By Melissa Keogh
South Australia’s largest service provider Uniting Communities is on the highway towards carbon neutrality.
The not-for-profit organisation has experienced a 35% reduction in carbon emissions and a $1.6m saving on energy and consumption costs in five years– and its shrinking carbon footprint won’t stop there.
Uniting Communities is undertaking a $100m, multi-use development in Adelaide’s CBD – a project that, once up and running, is expected to further drive down emissions.
Offering specialist disability rental and respite accommodation, retirement living and community spaces, the U City project will also include the organisation’s new headquarters.
Leading the client team building the 20-storey development on the corner of Franklin and Pitt streets, is 30-year experienced civil engineer and project manager, Gary Neave.
Gary was seconded in to oversee the design and construction interface from SA project management business ProManage.
Gary says U City, designed to the highest possible efficiency and sustainability rating, will have a 55kW rooftop solar system, helping cement Uniting Communities’ role as a leader in carbon neutral initiatives.
“The residential components of U City are designed to achieve a 7.5-star rating for the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme,” he says.
“We’ll have double glazing on windows, lighting that turns itself off when you’re not there, and a central air-conditioning plant rather than split systems.
“We are going to put an embedded energy distribution network in the building so … we will sell the power through to our tenants and residents and aim to deliver power notably cheaper than they would get on the market.
“We are reducing the emissions footprint as far as we can.”
Uniting Communities recently became the first SA organisation and the first registered Australian charity to be NCOS Certified Carbon Neutral.
It’s also the Adelaide City Council’s inaugural Carbon Neutral Adelaide Ambassador, in support of the push for Adelaide to become the world’s first carbon neutral city.
An agency of the Uniting Church, Uniting Communities not only has an environmental conscience, but a social one too.
Its 1500 employees and volunteers support 20,000 South Australians every year through programs, including Lifeline.
While its sole purpose is to provide vital services to people who need them most, carbon neutrality is a key part of the organisation’s identity and culture.
Five years ago Uniting Communities’ management board decided to adopt a suite of internal practices to push a carbon neutral initiative.
This included a move towards a “paperless environment”, converting its transport fleet to hybrid vehicles and upgrading lighting and other appliances to LED.
Two of Uniting Communities’ aged care facilities – at Glenelg and Frewville – will have 100kW solar systems installed in 2018.
Uniting Communities is not Gary’s first dip into the world of green buildings and renewable energy projects.
Aside from personally leading two local $400m water infrastructure projects, the team at ProManage was also involved in delivering Sundrop Farms’ sustainable horticulture facility in Port Augusta.
The first of its kind in the world, the $200m facility produces more than 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes annually using solar power and seawater.
Gary says there’s no better place to gain support for large scale renewable energy projects than SA.
“There’s a lot of support in SA for something that’s out of the box in the renewable space,” he says.
“People are watching (SA) with a significant degree of interest … people are starting to take notice and being a part of that is not a bad place to be.”