Case Study: Delivering Sustainable Sydney 2030 (Sydney, Australia)

2018-11-17 00:00:00

By WU Jie/Guangzhou Urban Planning and Design Survey Research Institute

Sydney was a deserving city of the 3rd Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation in 2016. This study tour took place during September 10th and 12th, 2017.

Sydney, as the largest city of Australia and capital of New South Wales, is located in the southeast coast of Australia. Known as the economic, cultural, political, and tourism center of Australia, Sydney is regarded as one of the most suitable cities for human habitation in the world by United Nations for many times. It is also well-known for its pleasant living environment and dynamic economy. The Sydney metropolitan area covers an area of 12,367.7 square kilometers with a population of 4.92 million. The city of Sydney, in general, is referred to the areas administrated by the municipal government, including central Sydney and surrounding areas. It covers an area of 26.15 square kilometers with 224,000 permanent residents in 2016.


From the year of 2006 to 2008, Sydney took an overall review of the challenges of urban development, and made strategic plans to address issues such as global warming, energy shortage, global economic competition, population aging, traffic jam, declining housing supply and so forth. After more than two years of consultation and collecting wisdom from citizens and various groups of stakeholders, the three visions of “greenness, globalization and connectivity” for the future urban development have become the guidance of the next 30 years development of Sydney strategic planning–Delivering Sustainable Sydney 2030 (hereinafter referred to as “the Sydney 2030”), which was approved and proclaimed by the city council in 2008.

Centered on the three visions, the Sydney 2030 developed ten strategies including enhancing the global competitiveness and innovation, following the idea of environmental protection, building traffic system and slow network, improving  function of the city center and vitality of the community, developing the cultural creativity and increasing housing supply, upgrading the design of sustainable development and management. In addition, a series of crucial action plan has been formulated in the framework of strategic planning so as to guide Sydney to keep enhancing its competitiveness, sustainability and livability year by year.


1. To meet the specific goals of urban sustainable and habitable development, the working framework of strategic guidance -- implementation of special actions -- implementation of evaluation and feedback is constructed.

Sydney 2030 puts forward ten specific targets and indicators for comprehensively improving urban sustainability and livable development, which include not merely the green and sustainable development requirements of the city but also a series of indicators to improve the convenience and well-being of residents’ daily lives. Ten targets and indicators are:

(1) By 2030, greenhouse gases will be 70% lower than those in 2006, and by 2050, zero emissions will be achieved.

(2) Fifty percent of electricity will be provided by renewable energy; taking 2006 as the reference year, the demand for tap water will not increase any more through water conservation and water cycle; in 2008, the vegetation coverage rate has increased by 50%.

(3) Add 138,000 new homes to meet the needs of citizens.

(4) 7.5% of the houses will be social security housing and 7.5% of the housing will be affordable housing provided by non-profit institutions and other suppliers.

(5) Through the development of the financial industry, business services, education, creative industries and tourism industries, 465,000 jobs will be created, which is an increase of 97,700 jobs compared to 2006.

(6) The daily public transport travel rate will raise up to 80%.

(7) The bicycle trip rate will be at least 10%, and the pedestrian trip rate will reach 50%.

(8) Areas within walking distance for residents should be equipped with service facilities, including fresh food markets, nurseries, medical services and other leisure and recreation facilities, educational and cultural facilities.

(9) Residents can walk through the three-minute (250 meters) avenue to public spaces such as the Harbour, Harbour Park Greenland, Moore Park, Century Park or Sydney Park.

(10) The degree of community integration and social interaction will be enhanced dramatically, and at least 65% of people believe that most of them are trustworthy.

Under the framework of ten goals, Sydney has made a succeeding of plans, such as action plans centered on greenness for adaption of climate change, implementation of garbage circulation, energy conservation, urban green space systems, and environmental improvements; plans for developing economy, various service industries and upgrading the central city in the face of globalization; connective and interactive plans for the transportation system, slow-moving system, walking system, housing supply, barrier-free service facilities, community building, etc.; and deploy government funds, projects and policies based on various action plans. The year-by-year assessments, feedback on the achievement of indicators, reviews of the strategic vision proposed by the strategic plan shall be utilized to guide the formulation of the implementation plan for the next year. Thus, the systematic framework: strategic leadership—the implementation of specific actions—the evaluation and feedback has been constructed so as to ensure the fulfillment of the Sydney 2030 Strategic Plan. 

2. Promote the implementation of the action plan for sustainable development in the form of government leadership, enterprise cooperation and win-win consultation.

Sydney combined with other parties participated in continued enhancement of all aspects of the urban function in the strategic framework of Sydney 2030. In response to climate change, reduce building carbon emissions, and improve resource utilization, in-depth cooperation between businessmen and the government plays a critical role in urban sustainable development.

