Property Council and GBCA call for sustainability driven planning incentives

11 Dec 2023

Property Council and Green Building Council call for sustainability driven planning incentives and reforms

The Property Council of Australia and the Green Building Council of Australia have today released a new report calling for governments to implement sustainability planning incentives and density bonuses to facilitate the rapid development of energy-efficient, all-electric new buildings.

The report, 'Every Building Counts: for state and territory governments', to be launched at an event in Canberra today, outlines a series of policy recommendations centred on property that could contribute to Australia reaching its decarbonisation goals. The event will be attended by Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction Shane Rattenbury.

Amongst the report’s 40 recommendations is the creation of planning incentives such as sustainability-driven density bonuses and green door policies to accelerate the development of high-performing and sustainable new buildings.

Property Council ACT Executive Director Shane Martin said the ACT Government’s plans for electrifying homes and buildings in the ACT is a great first step, but there are significant opportunities to scale-up that progress with planning incentives that promote sustainable practices and reduced emissions.

“Planning incentives like density bonuses and green door policies would increase the sustainability of new buildings by addressing a primary concern for builders: the expenses, time commitment and unpredictability associated with planning systems,” Mr Martin said.

“Increasing the density of residential projects in exchange for more sustainable and higher-performing buildings just makes sense, providing more homes that are comfortable and energy efficient to live in,” he said.

Other key policy recommendations in the report are incentivising energy efficient and electrification retrofits for existing homes, minimum performance standards for rental properties and mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency at the point of sale.

Mr Martin said buildings account for more than 50 per cent of Australia’s electricity use and 23 per cent of all emissions.

“The Australian property sector is at the forefront of global sustainability efforts. This places us in a great position to implement impactful yet cost-effective measures to contribute to the nation's net-zero goals,” Mr Martin said.

“We must guide the built environment toward standards that surpass the minimum requirements, and appropriate planning incentives can hasten that transition.

“This would come at a low cost to government, enhance the sustainability benchmarks of Australian buildings and contribute to housing solutions in the midst of a housing crisis.

“Policies and planning incentives that encourage achievement of sustainability benchmarks also open up other opportunities for the market to move at greater pace and scale.

“For example, homes that are highly efficient, fully electric and powered by renewables are eligible for green mortgages offered by major banks and buildings independently certified with rating tools such as Green Star and NABERS are proving to be more attractive to investors,” he said.

Green Building Council of Australia Chief Executive Office Davina Rooney said state and territory governments must turbocharge the shift to high-performance sustainable buildings and homes.

“Incentives have the potential to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient and distributed technologies in both new and existing buildings,” she said.

“We see great examples of what is possible with sustainable, all-electric homes, buildings and communities in the ACT. When state and territory governments introduce policies and incentives to reduce cost barriers for sustainable buildings, we will see this happen at scale.”

Ms Rooney said the report outlined the need for long-term strategies for zero-carbon-ready buildings and homes.

“We need to get our buildings ready for the future,” Ms Rooney said.

“Achieving low carbon and resilient buildings requires a well-defined strategy and a consistent path.

“A strategy at the state or territory level, outlining a clear and consistent course for reducing emissions, matched by policies which provide industry with confidence, would further advance the efforts already championed by the property sector,” she said.

Ms Rooney said effective government policies are crucial to ensure an equitable and just transition to a resilient built environment that is ready for zero-carbon initiatives.

“The recommendations outlined in this report establish a foundation for state and territory governments to meet the global call to enhance the resilience of our homes and buildings,” Ms Rooney said.

“Implementing these recommendations will promote high-performance buildings, foster the adoption of proven rating tools and highlight the leadership of state and territory governments,” she said.

Mr Martin said government needs to collaborate with industry to achieve the territory's net zero goals.

“A consistent policy across Canberra is our first priority and we are honoured that Minister Rattenbury, can join us to officially launch the state and territory policy plan today,” Mr Martin said.

The report also urges state and territory governments to commit to achieving zero-carbon-ready new and existing government owned and leased buildings by 2030, support low-income and vulnerable households and consumers with targeted and ongoing assistance and tools and adopt a credible framework for measuring embodied carbon.

'Every Building Counts: for state and territory governments' is part of a series highlighting the impact of government-industry collaborations on innovation for a sustainable, healthier and equitable built environment. Complementing editions for federal and local governments, the series draws insights from steering group partners, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, and the Energy Efficiency Council.

The full report can be found here.