Energy and water efficient apartments

User generated Initiative

Location: Sydney, Australia

Population: 5,029,768 [metropolitan area]

Climate: Humid subtropical

Duration: 2011-2013

Sector: Buildings

Key stakeholders: Public-private sector

City Networks: C40


Savings: Energy use reduced up to 30% per building.

Solutions: Energy audits in residential buildings.

Multiple benefits: Costs savings and increased knowledge on energy and waterefficiency.


Smart Green Apartments (SGA) is a free programme provided by the City of Sydney to guide multi-apartment buildings to decrease energy and water consumption and waste outputs through free audits and information on government rebates. The project has won the 2017 Green Globe Award for excellence and innovation in design, construction, retrofitting and management of existing or new buildings, precincts and tenancies [source]. 

Objective – To help apartment owners and managers to reduce energy and water use, minimise waste and GHG emissions, and improve environmental sustainability.

Solutions – The programme consists of despatching professional auditors to selected residential apartment buildings to conduct sustainability assessments and investigate potential improvements regarding water and energy consumption, renewable energy and waste. Each audited building received a tailored action plan on how to implement the upgrades. Moreover, the building owners and managers were provided with the information on capital costs of the upgrades, projected savings and pay pack periods and available government rebates to help finance property improvements.

Funding – Energy and water audits were jointly financed by the state government partner (NSW Office of Environment and Heritage) and the City of Sydney.

Innovation – It is the most comprehensive project of its type in Australia [source]. Programme provides clear and free of charge information on potential improvements, implementation costs, savings, etc. Hence, due to its benefits to participating apartment owners and managers the project has received a great interest.  

Success factors – The broader vision and targets set out in the Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy helped justify the need to tackle GHG emissions and water and energy efficiency in the apartment sector. Support from key stakeholder communities was crucial for SGA, which relied on voluntary participation from the residential apartment sector. Dating back to the formation of the Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy, the City developed a reputation for forming strong collaborations and achieving concrete outcomes with industry and the community. It was able to leverage this trust when assembling the reference groups with stakeholders. Support and momentum for the design of the SGA programme was gained by holding regular meetings and keeping these stakeholders informed of developments in the programme. Participation in the programme is beneficial for the apartment owners, because audits and tailored actions plans are free of charge. Financial arguments on savings and payback periods and information on incentives from the auditors spur apartment decision makers into action. 


Significant outcomes:

  • Energy use reduced up to 30% per building;
  • Average savings of AUD 74,000 (USD 55,665*) annually per building;
  • More than 70 buildings upgraded [source];
  • Residents' awareness raised through information on such as activities in progress.

​Synergies with local policies:

  • Sustainable Sydney 2030 sets a target of 70% GHG emission reduction by 2030 (2006 baseline). SGA initiative was created to contribute to a vision of Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan;
  • Energy Efficiency Master Plan contains targets and proactive steps that could save more than AUD 600 million (USD 392 million*) in energy bills across the city and double energy productivity;
  • Residential Apartments Sustainability Plan sets actions to achieve better environmental performance within the residential apartment community;
  • Environmental Action 2016 – 2021 plan guides the implementation of Sustainable Sydney 2030. 40% GHG emission reduction by 2021 (2006 baseline). 

Political alignment:

Marketability: 

  • 70 buildings have participated in the programme so far, and many have shown the interest [source]. This suggests that other owner corporations and managers around the city will assimilate lessons from SGA;
  • The programme has succeeded in stimulating retrofitting activity in apartment buildings and adoption of more efficient and smart technologies;
  • Data and lessons are shared in the Smart Blocks toolkit so that other apartment buildings can use it to boost their energy efficiency.

*The conversion rate used is AUD 1 = USD 0.72

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