Sydney has advanced the “Better Building Partnership” program chaired by Sydney municipal government to attract attention of Sydney’s biggest public and private building owners and universities. In order to meet the goals of energy and resource conservation, we will implement sustainable measures in the application of solar energy devices, waste treatment and water circulation under the guidance of experts in relevant fields. Through the application of sustainable measures, public and private building owners can comprehensively improve the energy-saving performance of buildings, substantially reduce the energy consumption and the cost of water resource utilization.

Meanwhile, government joint professional institutions set star standards for green buildings and encourage owners to join this program. The rental fee of commercial office building is related to its rating, and high star-rated buildings characterized with energy saving represent high-quality and low-cost buildings. So far, 49% of commercial buildings in Sydney’s CBD region have participated in the BBP program, which has greatly promoted the achievement of the city’s energy conservation and emission reduction targets.

In addition, Sydney has promoted the “Smart Green Business Program” for water conservation and the “City Switch Green Office” program for waste recycling and reusing. The mechanism of the two programs is similar to the BBP Program, led and supported by the government with professional support. Enterprises join in it with membership to achieve win-win results through saving resources, reducing the operating cost, and gaining high star rating of energy-saving buildings from government.


To review and get feedback on the target indicators of strategic planning, the Sydney municipal government has set up a comprehensive urban carbon audit system and a special plan of evaluation mechanism on its implementation. The implementation evaluation results of recent years show that strategic planning has exerted a significant impact on the operation of various aspects of the city. The following are the achieved indicators of corresponding strategic planning:

  • Emissions of Greenhouse gas fell 17%.

  • The share of renewable energy generation rose to 14%; and the vegetation coverage increased 10.3%.

  • Private housing increased by 17,931 units compared with that in 2006.

  • The total number of public housing reached 9,561, accounting for 8.9% of the housing proportion; and affordable housing was 835 units, 0.8% of the total.

  • 437,000 jobs were found, of which 69,000 were added.

  • The bus travel rate increased from 73.3% to 74.5%.

  • The walking rate increased from 48.6% to 49.2%.

  • It has been assessed that most of the service facilities are accessible for the vast majority of residents within walking distance.

  • The urban green network is under construction.

  • 75% of residents believe most people are trustworthy.


1. The municipal government has difficulty in implementing the program.

Sydney municipal government plays a leading role in formulating long-term strategic planning, but it is merely the capital of New South Wales in Australia. Many important infrastructures and engineering managements are under the authority of state government, and the construction of infrastructures like electricity are mainly fulfilled by Australia grid companies, so Sydney municipal government has very limited power in events related to important decisions on urban energy development.

The investment made by Sydney municipal government in urban upgrading each year is also limited. The problem of this city to be addressed is how to improve the cohesion of multilevel government and urban infrastructure vendors to promote sustainable urban renewal.

2. Sustainable innovation measures need to be incorporated into the national standard system.

Green building and sustainable urban renewal measures in Sydney have been in the top in Australia and even international fields, but applying advanced technology system to other engineering construction still needs to make further efforts on the cohesion of national standard. BASIX and NCC, made about 12 years ago, are the standards of new buildings energy and water use planning and construction in Australia respectively. They are still used as minimum standards across the country, which may lead to the non-key engineering projects being constructed at a relatively high energy consumption level.


Delivering Sustainable Sydney 2030 is long-term plan full of innovation. The program, driven by the government and enterprises, aimed at sustainable development and enjoyable living conditions of cities. It is required to enhance the standards of new areas of the city and prioritize sustainable idea and construction requirements so as to make Sydney more competitive. Two programs are particularly worth mentioning.

1. Barangaroo program

Barangaroo is located in the north of Sydney CBD, covering the area of 22 hectares. Next to the Darling Harbor, it is not merely an emerging place which is restored and upgraded from the old industrial port, but also a comprehensive community with a combination of CBD office, residence, leisure, hotel, shopping, and park. The main motivation for the development of the Barangaroo is to improve Sydney’s international competitiveness and build a new international financial center by taking advantage of the excellent location of the central port.

Different from skyscrapers with only offices, Barangaroo program gives full consideration to the ecological protection area and develop various functions such as residential and commercial use, office, leisure and recreation. Besides, it demonstrates its concept of sustainable development during the whole process. These measure mainly includes:

  • Ensure that more than 50% of the land is in open areas and water areas;

  • The walking system connects the whole area and connects the urban area and the waterfront area to ensure the walking accessibility;

  • Affordable housing for 10% of residents;

  • Building layout improves daily lighting rate and wind environment suitability.

  • The design and construction of buildings should be included in the high standard of star rating of green buildings.

