After another summer of sorrow across Australia, we look to rebuild.
Fire-damaged properties will rise again, ravaged communities will feature parks and playgrounds once more, and our towns will carry on.
While we acknowledge the devastation will continue, the coming reconstruction is a chance to make our built environment better.
Australia is sadly familiar with the impacts of natural disasters, but in many cases we have failed to harness the optimism and initial groundswell of support and funds to “build back better”.
Flood-damaged bridges have been rebuilt, only to flood again. Homes continue to be allowed in high-risk fire zones. And too often, the buildings themselves do not display optimal sustainability features that will help us respond to a more uncertain future.
The rebuilding efforts underway are an opportunity to shape and create more resilient and future-proofed communities to provide improved living standards and more climate-appropriate buildings.
Our future built environment will be subject to greater unpredictability in climate and its extreme impacts.
We know more heat, more cyclones, and more fires will be the consequence of the globe’s changing climate patterns.
While we’re guiding the built environment to play its part in limiting global warming, we must do better to enhance our buildings for this eventuality.
The Green Building Council of Australia’s Future Focus program is overhauling our ratings system to include a number of new and improved measures to reduce emissions and to expand the importance of climate resilience across our built environment.
We are consulting on a new category of resilience that acknowledges changing requirements for the coming decades. Resilience has always been an integral part of Green Star ratings, but our new approach through Future Focus highlights the importance of this issue to us and our members.
We need to be resourceful to come up with new ways to rebuild, instead of repeating the old ways that have contributed to the unprecedented scale of these disasters.
The provision of infrastructure and property should focus on the likely impacts of disasters.
We want to encourage the development of property that is robust to the changing climate, and flexible enough to deal with those impacts if required.
Systems should have backups in place to allow functions to continue in a crisis. And the negative impacts of such crises should be minimised through more effective design and materials.
A world-leading asset and its surrounding should be better able to withstand external shocks and return to normal functioning quickly.
Under the draft Future Focus resilience credit, project teams will be asked to review the potential stresses and impacts the building could be expected to be endure.
This could include the loss of power, water and digital access, natural disasters, direct physical or cyber attacks and rising energy costs.
An operational plan with objectives to address the risks should address the high and system-level risks. Internal and external stakeholders should confirm the risks and the performance goals. End emergency responses should be mapped out.
Likewise, the likely impacts of climate change and rising sea levels should be acknowledged and addressed.
As we continue our consultation on these proposals – through written responses, seminars and industry engagement– we thank our industry partners for their shared enthusiasm for a more resilient and better built environment.
Together we can build back better.
By Elham Monavari, Green Building Council of Australia Senior Manager, Strategic Projects