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The climatic influence on sustainable refurbishments and life cycle investing in Australia

Chris Heywood (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)
Eckhart Hertzsch (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Victoria Australia AND Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, Stuttgart, Germany)
Mirek Piechowski (Meinhardt Building Science Group, Meinhardt Australia Pty Ltd., Energy Solutions and Sustainability, Parramatta, Australia)

Property Management

ISSN: 0263-7472

Article publication date: 16 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to report an investigation of the effect of location on refurbishment strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions using the temperate and sub-tropical urban locations in Australia. This occurred within a larger research project that investigated methods for sustainable refurbishments to office buildings and their optimized timing from an investment perspective.


An office building in Melbourne was used to develop seven sets of improvements using an integrated approach to upgrade mechanical services and the building envelope. Using asset management trigger points the impact on net present value and internal rate of return were calculated, taking into account the capital expenditure required, the energy savings due to the refurbishment, as well as a possible rental increase due to the upgrade and lesser operational energy bills for the tenants. To investigate the importance of the location attribute the upgraded building’s performance was modelled in a different climate by using a Brisbane weather file.


A number of unexpected results were found, including that the same sets of improvements had similar reductions in GHG emissions in the two locations, they had similar impacts on the investment criteria and when using the National Australian Building Energy Rating System it was shown that it was easier and cheaper to get an uplift in stars in Melbourne than Brisbane.

Research limitations/implications

This location-specific analysis is the result of using a more sophisticated and holistic methodology to analyse sustainable refurbishments that more closely resembles the complexity of the decision making required to make buildings more sustainable.

Practical implications

This paper provides a basis for property investors to make decisions about sustainable investments when location is important. This can occur when a portfolio is distributed across various climate zones.


The research project that the paper reports addresses the complexity of building attributes, possible sets of improvements to reduce GHG emissions and their investment decisions, within a life cycle view of assets. It is rare that this complexity is addressed as a whole, and rarer that locational climatic differences are examined.



This project was supported by a University of Melbourne’s 2009 Collaborative Research Grant. The authors acknowledge the contribution made by the industry partners at Meinhardt Australia – Adrian Rowe, Tony Alvaro and Ian Gardner, the research assistants Myles Bunning and Daoren Lai and Dr Frank Bromilow whose LCAM was used in this work. Finally, the asset owner who, at present, requires anonymity also needs to be acknowledged.


Heywood, C., Hertzsch, E. and Piechowski, M. (2015), "The climatic influence on sustainable refurbishments and life cycle investing in Australia", Property Management, Vol. 33 No. 1, pp. 19-35.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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