A landmark Canberra development which was touted for its environmental credentials when it was completed less than a decade ago has been forced into a backflip by residents to allow private air conditioning.
The Nishi building owners' corporation has voted to allow unit owners to install concealed air conditioning units on their balconies, reversing previous regulations which effectively banned permanent air conditioners.
The move comes as new modelling suggests cooling requirements for buildings in the ACT will grow significantly as temperatures climb if they are not designed to withstand future climate conditions.
A general meeting of the owners' corporation passed a special resolution to allow air conditioning installations 22-1 late last month.
Real estate agent Tony Barker, who has sold 35 units in the building, said many of his clients had been attracted to the Nishi building because of its environmentally-conscious design, but the rule change would open up options for people.
"For example, last year obviously with the bushfire smoke, where you've got a building that works primarily on cross ventilation, you can't open the windows," Mr Barker said.
Mr Barker, who is the precincts manager for Crowthers Property, said air conditioning would take the edge off the heat within the building on the 5 per cent of days when it was really needed.
"I think some people that are a little bit sceptical of how the building works, not being able to have air conditioning up until this point has been a bit of a deal-breaker for them. But, you know, obviously that's going to be an option for them in the future," he said.
Mr Barker said running air conditioners for short bursts would reintroduce cool air into the building which was designed to remain cool during hot weather.
"People won't just be sitting out on their balcony getting smashed by the hum of 40 different air conditioning units," he said.
Mr Barker said new rules to maintain the aesthetic integrity of the building meant the air conditioning change was unlikely to put off potential owners.
When completed in 2014, the Nishi apartment building achieved an Australian house energy rating score of eight stars.
London-based engineering firm Arup, which worked on the Nishi building, said on its website detailed climate analysis in the design process meant the building responded to its environment while maximising energy efficiency.
"This modelling of the building in its surrounding context enabled the inclusion of passive design elements such as central full height atriums and high performance operable facades. These elements were optimised for natural ventilation and daylighting in order to reduce the need for mechanical conditioning and artificial lighting," the firm said.
Nishi building architects Fender Katsalidis declined to comment, and the Molonglo Group, which developed the building and surrounding precinct, did not respond to written questions before deadline.
The Molonglo Group sold the commercial wings of the Nishi building to Centuria Metropolitan Real Estate Investment Trust in 2019 for $256 million.
The Nishi building, which includes 220 apartments, won the International Project of the Year at the 2015 Building Awards in London.
Temperatures in the city did not reach 40 degrees for 25 years between 1973 and 1998.
Between 1913 and 2006, Canberra recorded nine days above 40 degrees. Since 2007, the city has recorded 21 days at 40 degrees or above.
Modelling by researchers in Victoria and Queensland found office buildings in Canberra optimised for present climate conditions would see the cooling load rise by 6 per cent by 2080.
A CSIRO report found in 2017 that the effects of climate change in Canberra's urban areas would create a growing risk of heat-related illness in the city.