Melbourne - Smart Blocks

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Challenges

Apartment buildings in Australia consume 25% more energy per resident than stand-alone homes. About half of this energy is consumed by communal areas such as hallway lighting, car park ventilation and pool pumps, and the process to make changes to these areas is highly regulated and challenging. Since apartments constitute over 70% of the City of Melbourne’s residential dwellings (and growing rapidly), the City needed to find new and tailored ways to support this sector to become more sustainable. Before Smart Blocks, no existing tools or incentives existed tailored for this unique sector.

Smart Blocks was designed to overcome the unique barriers of the apartment sector, namely: 

  • Complexity of the governance of owners corporations and lack of community cohesion;
  • Lack of knowledge of the energy efficiency market and renewable energy retrofits;
  • Lack of available case studies to provide inspiration and proof of concept to buildings considering retrofitting.

Actions

The City of Melbourne set an ambitious goal of Zero Net Emissions by 2020 for the municipality in 2002. Now in its 3rd update, the Zero Net Emissions Strategy articulates a comprehensive suite of targets and actions for both the City of Melbourne, other levels of Government and the broader community necessary to achieve the goal. This project aims to drive towards the delivery of the Zero Net Emissions goal by enabling apartment owners and managers to identify and deliver cost effective energy efficiency and renewable energy projects across the City's residential building stock, which is dominated by apartment buildings.

A multi-disciplinary team drove an innovative design-led approach to create the program. Members of the apartment sector in Australia participated in co-design workshops to identify, prototype and test different solutions that would help enable them to work together and implement real change in their buildings. The process and steps to engage are universal and Smart Blocks has been designed and built accordingly, according to 6 criteria, namely awareness, understanding, try, use, advocate/follow, and help.

601 buildings are signed up nationally with 125 buildings in the City of Melbourne, 10% of the local apartment building stock. Nationally, 67 energy efficiency or renewable energy projects have commenced and 40 completed using the online tool. Smart Blocks' solar support and rebates have created a new solar market with 62 kW of common areas solar installed on apartment buildings and more in the pipeline

Projected Outcomes

  • Smart Blocks connects owners and managers in apartment buildings and helps them collaborate. Smart Blocks customers are also increasingly curious about other buildings: anecdotal evidence suggests that Smart Blocks incentives (rebates, assessments and site visits) are creating an opportunity for people to start new conversations in their building.
  • Retrofit projects delivered with the support of Smart Blocks can save owners tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs and support job creation to deliver retrofits.

A first evaluation of the project has identified a number of customer needs, including product and supplier recommendations, expansion to a holistic sustainability program, and more on-line interactivity, building-specific support and easy reporting mechanisms. Given these needs, the Steering Committee is reinventing the program structure to ensure a long-term, self-sustaining and expanded future through the engagement of a non-government entity to manage the program. This new model will leverage the reach of local government while capitalising on the innovation and flexibility of non-government sectors.