A carbon-positive roadmap for Australia's built environment

Friday, 29 June, 2018

A carbon-positive roadmap for Australia's built environment

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has launched a discussion paper titled ‘A Carbon Positive Roadmap for the built environment’, establishing the steps required for commercial, institutional and government buildings and fit-outs to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Developed in close consultation with industry and government, the paper was released for feedback this morning at the Next Generation Utilities Breakfast, held in Sydney with Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin.

The roadmap clearly outlines the high-level outcomes, actions, targets and policy positions required to achieve a carbon-positive future, plotting a path to raise the benchmark for sustainable design, construction and building operation in Australia’s built environment. These are proposed alongside changes to the GBCA’s Green Star rating tool to ensure it helps lead industry through the next decade of transformation.

According to GBCA Chief Executive Romilly Madew, the roadmap has been developed to help ensure Australia’s competitiveness and attractiveness for investment while fulfilling international commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

“It proposes a range of policy positions for industry to support and calls for upgrades to energy efficiency requirements in the national construction code and an expansion of requirements for the mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency in buildings and fit-outs,” she said. “Broader reforms in the energy sector are also discussed, with practical incentives to support building upgrades and retrofits and the development of carbon neutral products and services.

“Our roadmap supports the work of the World Green Building Council, which earlier this month launched its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, and means we are leading the emissions reductions charge, as one of only five Green Building Councils to have a net zero carbon buildings certification scheme in place.

“Whether you are a developer, building owner, industry professional, product manufacturer, building occupant or policymaker, this roadmap will help you lead in the delivery of a more sustainable built environment.”

The roadmap is being developed in tandem with Green Star Future Focus — a comprehensive review of existing Green Star rating tools to set leading targets for certification. Buildings seeking a Green Star rating would have to meet updated requirements — with a proposal that new and existing Green Star rated buildings will have no greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and existing buildings having to meet this target by 2050 or earlier.

The roadmap will drive transformation in the rest of the built environment by promoting policies to retrofit existing buildings, improve new buildings, increase the supply of renewable energy and phase out fossil fuel use. It also acknowledges the contractual, policy and commercial barriers that discourage joint action between building owners and tenants to address whole-of-building emissions.

“Achieving the roadmap’s targets requires a whole-of-building approach,” Madew said.

“Where the building owner has control over the fit-outs and energy use, changes are easier to implement. However, in buildings where there is a contractual relationship with another party, collaboration and cooperation is needed.

“Problems can be overcome by first incentivising decarbonisation, then requiring collaboration between all parties to share energy data. Encouraging the use of operational ratings will drive both parties to use renewable energy.”

The launch of the roadmap has been warmly received by the Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand, with Executive Director Adam Beck saying it represents an “unmissable opportunity” for technology and data solution suppliers and advisors in the emerging smart cities marketplace.

“This announcement today by the Green Building Council of Australia also provides an important driver for the greater digitalisation of the design, construction and operational performance of our built environment assets through the use of intelligent building information modelling tools.

“The Green Building Council of Australia’s roadmap is backed by some of the biggest developers and property owners in the country,” Beck said.

“Many of these companies have already committed to meet net zero emissions. But they won’t meet those targets without the help of smart technology and data solutions.”

With the roadmap aiming for all new buildings and fit-outs to be emissions neutral in operations by 2030, with existing buildings to follow, “the property and construction industry will be incentivised to select products and services that drive down emissions”, Beck said.

“This will stimulate unprecedented demand for smart meters, Internet of Things devices, renewable energy solutions, battery storage systems and other technologies that promote grid decarbonisation, as well as energy-efficient systems and electric vehicles.”

Beck says any technology companies in doubt of the roadmap’s potential should look to the Green Star rating system, which has influenced the design and construction of nearly 40% of Australia’s commercial office space.

“Many of the property industry leaders, such as our partner organisation Lendlease, seized the sustainability agenda to gain market advantage, manage risk and attract investors. These same property leaders will lead the investment in smart buildings technologies and data solutions over the coming decade.”

In anticipation of this next wave of technology investment to enhance property asset performance in the region, the Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand and GBCA are working on a new initiative — the Smart Buildings Centre of Excellence — to help build one of the world’s leading smart buildings marketplaces. More information about the centre will be revealed at Smart Cities Week, to be held in Sydney from 29–31 October.

To view the roadmap, click here.

Image credit: ©Syda Productions/Dollar Photo Club

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