The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has officially certified close to one thousand projects since the release of the Green Star Rating System. It might come as a surprise to many that no two projects are ever identical.

This is due to factors such as site-specific attributes, ownership structure, design teams, head contractors and the appointed subcontractors, through to the different assessors appointed by the GBCA to provide feedback on the project’s level of documentation.

Having worked on Green Star projects for over 10 years, we hope to offer guidance for you to better understand what it takes to deliver projects to a Green Star certified level or equivalent.

This article is aimed at project head contractors, and looks at understanding the project team and the deliverables for a Green Star Design and As Built v1 Rating.

1. Knowing Your Scope

Depending on the strategy set by the developer/owner, as a head contractor you may be contractually obligated to deliver a certified Green Star rated project, assessed and awarded only by the GBCA, or you may be contracted to deliver a project designed using Green Star as a benchmark.

In the first instance, and prior to the appointment of the head contractor, the project team should develop a plan or pathway for how the project aims to meet the Star Rating benchmarks. For the newly released Rating scheme, the method of achieving compliance will need to be undertaken in accordance with the class of the project and its respective Australian Standards and Building Codes. The strategy must be clear, minimising any ambiguity on how the project will achieve its targeted Star Rating and identifying the budget required to for each credit to be met.

When there is no detailed and agreed-upon strategy, the risk for the head contractor is high. Not only do you need to understand the current state of the design, you will also need to analyse how compliant the project is in relation to the respective credits and benchmarks needed to meet the desired Green Star rating. You may need to change the design entirely to meet benchmarks, which will be costly for the project team and pose a risk to meeting deliverables in the program.

Some projects may only use the rating tool as a benchmark, without going through the actual As Built certification and Design Review process. Although a formal certification may not be in the scope of works, the head contractor may need to confirm that the design is compliant and is equivalent to a Green Star rating. This is determined by the building owner/developer, and documentation for compliance may be negotiated.

2. Project Team

Once you have clarified your scope, you then need to understand who will be part of your team to get the project over the line. Due to the administrative nature of some of the tasks, in particular the requirement to track materials and paperwork associated with a Green Star As Built submission, the responsibilities for the Green Star process are often assigned to a cadet or graduate to manage.

The positives of this are that cadets/graduates are eager to learn, are not afraid to ask questions, and are more cost-effective than someone more senior. On the other hand, they are brought onto a project with little experience within the construction industry and often have had no exposure to or interest in the Green Star processes. Frequently, there is minimal support from senior managers and the common practice of regular graduate rotations means they often don’t see out the Green Star process on one project. This can result in the disjointed management, collection and collation of documents and it often ends up last minute. This can pose a higher risk of non-compliance and may compromise the ability to meet project target dates.

Not only will this put a strain on the head contractor, who is obligated to deliver a certified rating, but it also has a flow-on effect on the appointed subcontractors, the building owner – who is unable to market their building without a formal certification – and the appointed Green Star Accredited Professional (GSAP) who will be submitting the documentation to the GBCA for assessment.

The project team must also consider every trade and services contractor within the project, and define their respective obligations for the credits with which they are involved to meet requirements and deliver the correct documentation at the different stages of the project. Each contractor is responsible for liaising with their own suppliers for compliance evidence and certification documents. If the chain of documentation is broken, there is an increased level of non-compliance risk.

Depending on the arrangement of contracts between the building owner and the GSAP, the owner’s representative may also be a part of your ‘Green Star’ team. Their level of involvement will depend on how they have scoped responsibilities prior to the engagement of the head contractor. This can vary from project to project. Notwithstanding the owner’s involvement, a good working relationship and understanding between the GSAP and the head contractor’s project team will lead to a more efficient and quicker submission process and a much higher likelihood of a successful result.