There are no technical barriers to achieving zero emissions from Australia’s buildings within a decade.  The Buildings Plan proposes:

  • energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings,
  • renewable energy generation in many buildings, and
  • replacing gas appliances with electric appliances to end the use of gas (see our fact sheet)

(Beyond Zero Emissions Report: 2013)

The BZE Buildings Plan:

  • Australia can transform its building stock to reduce energy bills, generate renewable energy, add health and comfort to living spaces, and make workplaces more productive.
  • Using only proven, existing, commercial off-the-shelf building and appliance technologies.
  • The first comprehensive, nationwide plan to retrofit Australia’s domestic and commercial buildings.
  • A study of Australia’s existing buildings and energy consumption
  • A comprehensive compilation and assessment of each category of Australia’s existing building stock for each climate zone.
  • A blueprint for energy-efficient retrofits on each building sub-category in each climate zone.
  • A review of case studies of successful building retrofits, considering the energy savings, cost and efficacy of each method applied.
  • An assessment of commercially available technologies and methods for achieving energy efficiencies and for on-site heat and electricity generation.
  • An estimate of the maximum Australian electricity generation from on-site solar photovoltaic cells and small wind turbines.
  • A quantification of resources required to implement the plan and the nation’s capacity to complete the plans, including timelines.
  • Estimates of the investment costs and expected savings from implementing the Buildings Plan.
  • The plan has buildings connected to a 100% renewable energy grid as outlined in the Stationary Energy Plan.
  • It does not suggest making every building energy self-sufficient.


“This plan should have been rolled out by government decades ago, but it is not too late to reverse the trajectory caused by past system design errors.  It should also be mandatory reading in all architecture, planning and engineering schools.”
Dr Janis Birkeland, Professor of Sustainable Design, University of Auckland and designer of the “Positive Development” paradigm


Live retrofit show: Zero Carbon Australia buildings team at Sustainable Living Festival

Image: The Buildings Plan live retrofit show at Sustainable Living Festival

The Impacts of the Buildings Plan

. Australia’s residential energy use halved.

The measures in the plan will, together, reduce the residential sector’s annual energy usage by 53%.

. Homes become renewable energy power stations.

There is enough solar exposed roof space on residential buildings to install 31 Gigawatts of rooftop solar photovoltaics. This installation will allow the average Australian home to generate more electricity than it uses over a year.

. Australian buildings go Gas-free.

The use of fossil gas (conventional fossil gas, coal seam gas, shale gas & others) is completely removed from the buildings sector. Fossil gas appliances are replaced with higher efficiency electric alternatives, eliminating gas bills and leading to significant reductions in energy use while avoiding the climate and environmental damage caused by gas.

. Households reduce energy bills

Households currently spend approximately $15 billion per year on electricity and gas bills. This Buildings Plan eliminates gas bills while significantly reducing electricity bills. The full upgrade can save $40 billion over the next 30 years.

. Australia’s non-residential energy use: Nearly halved.

The energy used in non-residential buildings, on average, can be reduced by 44%. 2.5 GW of rooftop solar photovoltaic panels can be installed on non-residential buildings and the total cost is equivalent to business as usual over 30 years.

. Energy freedom is achievable.

The plan shows that with the above actions, households and businesses can achieve energy freedom by generating more energy than they use and removing gas as an energy source.

. Tens of thousands of jobs will be created.

Residential retrofits alone will create around fifty thousand trades jobs.

Ways of reducing the energy used by a building

  • Full insulation
  • Full draught proofing
  • Reducing energy flow through windows
  • Better shading
  • Cool-roof paint in hot climates
  • Upgrading heating, ventilation and air-conditioning in commercial buildings
  • Eliminating the use of gas
  • Using electric heat-pump heating for space heating.  They are 5 times more efficient than gas, and cut running costs by over a half
  • Using heat-pumps to get hot water: They use 80% less energy than gas and standard electric-based hot water systems
  • Cooking with induction cook tops: They perform like gas cook tops, using less energy, providing greater safety and eliminating pollution from the cook top
  • Using LED lighting for all lighting: LED down-lights save 80% of the energy used by halogen lights
  • Using efficient appliances, e.g. fridges and televisions
  • Real time monitoring of energy use using in-home displays or energy management systems

Contributors to the plan

The report is a collaboration between individuals, relevant businesses, industry bodies, all levels of government, and academic institutions to draw upon existing knowledge, experience, research, and data. The Buildings Plan has received generous support from over 80 volunteers. A range of organisations provided pro-bono assistance. They included:

  • WSP Built Ecology
  • Energy Efficient Strategies
  • Sustainability Victoria
  • Entura
  • GHD
  • Melbourne University’s Department of Building, Planning and Architecture
  • Solem Consulting
  • Investa
  • VIPAC, and others.


Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

This project was funded by the now closed Consumer Advocacy Panel as part of its grants process for consumer advocacy projects and research projects for the benefit of consumers of electricity and natural gas. The views expressed in the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Buildings Plan do not necessarily reflect the views of the Consumer Advocacy Panel of the Australian Energy Market Commission.

Publishing details

Zero Carbon Australia: Buildings Plan
First Edition: August 2013
ISBN 978-0-646-90735-2

Pages: 221 including appendices

Published by
Beyond Zero Emissions
Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

Get a full copy of the Buildings Plan

  • Buy a hard copy from our online shop
  • Free download a free 28 MB pdf file from here

Please Download and Please Donate

Please do download this for free, but remember that BZE needs donations to continue developing and advocating for these practical climate solutions. Please make a monthly or one-off donation today

The download you want can be found here: .


Melbourne Launch

Read about the Melbourne launch of the Buildings Plan here.


Some of the BZE Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan team

Image: Some of the BZE Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan team


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