Green Building Fund to improve office buildings

by FM Media

Owners and managers of commercial office buildings throughout Australia should make the most of a new grants scheme designed to help fund ‘green’ retrofits and upgrades. JOHN POWER reports.

Late last year the Federal Government announced the implementation of its Green Building Fund, which is aimed at improving the overall energy efficiency of existing commercial office buildings. The scheme recognises that, while new office infrastructure is already subject to tough efficiency standards, Australians also need to improve existing office buildings to achieve meaningful energy reduction targets.
The Green Building Fund applies to the extant commercial office sector only, and operates on a shared ‘dollar for dollar’ basis starting at $50,000 and capped at $500,000 in government funding per project for works such as:
* low-energy public area lighting;
* HVAC improvements;
* glazing, shading and similar building fabric enhancements;
* building management system (BMS) control and monitoring equipment.

The program will provide $90 million in grants over four years from 2008–09 to 2011–12, with funds allocated over numerous rounds of applications.
The deadline for the second round was 27 February 2009, but applicants will have plenty of opportunities in coming years to apply for grants.
At an information session late last year at Melbourne Town Hall, the Green Building Fund’s national manager Dr Bronwyn Williams said there “would probably be three to four rounds per year over the next few years, and probably one late next year [i.e. late 2009].”
In order to qualify for funding, the applicant must be:
* a non-tax-exempt body corporate incorporated under a law (i.e. NOT a not-for-profit organisation) of the commonwealth or of a state or territory;
* the owner or part-owner of the commercial office building that is the subject of a retrofitting or retro-commissioning project, or an agent of the owner acting on the owners’ behalf;
* able to demonstrate an ability to fund the cost of the project not met by the Green Building Fund grant; and
* able to demonstrate the level of greenhouse gas emissions prior to commencement of the project and the projected savings in greenhouse gas emissions likely to result from the project.

The last of the abovementioned points needs some explanation. As noted by Dr Williams, successful applicants must be able to show that their proposed green upgrades and refurbishments will make a demonstrable improvement to the energy rating of their building, based on proven NABERS rating assessment criteria. This rating estimate is important, as it will represent the lion’s share (approximately 60 percent) of the value by which each application is judged. Other measures of merit are the use of new or interesting technologies that can be shared among industry colleagues and the wider community (20 percent), and the quality of project management pertaining to each application (20 percent).
An eligible project must have commenced after 1 July 2008, or not more than eight months after a grant application has been accepted. It must be completed within two years, and no later than 31 December 2011.

There are two streams (A and B) in the fund.
Most applications (“probably 87–88 percent,” according to Dr Williams) will relate to stream A and involve straightforward applications for funds to improve specific buildings. Applications from consortia of applicants will also be considered, though a cap of $5 million per joint project will be imposed.
Stream B will deal more with funding for training and education programs designed to enhance knowledge in specific disciplines.
If you wish to apply for funding, you can download an application form and view the full eligibility criteria from the AusIndustry website.

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