Net-zero hubs on Parramatta Road?

By Kristian Morris

As for any hub, be it medical, retail or residential communities, the advantages are economies of scale and being able to amortise sustainability initiatives across the hub. Is there a possibility of a net-zero hub along Parramatta Road or elsewhere in the city fringes?

Why net-zero hubs?

Net-zero commercial and residential hubs, also known as net-zero communities, are emerging as a promising model for achieving ambitious climate goals while fostering sustainable and liveable communities. Where density and planning controls allow, the hubs combine energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy sources, integrated infrastructure and smart technologies to generate and use all the energy they need on site, which means zero greenhouse gas emissions, more resilient communities and more liveable spaces.

Designating an area as net zero provides a framework all players can work within. This is in contrast to random 6-star buildings; however, a functioning net-zero hub requires a more cohesive and rigorous planning and development process.

Let’s delve a little deeper into the benefits of a net-zero hub.

Environmental benefits:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: As net-zero hubs prioritise renewable energy and energy efficiency from initiatives like LED lighting of chilled beam technology for cooling, they can mitigate climate change and air pollution substantially.
  • Increased energy resilience: Hubs with on-site power generation and microgrids are less vulnerable to power outages and disruptions in the larger grid. This is especially important for data centres, the ‘brains’ of net-zero communities.
  • Improved water management: When water-use-limiting technologies (like flow limiters in taps) and as well as water capture and local water treatment systems, implemented across a site, a net-zero hub can mitigate water scarcity and reduce environmental impacts.
  • Enhanced biodiversity: More green space reduces overall temperature as well as attracting wildlife.

Economic benefits:

  • Lower energy costs: Tenants and owners of a net-zero hub can realise significant savings on energy bills with energy-efficient systems and local renewable energy generation. While one small wind turbine or a few solar panels might not make much of a difference on one property, in a net-zero hub, the combined effect is substantial and cost-effective.
  • Job creation: Construction, maintenance and operation of net-zero hubs can create new jobs in green technologies, construction and related sectors.
  • Market stimulation: Net-zero hubs can act as a testbed for innovative technologies and showcase the viability of sustainable solutions, attracting investment and accelerating market adoption.
  • Improved property values: Studies indicate that properties located in net-zero communities command higher rents and property values due to their sustainability features and increased liveability.
  • Circular Economy Principles: These principles help to minimise waste and maximise efficient use of resources. This involves practices like recycling, composting, and upcycling within the hub, as well as, for example, transferring the heat generated by a data centre and using it to heat water.

Social benefits:

  • Improved health and wellbeing: Cleaner air, reduced noise pollution and lower temperatures due to more green space helps residents enjoy improved physical and mental health.
  • Better community resilience: Net-zero hubs can be more resilient to climate impacts and natural disasters, contributing to community stability and preparedness.
  • Stronger social connections: Walkable communities with shared amenities and green spaces can foster stronger social interactions and a sense of belonging.
  • Knowledge-sharing: A net-zero hub should be set up so all owners and tenants benefit from each others’ experience.

How do net-zero hubs work in Sydney?

In Sydney, we have a piecemeal approach to net zero. While individual buildings have worked to achieve net zero with 6-star Green Star ratings and NABERS Climate Active Carbon Neutral certification, the real benefits will occur with net-zero hubs that offer more integrated energy, transport and green space using a holistic approach.

Ideally, a developer or a consortium of developers would acquire adjacent sites and pool their knowledge and resources to create a net-zero community. There are, inevitably, regulatory hurdles; however, with some help from us and the town planners, net-zero hubs will be the way of the future, providing vital elements for achieving a sustainable future and creating resilient communities.

Where to find more information about net-zero hubs and grants

While some cities overseas (like Hammarby Sjöstad, Stockholm, Sweden) have implemented net-zero hubs, in Australia, we’re mostly only investigating. Monash University in Melbourne is undertaking a study of net-zero hubs while the CSIRO is looking at carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) hubs. The Australian Government is committed to net zero in general but the website doesn’t go into any detail about possible hubs, although grants are available for various elements.

Can we help you create a net-zero hub?

Dedicated local commercial real estate agents, we can help you extract more value from your commercial property. As long-term commercial specialists in high-density areas, we can help you consolidate lots and ownership and put you in touch with specialists.

Please get in touch to discuss your circumstances and assets so that we can give you personalised advice. Whether it’s commercial leasing, management or sales, we’re here to help you with your Sydney-based commercial property.

Contact us at Ray White Commercial Sydney City Fringe

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