One of Australia's leading sustainability advocates claims that green building in the country continues to be hampered by the lack of unity or communication between the devisers of multiple performance codes and criteria.
According to Maria Atkinson, co-founder and former CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia, the creation of greener built environments throughout the country is already fully viable from both an economic and practical perspective.
“You can no longer say that green building is more expensive in terms of capital costs – that’s an assumption that we need to challenge,” said Atkinson. “The international research to date – from groups like McGraw Hill as well as the Green Building Council, more than proves this.”
Insufficient expertise is also no longer an impediment, given that the strong push for sustainability since the turn of the century has already produced an ample pool of professional talent for the creation of greener built environments.
“We can’t say that we lack the consulting, engineering and architectural capability for green building in Australia,” said Atkinson.
Given that economic and practical constraints are no longer issues, Atkinson points to the lack of communication between the devisers of multiple performance criteria as a key impediment to the broader adoption of green building measures.
“The problem is that the mandatory and voluntary codes and performance criteria aren’t talking to each other – they are all asking for different information that isn’t joined together,” said Atkinson. “This could be easily remedied, by coming together and following international protocols for energy efficiency and the measurement of greenhouse gas outcomes.”
Atkinson calls specifically for greater coordination and communication between the three main providers of green building codes and benchmarks within Australia, and the adoption of international best practices.
“We just need to get our three main entities for the built environment – the relevant parts of section J of the Building Code, the Green Building Council’s Green Star, and the government-led NABERS rating, to essentially come together to work on international best practice for measuring environmental outcomes,” said Atkinson.
“You would expect that an Australian best practice or international best practice ranking in your building certification to indicate that you had obviously met the building code requirements – using the same documentation and methodology for meeting various requirements makes sense for a country as small as ours.
“If you did that you would save time and money, because there wouldn’t be replication or the need to satisfy three different requirements.”
According to Atkinson, the impetus for these changes needs to come from either regulators or the “food chain of investors and developers,” as the existence of multiple criteria can actually be of benefit to consultants.
“The professional services industry isn’t calling for this because they all get to generate fees by doing three different approaches,” she said. “But it’s not in the interests of the community or the broader industry.”
Green building advocates in North America are also pushing for the standardisation of their own performance criteria, with the International Code Council, the US Green Building Council, the American Institute of Architects, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and AHRAE collaborating on upcoming editions of the International Green Construction Code, ASHRAE Standard 189.1 and the LEED standard.