The entire Brisbane Airport site has been awarded the first Green Star Communities rating by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

 The 2,700-hectare site, operated by the Brisbane Airport Corporation, consisting of commercial office, mixed use, retail and industrial buildings, has achieved a 4 Star Green Star Communities rating under the PILOT version of the rating tool [1].

Assessed against credits for liveability, economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, design excellence, governance and innovation, this rating provides Brisbane Airport Corporation with an independent verification for commitment to sustainable development.

Green Star – Communities is a voluntary rating tool which provides best practice benchmarks and third-party verification of the sustainability of community and precinct-wide developments.

The tool was devised by the GBCA to drive the development of more sustainable, productive and liveable Australian communities.  As presented in the Green Star Communities business Case, the Green Star Communities rating tool can be utilised by the government and construction industry to deliver communities that take an integrated holistic approach to social, economic and sustainable factors [2].

The Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) is a private Queensland company, responsible for the operation of the Brisbane Airport including all airport infrastructure investment with no government funding.

The BAC has a strong environmental and sustainability commitment as part of its four pillars of sustainability approach, which calls for economic, operational, environmental and social sustability. Included in those goals is the commitment to achieve best practice in urban and built design, and BAC is using the GBCA Green Rating tool to achieve and verify this goal.

The airport hosts a large Brisbane community which currently employs 20,500 people. The airport has 420 businesses operating on the site, offering services such as freight and aircraft handling, warehousing, transport and communications, manufacturing, research, property and infrastructure development, education and training, recreation, tourism, leisure and retail. It is the second-busiest capital airport in Australia with 219,904 aircraft movements in 2014 bringing 4,923,274 people into Brisbane.

To achieve the 4 Star accreditation, the BAC had to undertake comprehensive stakeholder engagement consultation, develop a strategy for facilities, programs and events that promote cohesion and interaction between the people who use the precinct.

“This achievement gives us reassurance that we’re on the right track and further encourages us to do even more for sustainability so that Brisbane Airport is regarded as a world leader in this space,” said BAC chief executive officer Julieanne Alroe [3].

As indicated on the GBCA Project Directory, there are 13 Green Star projects registered for the Green Star Communities PILOT tool, including Lend Lease’s Barangaroo South Millers Point NSW, Bowden Village – a 5,000 square metre development in South Australia – and Ecco Ripley, a Sekisui House community development. The airport is the first and only project to receive full accreditation under the GBCA Green Star Community PILOT rating tool to date.

It is evident that the private developers have embraced the pilot communities rating tool, but have any Australia or State governments committed support of Green Star Community rating tool in planning and approval of significant community development projects?

Queensland, it seems, will return to a greener sustainability agenda with the swearing-in of the newly elected Labor party.

“In the lead-up to the Queensland election, the Labor Party advised us that any government it formed would ‘commit to working towards achieving Green Star ratings,” said GBCA chief executive officer Romilly Madew [4].

Some NSW local governments have also indicated a desire for sustainable communities, with projects opting to adopt Green Star Community Development principles. Most fall short of requesting a rating, with the exception of the Parramatta City Council registering Parramatta Square for Green Star Community accreditation. Parramatta City Council stated that “Parramatta Square will provide best practice benchmarks with third-party verification for sustainability and livability at the precinct-level” [5].

Sustainability has had a long and rocky journey these past 10 years in Australia’s construction history. Only time will tell if government and developers will invest in this next holistic approach to sustainability and liveability. The question remains, will they place value in rating tools and benchmarking for vibrant, dynamic, prosperous communities or will the post GFC return-on-investment continue to define a projects worth?