It has been an extraordinary year.
What started with an unprecedented bushfire season across Australia has merged into a global pandemic that continues to change our economies and societies.
As we navigate these crises, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) remains focused on delivering a more sustainable and resilient environment for the long term.
The impact of COVID-19 has resulted in clearer skies and lower pollution levels temporarily as worldwide “business as usual” ground to a halt.
But we know it will take ongoing and dedicated effort to transform global carbon dioxide levels significantly.
With buildings accounting for almost a quarter of Australia’s carbon emissions, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to accelerate our progression to a decarbonised future.
It is time to build in sustainability and resilience into our cities, communities and homes to ensure better outcomes for the future.
We’ve been buoyed to hear from many of our members that their focus and commitment to a net-zero future remain on track.
Australia’s property and construction industries are world-leading, steadily creating an impressive overhaul of the built environment.
The GBCA acknowledges there is more to do, however, and we will continue to lead the changes necessary to embed long-term, future-proofing to prepare and protect us from the challenges to come.
Our Green Star rating system is evolving to incorporate resilience across communities, supply chains and cities – challenges that have been brought into sharp relief in recent months.
Sustainable built environments have greater prospects of withstanding these challenges. They require fewer resources and demand less of their environments.
Investors are seeking sustainability
In our recently published report Green Star in focus: The business case, we found demand for sustainable investments is strong and growing.
Over the last three years, the trillions in funds allocated to Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) initiatives has grown 34 per cent, according to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance.
Appropriately certified investment opportunities are being sought out by funds managers to fill their investment mandates and ESG climate-related risk key performance indicators.
Last year more than $260 billion worth of Australian sustainable building assets were included in the GRESB Real Estate Assessment.
And ethical investment funds are valued at more than $1 trillion, according to Responsible Investment Association Australasia.
Forty-four per cent of the funds invested by professional funds managers goes into responsible investments, which have outperformed most mainstream funds in the past.
Gilbert + Tobin Special Counsel, Louise McCoach, has also highlighted the importance of risk management in sustainability.
“There is an increasing stranded asset risk for companies that are not transitioning with the economy towards a sustainable future,” she says.
“The survivors in the long term are more likely to be green than brown.”
Green buildings are better places to work, live and play
It is not just investors spurring demand for sustainable buildings but clients, too.
The World Green Building Council found client demand was among the top reasons for Australian sustainable-building development in its 2018 report, World Green Building Trends in 2018: Green Keeps Growing.
Demand was the key factor in the development of 34 per cent of sustainable-building activity.
The business case found operating costs are lower for Green Star-rated buildings, while tenants enjoy higher productivity and lower expenses.
Electricity consumption is an average of one-third of an equivalent Australian building. They also use half the water in their operations.
Domain Product Manager, Commercial Real Estate, Dominic White, says building users want to know about its energy requirements.
“Knowing how green, energy-efficient and sustainable it is can be very important,” he says.
“We’ve found people are now really starting to embrace the sustainability of an office.”
Frasers Property Industrial Chief Executive Officer, Reini Otter, says an independent certification can highlight those potential cost savings.
“Green Star certification demonstrates that well-designed assets can result in lower operating margins and provide future-proofing against changes from a regulatory or utility cost perspective,” he says.
Local government, the Wollongong City Council, has generated efficiency savings from its new Green Star-rated building upgrade.
Buildings and Facilities Sustainability planner, Dr Carl Hopley, says the building is running 64 per cent more efficiently than the baseline.
“If we were still consuming at our 2007/08 baseline levels, we’d be spending $250,000 a year more on electricity,” he says.
“Instead we can reinvest that money back into our community.”
Green-building owners also benefit on the sale of the asset, with the MSCI and the Property Council of Australia finding a 4.3 per cent value premium for Green Star-rated offices in central business districts per square metre.
Green Star for Homes
The GBCA is also working in partnership with industry and government to help accelerate the transformation that has already begun in the residential sector.
Driven by investor and consumer demand, the GBCA this month released its Green Star for Homes strategy, and will release a draft standard for consultation early in the new financial year.
There is no doubt delivering a Green Star standard for homes is ambitious and challenging, but the GBCA is confident they can support the housing market to deliver the transformation that has already begun.
We are defining what a sustainable home will mean in its health, resilience and net zero energy use.
Data shows that on average, Australian families spend 90 per cent of their time indoors, with two thirds of this at home. So it’s not surprising to hear 57 per cent of Australia’s total emissions come from our homes.
We will continue to work with industry to scope, measure, assess and independently certify the best-practice delivery of new homes across Australia’s varied climatic conditions.
Trusted certification standards are the only true measure
As more investors, tenants and consumers seek out sustainability, there is growing demand for independent certification and proof.
Green Star is the most reputable and long-standing of these – it has been tested and refined since 2003 by the GBCA.
Sustainability Consultant for dsquared, Ken Long, says the Green Star system is clear and rigorous.
“Green Star brings a high level of accountability through the construction process to ensure all sustainability features are truly integrated into the finished building,” he says.
“This process gives the client a clear understanding of the standards they can expect and a specific benchmark for the project team to strive for.”
JLL Head of Energy and Sustainability Services – Asia Pacific, Matthew Clifford, says there is great value in Green Star.
“Green Star is a very tangible way to deliver on that promise to staff,” he says.
“It’s also a cost-effective way, as JLL’s new 6 Star Green Star office in Brisbane, delivered at no extra cost, demonstrates.”
In response to the evolving nature of green buildings, we are also evolving Green Star.
Our new Green Star Future Focus ratings tools will meet the demands and challenges of the current property and construction industry, while ensuring a rigorous benchmark for quality and innovation.
Companies and organisations that recognise the value of sustainability – for their workers, their clients and their balance sheets – will continue to benefit from Green Star.
Read the full report Green Star in focus: The business case here.
You can find out more about the value of Green Star at www.gbca.org.au