Geelong’s sustainable redesign sets new standard

Barwon Water Managing Director Tracey Slatter, Water Minister Lisa Neville, Barwon Water Chair Jo Plummer.
Barwon Water Managing Director Tracey Slatter, Water Minister Lisa Neville, Barwon Water Chair Jo Plummer.

Barwon Water’s headquarters in Geelong has become one of the latest projects to prove that even an old building can become a leading example of sustainability.

Originally built in 1977, the $32 million refurbishment, with architectural and engineering design by GHD Woodhead, has earned the building a 5 Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.

The new HQ was officially opened earlier this month by Victorian water minister, Lisa Neville.

“This is a new era for Barwon Water. One that builds on its past foundations of delivering affordable, secure, high-quality water,” Ms Neville said.

“This upgrade has radically transformed the sustainability of the building, making it one of Geelong’s cleanest. It just goes to show what can be achieved through building redesign.”

The project was also price-neutral for the authority’s customers.

The cost of the refurbishment is being covered by the consolidation of multiple offices into one property and an expected 50 per cent or so reduction in maintenance and operation costs for the now ultra-efficient property.

The majority of the original concrete and steel structure was retained, resulting in an estimated saving of one million kilograms of CO2 compared to new materials. Of the material removed from the site, 80 per cent was recycled.

The building now has a new high-performance sun-shading architectural facade that wraps the structure, and a glass-walled infill connecting the north and south sections for high levels of natural light in the interior.

It also has a new public forecourt and rain garden irrigated by stormwater, a rooftop terrace and a community cafe.

The open-plan, flexible workspaces can accommodate up to 350 staff.

Its building is not the only commitment Barwon water has made to improving the sustainability of its operations. In June this year it also formally committed to the One Planet Living framework, becoming the first water authority in Australia to do so.

Over the next 12 months, it will develop a One Planet Action Plan. The plan will also apply to its regional urban developments at Torquay, South Geelong and Montpelier.

The authority has also developed a Climate Change Mitigation Plan that targets 100 per cent renewable energy by 2025 and net zero emissions by 2030.

“Water corporations can play a key role tackling climate change and reducing omissions,” Ms Neville said.

“Research shows that the water sector omits nearly one million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents each year, mostly from sewerage treatment.”

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