Future Proofing Geelong: The Making of A Sustainable City

aerial view of Geelong

Future Proofing Geelong’s dynamic duo, Vicky Grosser and Tina Perfrement, are on a mission to make it happen.

1. What is Future Proofing Geelong’s vision and how are you working towards this goal?

Vicky Grosser: Future Proofing Geelong’s vision is that in the year 2030, Geelong is internationally recognised as one of the world’s most sustainable cities. Faced with challenges like climate change and economic adjustment, the region has pursued a collaborative and innovative approach to become more resilient and adaptive.

Tina Perfrement: Future Proofing Geelong focuses on the City becoming more sustainable, more liveable and more productive. The program has assisted industry and business to secure over $1 million worth of funding for projects. Over 150 building owners or tenants have been engaged to improve energy efficiency. Engagement with the community has seen the delivery of 56 events attended by over 6000 participants. To date, these efforts have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the emissions used in over 3,000 one way flights between Melbourne and Perth.

2. How Does each of your roles fit together at Future Proofing Geelong?

VG: We provide energy assessment grants to both commercial building plus business and industry which aim to inform and provide practical recommendations that include projected capital costs along with anticipated energy use and greenhouse gas emission reductions. We aim to measure the impact of our actions and those acting as part of our vision across Geelong.

I support local Geelong business owners, tenants, Real Estate Agents and local service providers (e.g. electricians, air conditioning providers, etc) to learn, plan and take action for reducing local energy use. This has mainly focused over the past two and a half years on reducing energy use, which in turn reduces local business bills. 

We are broadening our approach to include guidance on a broader range of ‘green building’ approaches, in partnership with the CitySwitch program for tenancies, Sustainability Victoria and the Green Building Council Australia: with their new building performance star ratings.

The other part of my role is gathering impact data towards the annual review of the Geelong Low Carbon Growth Plan, and keeping our fabulous website up to date and interactive for the wide range of people who use it and link with our services through it.

TP: Future Proofing Geelong is an innovative program that brings together business, industry, government, educational institutions and the community in a collaborative effort to work towards a sustainable future. Geelong is one of Australia’s fastest growing cities. It faces significant social, environmental and economic challenges as it transforms into a city of the 21st century. With its strong growth; proactive business, industry and community groups; and commitment to working together with an innovative culture, the city is ideally placed to take on the challenges of a comprehensive response to making Geelong more resilient.

My job has been about linking business, industry and the community with funding to make their projects happen. I’ve also been involved with developing Cleantech Innovations Geelong in partnership with the Geelong Manufacturing Council. 

This is a program designed to develop markets for cleantech goods and services, by working with suppliers to stimulate demand for those goods and services, while working with suppliers to be able to meet that demand.

3. How Does rRetrofit Play a part in Future Proof Geelong’s vision?

VG: Most of my work is about retrofitting. It can be a challenge given the lack of funding support to SME businesses in particular to gain action on the building envelope and related actions to help reduce the need for traditional heating and cooling systems for example. I have insulated my walls, fitted awnings, draught proofed as well as installed secondary glazing in my own home. I sometimes use the example of my low bills and comfortable home in all seasons to illustrate the potential in commercial buildings. We are continuously educating ourselves and bringing a range of service providers, including ecoMaster, to Geelong through our programs, to step by step drive local actions. I’m hopeful!

TP: We spend a great deal of time focusing on new build as a means by which to activate sustainability, but the bigger impact can be made elsewhere. Over 90% of the building stock in any city is existing, so working with building owners and occupants to retrofit their buildings to achieve efficiencies is a far bigger fish to fry. Retrofitting old buildings so they are more energy, waste and water efficient makes them more productive places to work in and for that reason attracts more tenants. Retrofitting existing buildings is the ultimate in ‘re-use’ which is well worth the effort when we consider the waste hierarchy.

4. What Do You Find Most Rewarding about Working on this Project?

VG: I love noticing that everyone is interested in learning new ways to think about our buildings, and how patient listening and follow up can lead to strong local partnerships and some very creative actions. I appreciate working in a supportive team and think we do well as a team given our huge areas of work and the size of our vision, and much of that is because we have built strong working relationships together and alongside local networks and wider programs and businesses. 

We have great fun and cheer one another on! The City of Greater Geelong is unique in developing a team for Future Proofing Geelong.

TP: Sustainability is a journey, now a destination. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work in a job that helps individuals understand more about how they can work towards sustainability in their day-to-day jobs. Linking sustainability outcomes with a business case has been an illuminating experience, which engages business to do more.

5. What is Your Proudest Moment so far?

VG: Spending an hour in a room with 5 local building owners about a year ago: cheering them on to tell one another their successes as well as challenges in addressing energy use and sustainability in the buildings they own around the Geelong. They had never been together in a room before, and openly responded to my invitation in such an honest and enthusiastic manner. Since then several have taken action on 5 key buildings in our city.

TP: Gee, there are quite a few. The most inspiring would be those ‘light-bulb’ moments, when I see someone I’ve been working with finally understand what all the fuss is about and they start articulating what they’ve achieved to others and encourage them to follow their lead. That makes me very proud to be doing what I’m doing.

6. What’s next for Future Proofing Geelong?

VG: We are always challenged by access to sufficient funding to carry out each stage of our vision. Tina is great at being ‘out there’ finding many sources and we work together to develop project plans and keep responding to the visions of our many partners in moving Geelong to stronger sustainability, liveability and productivity.

TP: Future Proofing Geelong holds a trusted, recognised position amongst stakeholders within Greater Geelong. Going forward, there is scope to build on the positive impacts the program has already achieved. A future scope of works will build on efforts with commercial buildings, business and industry and the community.

For more information about Future Proofing Geelong visit www.futureproofinggeelong.com

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