During the first few days of my trip to Melbourne I had the chance to stay right in the CBD (Central Business District). One lunch hour I wondered over to the tourism office at Federation Square and was handed a brochure, “Melbourne’s Sustainable Buildings”. The brochure starts “On paper, Melbourne’s neat grid of streets looks standard, consistent, regular. But in reality, Melbourne’s streets are among the world’s most surprising and unorthodox”.

The brochure is a map of the CBD with a walking tour to allow you to visit all the sustainable buildings in the area. It also has some brief information about what makes the different buildings “sustainable”. Two rankings are used:

  • Australia’s Green Star system, a national, voluntary environmental rating scheme that evaluates the environmental design and achievement of buildings. Four stars is “Best Practice”, 5 stars “Australian Excellence” and 6 stars “World Leadership”.
  • Nabers (Department of Environment and Climate Change) has a voluntary environmental rating system for office premises that focus on the environmental performance of the building in terms of energy and water consumption and waste generation.

It was a beautiful day so I decided to do the walk. The centre of Melbourne is indeed “surprising and unorthodox” and the little laneways and streets both charming and fascinating.  However I must say that although several of the sustainable buildings I saw were very interesting, many were pretty standard looking. They weren’t the kind of buildings that you would ever think were sustainable and that you would ever stop in front of and admire.

But even though there was nothing to see per say, there was a lot to think about. How many buildings in your city are sustainable buildings? Are they the ones you think are? How about those buildings that look sustainable, are they really? And what constitutes a sustainable building? Things aren’t always as they seem.  More on sustainable buildings in an upcoming blog post.

For more on sustainable buildings in Melbourne visit http://sustainablebuildingsvic.com.au I hope other cities do this as well. It is a fantastic way to get to know your city.