There’s no shortage of debate around green credibility in the construction industry, whether it’s questions around the latest rating tools, or the merit of certain sustainability features. With that in mind, one wonders how we as an industry might one day circumvent the disputes and authentically encourage building owners, land owners, and tenants to put sustainability first – because it just makes sense.

Recently, Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) founders Che Wall and Maria Atkinson criticised the organisation’s proposed changes to the Green Star rating tool, claiming that an effort to make accreditation more attainable would “water down its role by extending the Green Star rating system to buildings that fall below the very top tier of sustainable practices and techniques,” according to the Australian Financial Review.

On the topic of “watering down” the meaning of green, Pip Marks from Sustainability Soapbox asserts that many sustainability features built into “green” buildings and developments do not actually accomplish what they were designed to do. She points to the common case where co- and tri-generation systems are installed but are not run for the full year, or where rainwater tanks are topped up while other potentially reusable sources go down the drain.

Australia’s alleged “green building revolution” is the topic of debate for Jeroen van der Heijden, assistant professor of environmental governance at Australian National University. Writing for The Conversation, he asserts that there is only a revolution happening in the high-end office blocks of Australia’s CBD, where incentives are most attractive. He notes that Australia’s many other market segments need their own inspiration and tools to kickstart their own green building revolution, otherwise they may continue to lag behind.

But can we ever excel in implementing green initiatives without the incentives? Can we keep the momentum up on our own, simply because it’s the right thing to do for our future? With all the buzz around ratings and credits, it may be easy to lose sight of what it actually means to build green, and how easy (and low cost) it can be to incorporate sustainability initiatives into a building or development.

Here’s a roundup of some of the easiest green building choices we can make; that is, simple ways to make a positive impact on our environment as we build for tomorrow:

1) Ensure every space is located and designed to maximise natural daylight
2) Ensure every space is designed to maximise the use of natural ventilation
3) Reuse and adapt existing furniture and joinery to reduce landfill (& costs)
4) Use room lighting circuits in small zones and controlled by motion and/or light sensors
5) Design for deconstruction and flexibility – use modular elements that can move and adapt to your changing needs
6) Design space for plants to improve indoor air quality
7) Use “loose-fit” services so they can be replaced easily when their lifespan runs out without major construction work
8) Do your research on green lighting – it’s about more than just the bulb

By: Michael Pitcher, Environmental Scientist, Schiavello
  • A cost effective approach to green building is to make sure than the space in the building is used efficiently.

  • Incentives serve as the bedrock for modern economies – they'll be indispensable to promoting sustainable building within the industry.

  • A hot topic at the moment! There is definitely more that can be done to ensure greater sustainability in building construction and design; particularly in the residential sector.

  • As a registered Building Inspector I was amazed when I recently "pulled out" the thermal imaging camera to do a final inspection on a multi million dollar build that was promoted as a "green" building to find the window frames did not comply with the permit and the energy rating. ????? Design as much as you like but be aware that might not what you get what is designed at the end of the build. Where do you go from here. ?????

  • The problem we have in Oz is that nobody ever talks about insulating
    the external building envelope, either in new construction or in retrofits, as being the single most cost effective method to reduce the carbon footprint of a building. And while we are at it, can we start to build well sealed buildings as well? We are around 25 years behind the rest of the world. Green lighting – great, but lets get serious about this. Also in support of Mike Price's comment –
    "As Built" is unfortunately (and repeatedly) not "As Drawn."