The GBCA’s Green Star - Communities National Framework has established five principles to help and encourage the development of new and existing sustainable communities in Australia.

The Green Star – Communities rating tool is one of the world’s first independent national schemes able to measure and certify the sustainability of community-level projects. Released as a pilot in June 2012, the tool has been developed by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) in collaboration with government, public and private sector developers.

The framework aims to provide national consistency and a common language around the definition of best practice sustainable communities, encourage innovation and excellence in the approach to creating future communities, promote integration across the field of sustainability issues related to communities, facilitate stakeholder engagement during the evolution of sustainable communities and provide a basis for ongoing assessment and evaluation of sustainable community evolution.

“A sustainable community is the one that has aspirations for the future that acknowledge the challenges brought about by change. It is liveable, resilient, diverse and adaptable,” the GBCA said. “It strives for a lower carbon and ecological footprint. A sustainable community evolves through policy and collaborative practice that respects and embraces the aspirations of existing and future community stakeholders.”

For the purposes of this framework, the term ‘community’ comprises any precinct, place, neighbourhood or other geographic area that includes infrastructure designed to provide energy and water, manage waste, communications, technology and transport; private and public buildings and public realm; people living or visiting the place; biological systems within the environment; economy, and governance and services.

To assist communities in Australia and internationally to meet a sustainable future, the Green Star – Communities team established five principles:

1. Enhance liveability

According to this principle, communities should provide a diverse array of dwellings, buildings and facilities that reflect their broad socio-economic needs. They should also provide access to local services such as transport, food, health and conveniences.

Healthy, safe and secure communities should be enabled and promoted through partnerships, effective urban design and landscape planning that support physical activity, providing opportunities for and raising the awareness of healthy activities.

Diverse and inclusive environments for all ages, abilities, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds of the community should be provided. The built environment should be flexible with the capacity to adapt to changing community and individual needs and to expectations, whether influenced by the economy, environment, culture or other life circumstances. Creating opportunities for a diversity of uses and activities will enable communities to meet future challenges.

2. Create opportunities for economic prosperity

Create opportunities for economic prosperity

This principle highlights the importance of promoting education and learning, providing opportunities for the community to access a variety of education and learning systems.

By enhancing employment opportunities, creating diverse employment opportunities that meet the needs of local and regional communities and facilitating access to them, communities will increase the production and procurement of local goods and services.

It is also important to attract investment, providing key infrastructure that enables community and business connectivity, to encourage business and community innovation through initiatives that recognise and reward local excellence, and to promote efficiency and effectiveness.

3. Foster environmental responsibility

Foster environmental responsibility

Sustainable communities should respect the environmental systems that support them. They should protect and restore the natural environmental values of their bio-regions and promote infrastructure, transport and buildings that reduce their ecological footprint.

This principle includes the promotion of environmentally efficient systems for water and waste management and reuse, sustainable energy generation and distribution, and waste recycling.

Communities are encouraged to provide sustainable transport opportunities and to reuse existing sites and buildings. It is also important to educate communities on their individual and collective impacts by making resource savings and consumption data explicit within the built environment.

The objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contaminants and other pollutants to land, water and atmosphere and to minimize the risk of extreme natural events and the impacts of climate change.

4. Embrace design excellence

Embrace design excellence

To ensure a community is sustainable, its design should consider density, mixed use buildings, connectivity and the protection of valuable land uses such as agriculture.

While maintaining flexible and adaptable approaches, communities should create opportunities to retrofit and revitalise existing precincts, places and buildings, providing for development, planning flexibility and adaptability to support continuous improvement of the built environment.

Communities should also be able to adapt effectively to climate change and other environmental and physical conditions so that people’s comfort, health, safety and well-being are enhanced.

The aim behind this concept is to reinforce a sense of place, bolster community identity and include local character within design. Creating a sense of connection with nature and encouraging high quality, integrated and safe public realm spaces that meet the needs of the local community is crucial.

To apply this principle, designers and planners should conserve and celebrate cultural heritage and archaeological assets across landscapes, places and sites; create functional, vibrant, stimulating and memorable places that evolve for people to live, work and play; and promote accessibility.

They should also place higher density buildings close to public transport and services to encourage active transport, promote public health and enhance public transport use, encouraging accessibility, diversity and mixed use development that can reflect local values and meet both local and metropolitan needs.

5. Demonstrate visionary leadership and strong governance

Demonstrate visionary leadership and strong governance

Creating sustainable communities is not possible without leadership and strong governance frameworks that are transparent, accountable and adaptable. They enable active partnerships to build capacity and achieve a shared vision and deliver stakeholder benefit.

In applying this principle, communities should foster sustainable cultures and behaviours; raise awareness among stakeholders and provide education and learning opportunities that enable more sustainable practices; and encourage sustainable behaviours and systems for monitoring environmental data, sharing information and allowing for continual improvement mechanisms .