GPT's 8 Exhibition Street in Melbourne is one of three buildings that have already achieved carbon neutral status.

GPT has learnt much from its journey to carbon neutrality so far and now it’s going to apply those learnings to achieve a new target of net zero across its portfolio of managed assets by 2024, six years earlier than intended.

Thanks to the property giant’s Energy Master Plan, three buildings in it’s Wholesale Office Fund – including Workplace 6 in Sydney and 8 Exhibition Street in Melbourne – have already achieved carbon neutral status.

The company owns and manages a $25.3 billion portfolio of properties in retail (12 shopping centres), office (24 assets) and logistics (35 assets) in Australia, and the plan now is to roll out the same successful approach across the remainder of its assets.

GPT’s Mark Fookes. Photo: Andy Zakeli

“Retail and logistics are a little bit different from the office and there will be a number of things that we need to contemplate, which is why we’ve worked hard to better understand exactly how a certification program needs to be adapted, because it’s something that didn’t really exist before we went on this journey,” GPT Group chief operating officer Mark Fookes said.

“This involves a number of energy efficiency projects to continue to reduce the intensity of energy, whether that be through our LED lighting projects, an update to building management systems, or with on-site solar projects – particularly in our retail assets.

“Reduced energy costs are a key driver and since 2005 we’ve reduced our energy intensity by 45 per cent – saving over $210 million, as well as reduced emissions by 60 per cent, which equates to 1.5 million tonnes of carbon.

“Obviously, when putting in solar and other components, we look for a commercial return, and we know there are some elements that may not have a direct payback, but when you look at the whole investment, together with the significant energy savings, it is quite a compelling proposition financially.”

On top of this, Mr Fookes points to procuring cost effective, low price volatility energy supply contracts, as well as continuing the electrification of its assets, as points of focus, including moving away from the use of gas and more towards green power.

“We’ve been implementing a demand response program using generation, which helps us to manage our peak demand, in turn driving the level of costs across our buildings,” Mr Fookes added.

“We’ve also piloted a storage education program to look at how we can have batteries and other components of storage within our properties, which also helps to manage peak demand.”

“We will continue to partner with our tenants and organisations like ARENA, CEFC, NABERS and the Green Building Council of Australia on a number of decarbonisation initiatives, while also further reducing emissions from waste by improving our recycling.

“We will also work to better manage our heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and with the left over emissions we have from waste to landfill or emissions like refrigerants or gas, we then have to offset those with Green Fleet by planting native forest to offset the carbon emissions, which contributes a positive benefit to biodiversity.”

Of course, with everything going on due to Covid at the moment, the company’s efforts have stalled slightly, but Mr Fookes says this won’t stop them from getting through it all and continue on their path for carbon neutrality in four years time.

“With COVID-19 and all the social distancing restrictions put in place, our work has been made much more difficult, especially considering we need to undertake several audits and site inspections,” Mr Fookes added.

“To get around this, we’ve had to conduct them remotely or virtually in order to ensure that we’ve been able to do the work that is required to the highest quality for the relevant certification. There’s no doubt we’ll get through all of those.

“I think it’s exciting as an organisation to have such an aggressive target such as ours and it’s exciting to be leading the way in sustainability, something that has seen a sharp increase in focus from all stakeholders.”

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  1. This is very impressive. What about transport? Electric vehicles of all kinds can help with storage.