Sydney Opera House is following a new environmental sustainability plan

Building a green house

Sydney Opera House has set ambitious recycling targets within its new environmental sustainability plan. Naomi Martin provides insights into progress so far and its work to achieve these goals.

A World Heritage-listed building designed with sustainability in mind by its architect, it is fitting that those running Sydney Opera House are aiming high with their environmental goals.

By following its first sustainability plan in 2010, it has achieved significant targets. Improved energy efficiency has saved it $1 million in electricity costs. Four of the past five Vivid Live festivals were certified carbon neutral. It has also increased recycling from 20 to 65 per cent and has introduced food donation to charities.

But that was just the start.

The Sydney Opera House Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP) 2017-19 was launched on 1 August.

In her introduction to the plan, CEO Louise Herron reflects how the edifice, which opened in 1973, has long been recognised as being ahead of its time for sustainable design. Indeed, its architect Jørn Utzon incorporated environmentally- responsible elements such as a seawater cooling system into the building. The new ESP has been devised to build on that legacy.

“As custodians of a building that has become a symbol of contemporary Australia, what we do matters,” writes Louise. “This ESP seeks to honour that responsibility by embedding environmental sustainability in everything we do and inspiring greater community environmental awareness.”

The ESP commits 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 Opera House for future generations.

It also targets a 15 per cent energy saving and a reduction of 7 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions by 2019, and recycling 85 per cent of operational waste by 2023.

The Opera House received a 4-Star Green Star Performance rating from the Green Building Council of Australia in 2015 – a rare achievement for a heritage building. By its 50th anniversary in 2023, it is aiming to achieve a 5-Star rating.

With such extensive objectives, the Opera House has a dedicated Environmental Sustainability Manager – Naomi Martin – to make sure the progress in the new ESP happens.

Laying firm foundations

Naomi has been with Sydney Opera House for seven years, having joined when the role of Environmental Sustainability Manager was created.

During her tenure, she says the Opera House has undertaken myriad initiatives to improve environmental performance across its business areas.

To read more see page 30 of Issue 8.