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Continuing to work towards zero carbon at U City

AUGUST 2019. Carbon Neutral Ambassador, Uniting Communities, opened the doors to its brand new U City building to the public on 6 August, marking the launch of a unique mixed-use community in the heart of the Adelaide CBD. In 2018, the U City development was recognised as South Australia’s ‘greenest’ building design to date by the Green Building Council of Australia, with a 6 Star Green Star design rating.

Home to accessible accommodation, retirement living, commercial tenants, a Function Centre, retail, hospitality and more, U City is also the new home of Uniting Communities’ social service hub in the city with more than 200 staff now working in the building.

Uniting Communities has a long-standing commitment to reducing its carbon emissions and remaining carbon neutral. In 2015, it became the first charity in Australia and the first organisation in South Australia to achieve carbon neutral certification.  

Staff have been an integral part of this commitment from the start, supporting the organisation to reduce waste to landfill, fuel and electricity consumption. In 2017/18, Uniting Communities achieved an overall reduction of 5.2% in its carbon emissions. It has also purchased offsets from the first SA-based biodiverse native vegetation project, as well as other offsets providing social and environmental outcomes to support its efforts.

A dedicated ‘Beyond Carbon Neutral’ Committee – made up of staff from all around the organisation – meets regularly to collaborate on initiatives that will help raise awareness and inspire action among the wider staff community of more than 900 people working across the state.

‘Our staff understand that the effects of climate change will most adversely affect people who are disadvantaged – the people we’re supporting every day,’ says Committee Chair, Trudy Howard. ‘U City will take this commitment to the next level, not only through the ongoing efforts of Uniting Communities’ staff, but also through those of our residents, tenants and visitors.’

U City has been designed to use 45 per cent less energy and 30 per cent less water than a comparable new building. Ninety-six per cent of materials from the structure on the previous site were recycled, and the building comprises recycled reinforced steel. The northern window façade features shading to reduce heat load, with many of the windows double- or triple-glazed. The majority of lights throughout U City are LEDs on timers and sensors – these will adjust to the amount of natural light available, thereby reducing power required.

Other sustainability features include:

  • an embedded electricity network
  • a 55-kilowatt solar photo-voltaic (PV) array on the roof providing renewable energy
  • gas-boosted solar hot water
  • water-efficient fixtures and fittings
  • sustainable transport options such as bicycle racks and end of trip facilities
  • provision for electric-vehicle charging stations for occupants.

‘Our longer-term aim is to see U City operate as a carbon neutral building,’ says Uniting Communities Chief Executive, Simon Schrapel. ‘In the future, we aim to expand our Green Star design credentials into our operations and become Green Star Certified for Performance. Ensuring U City operates at optimum efficiency with the lowest possible carbon footprint is a natural extension of Uniting Communities’ environmental commitment.

‘We hope U City – and Uniting Communities’ broader efforts around sustainability – will offer inspiration to other organisations considering ways to reduce their carbon footprint.’

For more information about U City, visit