When it comes to sustainability the Sydney Opera House matches its annual program of world class performances and experiences with an ambitious sustainability program.
- 11 million visitors annually
- 5 million people in the audience
- 1800 performances
- 560,000 people take a guided tour
When it comes to sustainability the Sydney Opera House matches its annual program of world class performances and experiences with an ambitious sustainability program. What’s more, they excel in performance in this area as well as on the stage.
With a mission to treasure and renew the Opera House for future generations of artists, audiences and visitors and to inspire, and strengthen the community, The Sydney Over House is serious about their state, national and world heritage listings, the United Nations Sustainability goals and the important role they play not just for the Sydney House but also in leading example in minimising environmental impact.
Sustaining history, culture and the arts
The Sydney Opera House was built upon Tubowgule, Gadigal country and supports the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Looking after a ‘masterpiece of human creative genius’, as described by the UN, that is home to eight flagship resident companies – Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Bell Shakespeare, Opera Australia, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and The Australian Ballet and a broad range of other parties that host performances, talks and children programs – is a team effort. A dedicatedenvironmental plan has driven the Sydney Opera House’s sustainability goals since 2010.
Sustaining the narratives of past and present for the future
As Australia’s premier performance space, for the last 50 years the Sydney Opera House has been committed to storytelling. Their performance program is a reflection of those who dared to think differently when the structure of the building was still imagined. Patrons enjoy eclectic narratives from diverse perspectives shared through performances of dance, opera, dialogue and music. The Sydney Opera House plays a vital role in sustaining all manner of stories that represent culture past present and into the future as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Greening the House
The Sydney Opera House is at the pinnacle of Australian excellence in building management and sustainability initiatives. They call it “Greening the House.”
Sustainability has always been in the plans for the House. Architect Jørn Utzon embedded sustainability principles including an innovative seawater cooling system into the House, 50 years ago.
There has been a range of actions taken to ensure the Sydney Opera House minimises its impact on the environment, from building projects to performance, the audience and visitors in a sustainable way.
Green star rated
Australia’s first heritage building nationally to have been recognised with a 5 star Green Star performance rating from the Green Building Council of Australia. It is one of a few World heritage-listed sites to achieve equivalent recognition.
Not one to rest on the ability to hold a high note, the Sydney Opera House aims to go one higher to achieve a 6 star Green Star performance rating in 2022. To reach the top of the scale, the Opera House also plans to achieve sustainable event management certification by 2023.
Carbon Neutral Certification
The Sydney Opera House achieved carbon neutral certification in 2018. Building efficiencies have offset 17,500 tonnes of CO2 via renewable energy and biodiversity offset projects.
A new Building Management Control System to improve climate control and to monitor energy and water use has led to a 9% reduction in energy use. Jørn Utzon’s innovative seawater chiller units that feed the House’s cooling system were also upgraded.
There are plans to power the House through alternative resources – solar panels off site, for example.
The Opera House plans to move beyond carbon neutral towards a climate positive position by 2023, in concert with its 50th birthday.
Lighting up the stage with LED
The House is lit up by LED creating efficiencies in replacement, energy, lowering UV emissions and with no mercury elements the environmental impact is better all round.
The reef under the House
Built on innovation and original design, the Sydney Opera House is also involved in sustainability projects under the water. Supporting a research project with the University of Technology, Sydney, and funded through a NSW Environmental Trust grant, an artificial reef has been established along the seawall.
Constructed from marine grade steel and concrete, designed to encrust with seaweed and sea life, 28 reef pods are in place to bring sea life back into Sydney Harbour. The reef attracts striped leatherjackets, bream, cornetfish and the ‘Gloomy’ octopus.
The Sydney Opera House is pioneering projects that can be applied to other harbours around the world.
Sydney Opera House Sustainability Champions (SEALs)
30 Sustainability staff participate in environmentally focussed initiatives.
Sustaining Sydney Harbour through actions such as Clean Up Australia Day are a key activity for the SEALs, in a commitment to contribute to the protection and biodiversity of the environment.
Staff walk the talk, more than 80% of employees choose sustainable transport options.
Driving single use plastics out of the House
Aiming that the only footprint will be tapping onstage and in the aisles, Team Opera House has been driving single use plastics out of the house for some years now. All plastic bags have been replaced with paper, saving 90,000 plastic bags annually. Food and beverage operators process 2.5 million orders annually.
Joining the City of Sydney’s Sydney doesn’t Suck campaign eliminated 2.2million drinking straws and 30,000 plastic cups, saving these from landfill.
From 2020 onwards all drink ware will be reusable for in-venue events, including Forecourt concerts and Vivid.
Recycle and reuse
Sydney Opera House fosters a circular economy to rethink waste, reduce the volume of waste generated and achieve their 85% recycling rate target. Reducing potable water by 35% has been achieved since 2018.
In its current Decade of Renewal program it is committed to recycling a minimum of 80% of construction waste.
Aligned to Global Goals (UN Sustainable Development Goals)
Thinking beyond the Sydney Harbour shoreline and its iconic position on the world stage, the UN Global Goals ( SDG’s) underpin the Sydney Opera House environmental performance to the highest standard in conserving natural resources, minimising waste, protecting the natural environment and inspiring change in the community.
Your visit to the Sydney Opera House
The Sydney Opera House aims to inspire guests with its leading examples and commitment to sustainability, not just of this unique structure and globally adored icon on Sydney Harbour, but also to the environment it enjoys.
Transport links at Circular Quay allow visitors to travel to the Opera House by ferry, train, tram and bus. Then it’s just a short walk along the Sydney Writers Walk that fringes Sydney Harbour with stellar views all the way to the Sydney Opera House.
Experiences that support sustainability
All experiences at the Sydney Opera House support Tourism Australia’s sustainable tourism guidelines through maintaining Australia’s history and heritage and showcasing respect and understanding for indigenous culture. Your tour guide will draw out the sustainable themes as you explore the history and architecture, savour a Taste of the House, discover what’s under the Sails and in the concert halls or be wowed by a private performance. Observe Badu Gili, the Indigenous artworks that are celebrated on the sails of the Sydney Opera House each day at sunset.
5 star Green Star performance rating – Green Building Council of Australia
NSW Large Business Transformation Award – Banksia Foundation’s NSW Sustainability Awards 2021