The buildings that now make up Brookfield Place, Perth, date back as far as 1854 to the Old Perth Boys School, and later, to the 1920s and 1930s, when the WA Trustee Building and the West Australian’s Newspaper House were constructed.
Today, Brookfield Place features an award-winning 45-level office tower that has attracted high-quality tenants, including BHP Billiton, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deutsche Bank. This spectacular showcase of sustainability – which achieved 5 Star Green Star ratings for the building’s design and for the NDY-led fit-out of BHP Billiton’s Western Australian headquarters – was leased 12 months ahead of practical completion.
Within five minutes’ walk of more than 43,000 office workers, the art galleries, restaurants and retail businesses that flourish in the heritage spaces now attract flocks of shoppers and diners. The plaza area is brought to life with art and light displays, live performances and festivals. The development has transformed this neglected corner of the city, attracted new businesses, created jobs and driven economic uplift well beyond the building site.
This is what economists call the ‘multiplier effect’. When capital is invested in a development project, you create jobs, opportunities and improved economic conditions that uplift the entire community.
So, each dollar spent on a building retrofit project multiplies and produces increased spending as it circulates through the economy. And when it comes to building retrofits, the multiplier effect can deliver spectacular results.
In Melbourne, the 1200 Buildings Program is expected to generate an economic uplift of $2 billion and create 8000 jobs. The City of Melbourne’s research suggests that the gross local product of the municipality increased from $58 billion in 2008 to $68 billion in 2012 – and much of that was directly attributable to the retrofit program. More than 50,000 additional jobs were created over the same period. The largest areas of jobs growth have been in the construction and building industries, professional services and downstream real estate services. Importantly, each person employed in one of those new jobs is spending their dollars at retail outlets and restaurants.
The opportunities are not restricted to commercial buildings. The City of Yarra in Melbourne has estimated that it currently imports $60 million to $80 million in energy resources each year. A residential retrofit program would realise substantial energy savings, and the money spent on imported energy – which is currently guaranteed to leave the local community – is more likely to be spent locally. This translates into a great opportunity for local economic stimulus and industry growth.
Governments overseas are also recognising that investment in green building can address multiple priorities, from carbon abatement through to job creation. The Better Buildings Partnership in Toronto, for instance, has supported more than 2200 energy efficiency projects spanning a spectacular 46 million square metres. Not only have these projects saved 560,000 tonnes of carbon and C$297 million in energy costs, but they’ve also created more than 31,500 ‘person years’ of employment.
In London, Mayor Boris Johnson’s RE:FIT program has upgraded more than 350 of London’s public buildings, generating CO2 savings of 28,900 tonnes per year from the £44 million investment. Many of the buildings are schools that are now energy-efficient, and have become more productive places to learn.
Regeneration and retrofit projects are not just about energy efficiency – although in a carbonconstrained world this will become increasingly important. Projects such as Brookfield Place underscore that, with vision and determination, we can get the best out of our urban assets, our heritage and our people. Retrofitting can help us breathe new life into ageing infrastructure, attract investment in our cities, and enhance employment and economic opportunities in a rapidly changing world.