Among them, some innovative sustainable measures can be seen in the construction of natural parks and six-star green buildings in CBD:

Harbor foreshore district built a six hectares of Barangaroo reservation area. The Barangaroo program rebuilt a container port as the natural park by taking advantages of advanced technology and more than 75,000 species of local plants in Sydney. The 10,000 sandstone beaches excavated from the site are also included in the design, creating a green public space in the golden CBD area. The key of the reserve lies in the water cycle system which is built in underground parking lot. The system mainly consists of the storage of influent seepage and the storage system of rainstorm runoff. All the rains accumulated will be used in watering vegetation and municipal use. 

Sydney tower, the largest building in this area, was built according to the six-star international green building standard. Its three towers were integrated with sophisticated technology of energy saving, making it the most environmentally friendly buildings for commercial use in Australia. This program utilizes superior materials for environmental protection. For example, the solar photovoltaic panels of the rooftop cover the area of 6000 square meters. Each tower is equipped with 90000 liters of rainwater savings pool for the whole building of rainwater storage and recycling. In additional to the supplied air-conditioning, the sea water is used in cooling and circulation system. The disposal and recycling of sewage and wastes are handled respectively with corresponding systems. All mentioned-above measures are conducive to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality.

2. Green Square Program

Located in the old industrial zone in the south of Sydney, the renovation program named “Green Square” is by far the most important urban renewal programs in Sydney. The program, covering an area of about 14 hectares, is mainly industrial and storage land. This land will be renovated as a key cultural, commercial and residential centre of Sydney. 

Taking advantage of the new area construction opportunity, the Sydney municipal government and the Australian green building commission have reached an agreement that the green square project will enter the green star community evaluation system. According to the demands of green star international community, “Green Square” program needs to conform to a series of sustainable planning and construction standards, including the management of residential rain flood and water treatment, energy efficiency standard of green buildings, the standard of water recycle, etc. Sydney municipal government has established a special working group docking “Green Square” program developers, guiding and supervising the implementation of the five aspects (management, livable degrees, economic dynamics, environment and innovation) that the construction of star green community requires.

In the meanwhile, the library and square in the center of Green Square is in accordance with the highest five-star green building standards to design and construct to become one of the finest examples of green public building in Sydney. Rainwater recycling and reusing system are applied to the whole community, making the most use of water resources.

Lessons learned

1. Tackling climate change requires turning strategies into actions.

Sydney municipal government has begun to tackle climate change as the core to form guiding documents for the future urban development as early as in 2006. improving the adaptation of unban climate needs both the goals and visions, but also practical action plans. The government has verified the strategic target based on actions made each year, and developed some periodical goals and measures to ensure the ongoing implementation of the long-term strategy for urban development.

2. Urban innovation and development needs to focus on understanding people’s needs

The strategic planning of Sydney has carried out two to three years of the public consultation at the early stage. During the planing, citizens’ ideas of different topics are widely collected. The government adopted various forms of opinion survey to know the needs of the society at all levels. In particular, it made an in-depth research of Sydney aborigines opinion of urban development, and met the needs of aborigines such as supporting the development of aborigines in economy, culture and employment.

3. Changing from technological innovation to mechanism innovation is an important path to realize urban development.

Internationally, the Sydney government has joined C40, 100 flexible cities and other global sustainable development organizations to assist the formulation of urban sustainable strategies with the international top expert database. In the field of enterprises, the mayor constructed platforms for political and business cooperation and adhered to win-win cooperation to mobilize big enterprises to engage in zero-carbon building construction. In addition, the community establish a platform named Green Villages and promoted activities such as green irrigation, green rooftop, vertical greening, waste recycling, environmental protection education and so forth in community workshops. The concept of sustainable development is also deeply connected with the practical measures the citizens can take in community.


1. Public engagement in urban planning should be strengthened so as to the voices of different groups can be heard.

Public engagement is not only an important part of urban development strategy and overall planning, but also a crucial means to coordinate various conflicts of interest distribution in planning and to seek solutions to them. Sydney’s attention to the voices of different social groups, extensive and effective media publicity and planning meeting the public demands are worthy of reference.

2. Measures for sustainable innovation should prioritize key pilot programs and sample promotion.

It is worth learning from the practice and innovation of key programs in Sydney’s urban development area to build green buildings and green communities with high standards. Urban renewal and transformation accompany with both opportunities and challenges. It is necessary to set up the platform for cooperation with domestic and international experts, lay down active policies about the application  of sustainable technology, prioritize innovative technology and measures in key projects including water circulation system, star green building and intelligent solutions. Pilot first and then if the sample in technical and political extent are all accessible, its application can be widely promoted step by step.

3. Green and low-carbon requirements need to be incorporated into the whole process of urban planning and construction management.

Sydney sets up green and low-carbon requirements in the new and renewed land standards. It is required that the land developers should meet the relevant conditions and carry out the green development measures to obtain relevant construction permits. Meanwhile, Sydney is on the way to bring some higher standards of low carbon sustainable measures into the construction standards.