Emerging building codes, changing client requirements and tenant wishes are making renewable and sustainable energy in commercial construction much more relevant.

In response, it is clear that players in the Queensland construction industry need to get more on board with green, sustainable building techniques, or get left behind.

The Commercial Buildings Baseline Study (CBBS) conducted by the Australian Government found that commercial buildings are responsible for over 12 per cent of energy consumption worldwide. In Australia, the CBBS found that the commercial sector is accountable for more than 26 per cent of national energy consumption.

Clearly, there is a need to make our commercial buildings more energy efficient.

In Australia, we are starting to see a lot more policies and codes introduced that encourage all new builds to incorporate renewable energy and sustainable building techniques. The development in Sydney’s Barangaroo is a prime example.

Another example is with Western Australian resident Victor Rosenburg, executive director of ClearVue, which has developed a form of glass panels that produce solar energy.

“Our ClearVue product is a dynamic advanced glazing system based on disruptive technology with daylight, solar control, thermal control, safety, shatter proof, insulating and energy producing properties,” Rosenburg said.

He stated that 100 square metres of the product has the ability to provide a typical four-bedroom home with half their annual power supply. Additionally, the ClearVue panels can “further reduce energy consumption through lower heating, cooling and lighting requirements.”

“The technology is based on inorganic materials, increasing the stability and lifetime to around 20 to 25 years,” Rosenburg said. “Applications can range from windows and replacements, skylights, facades and horticulture.”

Compared to standard glass panels utilised in the construction industry, Rosenburg believes they will cost slightly more per square metre. However, the cost will pay for itself within six years.

This effectively means free energy for the remainder of the product’s lifetime.

While developments like ClearVue are critical to the construction industry in Queensland, what’s more important is what companies and their workforce need to know about this growing sector today, to build better buildings for tomorrow.

In Australia, the Green Building Council developed the Green Star Rating, which is internationally recognised and assesses buildings against a range of environmental impact categories.

Since the system was introduced over a decade ago, more than two dozen Sunshine State buildings have achieved the highest rating, ranging from the heart of Brisbane to far-North Queensland. Prime examples include 111 Eagle Street, 123 Albert Street in Brisbane’s CBD and William McCormack Place 2 in Cairns.  The recently completed 480 Queen project by Grocon has also achieved the highest possible rating.

A common theme among these structures is their use of sustainable materials, utilising advanced technology and looking for ways to improve energy efficiency. That may be through solar power or using sustainable methods to improve heating, ventilation and cooling systems.

The list of possibilities to increase sustainability and energy efficiency is potentially endless. However, there is no doubting the construction of such buildings is an expensive process, so many wonder why they should bother.

Beyond the obvious environmental benefits, research shows that these structures improve workplace efficiency, have a greater attraction for tenants and offer a higher return on investment.

This sounds good, but let’s take a look at the numbers.

In their business case for Green Building (2013), the World Green Building Council found that price premiums could be up to 30 per cent on green commercial buildings. In terms of annualised return, through their IPD Australian Green Property Index study (2014), the Property Council of Australia discovered that buildings rated by Green Star outperformed the CBD office market by 10 per cent.

With regard to tenant attraction, multiple reports point to the fact that green buildings appeal to better quality tenants, such as government and ‘top tier’ corporates with reliable business and strong commitments to corporate social responsibility.

Studies also indicate that working in a green office environment is one of the top attributes tenants desire. The World Green Building Council’s Business Case for Green Energy Building (2013) found that buildings with a green rating report an occupancy rate increase of up to 23 per cent. The higher the rating, the higher the rental premium – with an average three per cent increase in rent for each additional level of certification.

The numbers are in, and they build quite a strong case for going green.

So, how can Queensland construction companies get the workforce they need in order to embrace sustainable practise, green techniques and renewable energy?

Expand your search

To get the best talent, companies need to be willing to expand their scope.

The US possesses the majority of top green building companies in the world, and therefore have access to top talent. In Australia, Victoria has nearly 300 certified Green Star buildings, far more than the rest of the country.

To get the best talent – those who are leading the green charge – Queensland companies need to be eager to poach. Fresh perspective and technical expertise will pay dividends quickly.

Look toward the future

Studies show that by 2018, over 60 per cent of projects around the world will be related to green building, with a similar trend happening in Queensland.

As it becomes more relevant, the younger generation of workers entering the workforce will likely have a greater theoretical understanding of renewable energy, green techniques and sustainable practises with regard to the commercial construction industry.

Accessing the best youth, whether it be through running graduate programs or otherwise, will hold the future of your workforce in good stead.

Training, consulting and more training

Existing employees in the workforce need to be fully aware of the green changes happening in the industry, and that goes double for company leaders. Strategic plans need to be made to combat and take advantage of the shift to more environmentally friendly structures.

Training sessions to increase knowledge and consulting with industry experts across a variety of sectors can only develop your workforce into one that is ready to tackle the green opportunities well into the future.

As mentioned, sustainability and renewable energy are not future considerations; they have already become a matter of importance in the Queensland construction industry.

Companies that adopt these tips and seriously look at engaging the staff who are not only experts in this field but can drive innovation will be more appealing for future builds and will win out when it comes down to winning the battle of the talent.

Written in association with Lizzi Byrne