Mount Alexander Shire in Victoria is adapting heritage listed buildings to become environmentally sound.
The Shire, which incorporates the Victorian goldfield towns of Castlemaine and Maldon, boasts one of the state’s highest percentages of households with a solar energy system.
Along with an environmentally conscious community, the Shire is also home to a rich collection of heritage-listed and significant buildings.
In the three years since the opening of its refurbished Civic Centre in the Castlemaine School of Mines building (circa 1890), Council has demonstrated that adapting heritage buildings with sustainable design features can lead to considerable cost and energy savings.
“The refurbishment aimed to improve the performance of the heritage-listed building in the most energy efficient and environmentally responsible way while achieving value for money,” said Jason Taylor, Director Sustainable Development, Mount Alexander Shire Council.
“A package of environmentally sustainable design features to improve energy and water efficiency and reduce our emissions cost about 17 percent of the capital expenses,” said Mr Taylor.
Council secured a $105,000 low interest loan from Low Carbon Australia (now the Clean Energy Finance Corporation) to fund energy efficient lighting, and has since installed a 14.5kW solar system to produce renewable energy for onsite use.
The Civic Centre was recently independently assessed as achieving a five star National Australia Built Environment Rating Scheme (NABERS) energy rating out of a possible six stars.
Right next door at the Castlemaine Town Hall, Council installed a 30kW solar photovoltaic system in 2014. Within the first year the system produced more than 41,000 kilowatt hours of power, worth more than $10,000. Other solar systems have performed just as well, and all Council occupied buildings now either have a system in place or one planned for installation.
“Council has applied environmentally sustainable principles to existing buildings to conserve energy, save resources and minimise waste while preserving the significance of important heritage buildings and the dignified street scape in the goldfields town,” said Mr Taylor.
As a participant in the Lighting the Regions program, Mount Alexander has recently changed almost 900 street lights from mercury vapour to LED energy efficient lights.
“Sixteen local councils participated in this initiative, which will save 180,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 20 years,” said Mr Taylor.
“This saving is equivalent to the emissions of 10,000 homes for one year – that’s more than all households in our shire,” he said.
The cost savings are significant too – which goes to show that environmental sustainable choices often make sense on a financial level.