono Cottee answers:

I can take that one. As a builder and developer I think that’s where we can add a lot of value. You’re right, it’s on a retrofit scale, the NCC in particular, can be interpreted a few different kind of ways, particularly dealing with existing structures as well. So we’d like to try and get in really early, and that’s the advantage of having the in-house building capability when we’re looking at developments to flag those ideas with the authorities, our certifiers, all of our consultants to work out those challenges and problems early on. But it’s something that probably needs some potential to have a bit more of sort of framework about it, about where the line starts and stops when you’re working with adaptive reuse projects like that, because sometimes it’s a bit of an interpretation of the regulations rather than that, but it’s a very good point, because it’s something that we encounter in these projects every day.

Jeff Morgan also answers:

You’d be well aware of what’s happening in other parts of the world and the advocacy that’s going on to embody carbon calculations for planning submissions and within the building code, so I think that’s something, hopefully, we’ll start to see here more. And my colleagues in the UK as part of ACAN, the kind of advocacy has been sort of quite tireless in lobbying into government to make the case for this, so I’d like to think that, I probably shouldn’t say this, but it’s typically, we’ll follow a second suit and take their lead, but, yeah, I think it’s certainly coming.

Alison Scotland encourages the next audience question:

Well, we’ll go to Sam. You’ve got a microphone.

Sam Peart asks a question from the audience:

I do. Thanks very much, Alison. Sam Peart from Hassell. Quick question for Elham, I think. We’ve had some really good perspectives from people wearing different hats, but Elham, the Green Building Council has members that sit all around a project table or portfolio table, yeah, and I just wanted to ask you what you think may need to change in the level of collaboration or the role of each of those hats. So we’ve got developers, builders, designers, engineers, investors, the lot. What do you think needs to change in that dynamic to create true new value to elevate to where we need to get to from a retrofit and existing buildings perspective?

Elham Monavari answers:

Hmm, yes. What needs to change? I think having those conversations earlier. I think that’s the critical component. So you talked about the fact that you get in early. So it means that you can really start to identify the issues and also identify the potential as well. And I think that’s the main sort of ingredient that it’s often a matter of time and bringing in the right people in at the right time and having those conversations that are also quite specific as well because a lot of this work in relation to retrofit and repurpose, you need to have that end goal in mind in some way, so you need to know what it is that you’re trying to create. But also having, I guess, the client there and the potential tenants as well.

So really just having the right people in the room at the right time, I think is the main issue because often what happens, and I’m not saying this is what happens with your projects, but a lot of these sort of decisions happen quite later on where there’s been a lot of missed opportunities. So going back to that circular economy example, circular economy is going to be really hard if a lot of design elements are already being locked in for someone to then come in and start talking about, Hey, what can we do? Let’s try and repurpose X, Y and Z.” So I think that’s the main thing that comes to mind.

Joe Karten from the audience:

Hello, Joe Karten here from Built. Quick one for Jono and Jeff. You know I’m the biggest champion for reusing buildings. I think it’s incredibly important, but I’ve just come from the property council’s designing buildings that work for everyone breakfast. And Naz Campanella was there and Liesl Tesch. Liesl Tesch is parliamentary secretary for inclusivity. And she challenged everyone to say, if I came to your house, could my wheelchair fit into your bathroom? Could I get into your bathroom and use your bathroom? And I got to say, in my house, it wouldn’t happen. And I have a child with disabilities. So how do we manage to cater for people with disabilities whilst relifing, repurposing, retrofitting existing buildings that weren’t designed for that in a way that financially stacks up? And what barriers need to be removed in order to design buildings that do work for everyone?

Jeff Morgan answers:

That’s a very good and challenging question. It’s certainly been something that we’ve had to work very closely with our DDA consultant on the lands building, the fact that we’re trying to balance that equity and access with the heritage aspects of the building. So having one dedicated entry for that equitable access, which then leads straight into a clear circulation path to use the lifts, which are obviously being added into the building. Unfortunately, the challenges around providing access to some of the more grand entries where we currently rise up eight to 12 stairs was just too much of an impact to provide access to each of the four different entries along that building.

But we did work very hard in terms of making sure that each room type was accessible. Yes, in some cases, doorways did need to be widened. There’s lots of complications around providing auto openers and things like that. So it was a really rigorous process, and it’s actually still going on. Just this week, we’ve been looking at all the threshold details at each doorway because the floor level is going to change. So what’s the rise? And it’s an incredibly detailed thing that has ramifications all through the design, but it’s part of it. And we’ve been really enjoying it.

Alison Scotland wraps up:

Thank you, panel members, really wonderful.