Green Star updates open for consultation

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, says the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

Among the proposed evolutions to Green Star, are:

  • 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.

Minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions

According to the GBCA’s Head of Market Transformation, Jorge Chapa, the GBCA’s is reprioritising carbon as a key environmental issue – 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,” Mr Chapa says, adding that minimum requirements are part of a broader plan to align Green Star with the distinct trajectories outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Air-tightness testing

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 airtightness 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.”

Mr Chapa says the GBCA would analyse and share the information gathered from the credit to “better understand where Australian buildings are landing”, to support industry action on air-tightness testing and standards that respond to Australia’s unique climate conditions.

Incentivising the use of engineered timber

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,” Mr Chapa explains.

This initiative recognises the innovative approach taken on projects such as Lendlease’s Forté and 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 lifecycle assessment to demonstrate CLT as a viable product to reduce a building’s impact, for example,” Mr Chapa explains.

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.”

Enhancing the workplaces of construction workers

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,” Mr Chapa explains.

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 wellbeing of workers.

“This recognises a general shift within industry that high-performing, sustainable buildings demand site offices that meet basic standards of health and wellbeing.”

While there are other small changes to Green Star, Mr Chapa says 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,” Mr Chapa concludes.

Give your feedback on the proposed minor updates to Green Star.