Australian cultural treasure and global design icon the Sydney Opera House has revealed plans to mark its 50th year by going carbon neutral, and has launched an updated sustainability strategy to help get it there.
Released on Monday, the Opera House’s new Environmental Sustainability Plan aims, by 2023, to reduce the building’s total energy use by 20 per cent (from the current baseline) and achieve a 5 Star Green Star rating – the top efficiency rating awarded by the Green Building Council and a rare feat for a World Heritage-listed building.
To do so, the new plan includes the shorter-term goals of cutting energy use by 15 per cent by 2019, and greenhouse-gas emissions by 7 per cent.
Already, the Opera House has made significant inroads on sustainability and energy efficiency, including a major lighting upgrade that led to a reduction in energy use by 75 per cent.
Overall, the Opera House has cut its electricity use by 7 per cent since 2010, saving it $1 million in electricity costs.
It has also boosted its recycling rates from 20 per cent in 2010 to 65 per cent today, through programs targeting reduction in use of materials like paper and plastic, and recycling of most types of operational waste, including food.
The 2016 plan aims to boost the Opera House’s recycling to 85 per cent of its operational waste, also by 2023.
Last year, the building was awarded a 4-star Green Star rating – an achievement that Opera House CEO Louise Herron says shows what can be done with older, architecturally significant buildings.
“Designed in the 1950s, finished in the 1970s, if we can have a 4-star… rating, anyone can,” Herron told the ABC RN Breakfast radio program on Monday.
“This is a really important aspect of running the Opera House,” she said. “These initiatives allow people to completely re-think the way they do things.
“All of our restaurants now partner with Oz Harvest, so that all of our food waste is actually used.”
The plan also commits the building to achieving an 80 per cent recycling rate for construction works as part of its Decade of Renewal, a program of works that will upgrade the building.
“The Opera House was conceived with very broad ambitions in mind,” said Herron: “‘to help mould a better and more enlightened community’. The Environmental Sustainability Plan we are launching today is part of achieving that ambition.
“These are ambitious targets, but I am confident they are realistic based on the Opera House’s embracing of sustainability, which is brought passionately to life by the people who work here.”
Last November, a US report by Climate Central provided mocked up images of what would the world’s coastal cities might look like if global warming were to continue unabated. As you can see here, the sort of sea level rise that would accompany a 4°C increase in global temperatures would be disastrous for the Sydney Opera House, and 2°C wouldn’t be much better.