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LGS’s Scott Armstrong on why net zero is such a good thing to do

Scott Armstrong
Scott Armstrong, Local Government Super

Local Government Super says building stock aiming to be net zero by 2050 is a good thing on multiple levels.

Last week Local Government Super’s sustainability agenda rose to the fore.

The super fund achieved carbon neutral certification by the Australian government for all its NABERS rated buildings – six out of the eight buildings in its direct portfolio – and it also committed to achieving net zero operating carbon emissions across its entire portfolio by 2030 through the World Green Building Council’s global net zero building program.

The reason the remaining two buildings in the portfolio haven’t been certified yet through the federal government’s National Carbon Offset Standard for Buildings is because they are buildings that can’t be certified through NABERS.

One is an industrial business park that is not subject to NABERS, and the other is a shopping centre that’s too small to be rated.

This means the super fund will need to use Green Star to achieve certification of the remaining two buildings. But according to the head of property at the fund Scott Armstrong, it “shouldn’t be too much of a problem to get there.”

“We will achieve that by 2020.”

As a signatory to the WGBC’s global Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, the fund is also advocating for all building stock to be net zero by 2050.

Mr Armstrong said that it’s important to sign up to these targets because “it forces you to get on board.”

“These tools pretty much put you in a position where you have to prove energy credentials – you need to start on the journey once you sign up,” Mr Armstrong told The Fifth Estate.

“It changes your approach to property management. You need to have data to be able to measure what you are using or emitting. 

“Before you can reduce you need to be able to measure power, water and waste. Then you can engage with tenants and property managers.” 

He said that the fund has invested in big data across the portfolio and started weighing waste, among other efforts to quantify its operations.

“That’s the by-product of signing up to these things – it makes it tactile.”

“There are tangible financial benefits of reducing your power. We’ve managed to reduce our electricity by 45 per cent over the last 10 years.”

Mr Armstrong said that although the fund got on board early, he imagines others will follow suit because “we’ve found it’s a good way to manage property.” 

“There are tangible financial benefits of reducing your power. We’ve managed to reduce our electricity by 45 per cent over the last 10 years.”

Reduced costs across the portfolio leads to good results for members of the super fund.

Buildings with green credential are also starting to resonate more with the leasing market, he said

“More companies want to get on board with progressive landlords that are buying into sustainability… it puts you in a better position to attract and retain tenants.”

Sustainability concerns are useful for engaging tenants and making them “stickier”. Reducing waste, for example, is an opportunity to touch base with tenants and check in with their thoughts on lease renewal.

Mr Armstrong believes this increased interest in sustainability is “probably a generational thing”.

“My parents might not understand it but people are really buying into the fact that we do have a role to play.

“But we aren’t just running down a blind path to save the whales, we are balancing commercial considerations as well.”

He says that simple upgrades such as LED, motion sensors in carparks and end of trip facilities can make a big difference without huge upfront expense.

Another way the company keeps its carbon footprint down is by purchasing GreenPower, which it has done since 2007.

“…it may not be possible to have magical buildings that use no energy, it’s about optimising on a path of action.”

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