Thursday 13 October 2016

Sustainability in the House

The Sydney Opera House, that is.

Earlier this week I set my alarm extra early for a very special date at the Opera House. And though an icy wind whipped through my hair and chilled me to the bone, all my worries were forgotten as I approached our iconic landmark, standing out against the clear blue sky and sparkling harbour. I found myself attempting a selfie alongside the excited tourists, as if I hadn't seen her over a thousand times before.

Whoosh! That wind!

The reason for my special date was the official launch of the Airbnb Sustainability Tour of the Sydney Opera House. Now the public (that's us!) can get beneath the sails of the world's most famous house and not just see backstage, but also see its incredible sustainability initiatives firsthand.

I had the best time!

There were plenty of eco-facts for sustainability geeks like me, an amazing music and lighting display in the Concert Hall, and a behind-the-scenes tour like you've never experienced that included the 'expected' Green Room and staging areas plus the waste management room and seawater cooling towers, among other sites. And there is plenty of opportunity to ask questions of the Sydney Opera House team and chat with fellow sustainability fans.

Airbnb Australia Country Manager Sam McDonagh
Sydney Opera House Director of Building, Greg McTaggart (who retires
next week - thank you for all you've done for the House!)
NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy, Adam Marshall
Credit: Anna Kucera

There I am! Listening to Sydney Opera House Sustainability Manager,
Naomi Martin, our charming hostess for the morning.
Credit: Anna Kucera

Last year the Opera House was granted a 4 Star Green Star - Performance rating by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). You may recall that I've worked for the GBCA, and I know that it is incredibly difficult for older buildings to achieve today's sustainable building standards and earn a Green Star rating, so this is no small feat.

Thanks to Utzon's original design (which included minimal yet durable materials, a pioneering seawater cooling system, and self-cleaning tiles), and the dedicated sustainability and building management teams at the Sydney Opera House, our most cherished house is also an incredibly green house. A couple of the most intriguing stats:
  • The Concert Hall lighting system - which you see in action during the tour - was replaced with all LED lights with multiple colour setting, including 'heritage lighting' for those who like their symphony old school. As a result, there was a 75% reduction in energy requirements, a cost savings of $70,000 per year in electricity alone. And because the lights last much longer, they have to be changed less frequently, cutting down on labour costs and waste. 
  • Waste Management - the House went from 2 waste streams to eight recycling streams including co-mingled (glass, plastics & cans), paper, cardboard, lightbulbs, e-waste, polystrene. They also work with OzHarvest to collect uneaten but still edible food, and compost other food waste. (Seriously, if the Opera House has figured this out - can't we all?)

More of those amazing lights. And once the music began - magic.
Credit: Anna Kucera

came on board to sponsor the tours - making a connection between the sustainability benefits of choosing Airbnb over traditional hotels. Country Manager Sam McDonagh explained, "We're proud to launch this sustainability tour in partnership with the Sydney Opera House to further inspire locals and visitors to be more environmentally aware by learning about the sustainable practices for the world's most famous house."

Also in attendance at the event were Airbnb superhosts who are passionate about sustainability in their homes, as well as sustainable home 'royalty', Off-the-Grid guy Michael Mobbs, who owns the  Sustainable House in Chippendale.

That's Michael Mobbs in the hat - he's been off the grid for decades,
and right in the heart of Sydney!
Credit: Anna Kucera

If you have any interest at all in sustainability or the Sydney Opera House, this is an incredible opportunity. The tours run at 8am on Tuesday mornings for a limited time until 29 November 2016. Head over to the Sydney Opera House website to book now before it books out!

And if you need any final convincing, you get a super cute
Frank Green SmartCup, because disposable cups are SO last century.

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