The latest updates to Green Star promise to accelerate action on climate change, incentivise new industries and encourage market leaders to push the innovation envelope.

Among the proposed evolutions to Green Star, four stand out: minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions for different star ratings, measures to build industry capacity in air-tightness testing, a new materials pathway to incentivise the use of engineered timber, and new requirements that will enhance the workplace environments of construction workers.

Driving a carbon positive industry

The introduction of minimum point requirements for greenhouse gas emissions for 5 and 6 Star Green Star ratings is a response to the GBCA’s new strategic direction, and its new goal to drive a carbon positive industry.

Carbon is being reprioritised as a key environmental issue that our industry must address, and setting minimum requirements is an important part of this.

Under the proposed changes, a building project seeking 5 Star Green Star certification would be required to achieve three Green Star points in the ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ credit, and be 25 per cent more efficient than a benchmark building. A 6 Star Green Star building would be required to achieve six points and demonstrate efficiency of almost 40 per cent above the benchmark. The improvements would be addressed through energy efficiency or onsite renewables.

This measure would enable us to provide clearer differentiation between the star ratings, and to guarantee, as a minimum, that a 5 Star building would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a 4 Star building, and so on.

Any project team wanting to achieve 6 Star Green Star ‘world leadership’ in sustainable design and construction would be required to demonstrate they are well on their way to world leadership in greenhouse gas mitigation.

Minimum requirements are part of a broader plan to align Green Star with the distinct trajectories outlined in the Paris Agreement. The GBCA is currently working on a project that will outline expectations for these trajectories and how industry can work towards them. It’s the roadmap that industry has been asking for.

Air-tightness testing recognised

A proposed change to the ‘Commissioning and Tuning’ credit would drive the uptake of air-tightness testing. Under the revised credit, project teams would be required to undertake testing to demonstrate that the façade air-tightness specifications had been achieved.

This isn’t about setting a standard for air-tightness yet, though this allows us to push Australia to take air-tightness seriously. This first step is about building industry capacity and educating project teams on the value of air-tightness testing.

If this goes ahead, the GBCA will analyse and share the information gathered from the credit to better understand where Australian buildings are landing, so we can all take actions to ensure air-tightness testing and standards respond to Australia’s unique climate conditions.

Incentivising an engineered timber industry

The GBCA is also proposing the introduction of a new pathway for engineered timber within the Materials category – just as we have for concrete and steel.

This initiative recognises the innovative approach taken on projects such as Lendlease’s Forté and Library at the Dock in Melbourne, and International House at Barangaroo South in Sydney. It also acknowledges the industry’s growing appetite for products such as cross-laminated timber (CLT) and laminated veneer lumber (LVL).

This new pathway would reduce the need for project teams to undertake a life cycle assessment to demonstrate CLT as a viable product to reduce a building’s impact, for example.

The proposal seeks to support the creation of a regional industry. One point would also be available when the material is sourced or manufactured in Australia or New Zealand. Timber is a renewable resource which, combined with local sourcing, can contribute to job creation and skills development. This change to Green Star is about incentivising a new industry for engineered timber in Australia.

Better places for people on the construction site

A new requirement within the ‘Construction and Environmental Management’ credit would see all contractors receive sustainability training alongside workplace health and safety. We want to enhance industry’s understanding that sustainability is as non-negotiable as safety.

The GBCA also believes the benefits of healthy buildings should support those who build them. The credit would include requirements to address the provision of well-designed site offices that foster the health and well-being of workers.

This recognises a general shift across industry that high-performing, sustainable buildings demand site offices that meet basic standards of health and well-being.

The folks at Multiplex have invested in creating better site sheds with quality lighting and furniture, clearer signage and healthier spaces – and when teams have moved to new sites, they’ve demanded that their old site sheds come with them. Delivering sustainable places for people means ensuring those working on the site are also taken care of.

While there are other small changes to Green Star, these four will have the biggest positive impact on the industry. It’s over to industry now to provide feedback as we work together to create healthy, resilient and positive places for people and the natural environment.

Consultation on the updates to Green Star are now open for industry feedback until Friday January 27, 2017. Download the consultation papers.