Building to bounce back - Leadership in action

08 May 2020

With governments looking to infrastructure projects to support Australia’s economy recovery, there is no shortage of projects being proposed, some with price tags running into hundreds of millions. However, as we recently outlined in our Building to Bounce Back paper, enhancing infrastructure decision making and governance processes will ensure that governments get more for their money and new projects will better serve our communities.

The Green Building Council of Australia has been a passionate champion of sustainable infrastructure for many years, and it is one of the four pillars of our strategic plan. In our many years working closely with government project delivery agencies across Australia, we’ve witnessed firsthand how different types of social infrastructure – from libraries and law courts and public housing – present incredible opportunities for sustainable outcomes.

Change is possible. Despite the scale of the economic challenge we face, there are many examples of leadership for governments to draw inspiration from and apply to their work. In this article, we present several case studies to illustrate how the recommendations from our call to action have been borne out through the work of our members and stakeholders.

Case study: Building Queensland’s business case development framework

Recommendation: Seek to maximise productivity, liveability and sustainability outcomes through project selection and business case development

  • Building Queensland’s recently updated Business Case Development Framework includes an enhanced approach for building projects to undertake sustainability assessment, leveraging the framework found in Green Star.
  • All government building projects valued at more than $100 million are required to undertake sustainability assessment through the new template or Green Star.

Maximising value for taxpayers requires quality procurement and project management approaches to ensure that resources are not wasted and that each dollar invested brings as many co-benefits as possible, for people, economy and the environment.

Building Queensland’s Business Case Development Framework has been guiding the delivery of the state’s infrastructure proposals since 2016. Recently, it was updated with enhanced guidance for projects undertaking sustainability assessment, to address how best to plan, design and deliver projects from a whole of life perspective.

Working with the GBCA, Building Queensland developed a building specific sustainability assessment template based on the Green Star – Design & As Built tool categories and credits. The assessment seeks to demonstrate how the project fulfils major initiatives to support key sustainability outcomes related to: Project Set up and Management; Indoor Environment Quality; Energy; Transport; Water; Materials; Land use and Ecology; Emissions; Innovation. Projects with a capital value of more than $100 million are required to undertake sustainability assessment for proposal using BQ’s assessment approach, or through Green Star.

Case study: Alkimos Beach

Recommendation: Recognise whole of life benefits and prioritise projects that deliver liveability and sustainability dividends

  • Master planned Perth community uses social and sustainability initiatives to drive a carbon neutral lifestyle
  • Mandatory solar panels, and community energy storage system has seen a reduction in energy bills by up to $50/ month 
  • Local employment opportunities maximised to reduce unnecessary travel, through investments in high capacity telecommunications and local business

Alkimos Beach is a project known for its clever use of sustainability initiatives to enrich the lifestyles of its residents and create a more vibrant local economy. As the first 6 Star Green Star rated community, and the first to be recertified in 2019 Alkimos Beach is a project that has stood the test of time.

From the outset developer Lendlease, in partnership with DevelopmentWA, sought to deliver a thoughtfully planned community that aligned with the movement towards carbon neutral living. Solar panels and solar hot water systems were made mandatory for all homes helping to keep energy bills down. The community was also home to an innovative trial energy storage system where excess solar energy was stored on site for use during evening periods, helping to further reduce bills. “It’s kind of the same as having your own battery on site but for $11 per month we get to have the benefit without the cost,” says resident Mike Gjestland.

There was also a particular focus on reducing the number of residents who had to make the one way 40 minute drive to Perth for work. The developers sought to provide local opportunities for employment through a high capacity telecommunications network and the creation of a community centre to help the development of small enterprises.


Case study: Renewal SA’s Work’s Program

Recommendation: Use procurement to build competitive advantage in the supply chain, encourage skills and business investment, and drive demand for more efficient products and technologies. 

  • Renewal SA’s community employment program has created 3000 work experience placements, and 1500 paid employment opportunities across various urban renewal projects.
  • At Green Star rated community Tonsley, 40 placements were created, 13 of which were converted into jobs.
  • Employment programs enforced through economic development clauses in contracts.

With big infrastructure spending in the pipeline it is crucial that the government disperses benefits throughout the communities in which these projects take place.

RenewalSA’s ‘Works Program’ is a training and employment scheme created specifically to maximise community and social benefits from the South Australian Government’s urban renewal activities. This scheme not only engages the community with innovative projects built in their local area, but also serves to enrich the community by providing new skills, experiences and work opportunities to locals. 

The Works Program has been offered across many South Australian Green Star rated communities, from Tonsley to Bowden, and more recently at Lot Fourteen. At Tonsley 40 work experience placements were created. One of these placements involved the improvement of gardens in a community housing estate, which resulted in each of its 15 participants gaining a Certificate II in Horticulture.

In total the Works Program has created over 3000 work experience opportunities across the state since the beginning of the scheme in 2008, with more than half converted into paid employment. These employment opportunities stem from either RenewalSA managed contracts, where community inclusion is enforced contractually through economic development clauses, or from programs RenewalSA has organised with registered training organisations. It is RenewalSA’s innovative involvement of contractors into this scheme that helped to multiply the potential benefits far beyond what it could have achieved on its own.

Case study: Victoria’s Level Crossing Removal Project

Recommendation: Bring forward best lessons learnt from existing projects and scale up best practice approaches to asset design, construction and operation.

  • All stations rebuilt under the state government’s Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) are committed to a minimum of 4 stars under the Green Star – Design & As Built rating
  • The GBCA drew on its experience from applying existing Green Star rating tools on LXRP and other rail projects in Australia to develop a Green Star tool specifically customised for railway stations

Bayswater Level Crossing Removal Project

As a leader in sustainable infrastructure projects, Australia is well placed to leverage insights from past projects and extend upon the successes already achieved. 

The Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) is a Victorian initiative to upgrade Melbourne’s rail network and remove 75 congested level crossings across metropolitan Melbourne by 2025.  With sustainability a key consideration for the project, the GBCA was deeply involved from the beginning due to a commitment to achieve a minimum 4 Star Green Star – Design & As Built rating on every reinvigorated station. It was due to the learnings gained from applying existing Green Star rating tools to LXRP railway stations that led the GBCA to collaborate with Rail Projects Victoria on the development of a Green Star – Railway Stations tool.

Launched in 2019, Green Star – Railway Stations was created to set critical benchmarks for monitoring and measuring the sustainable design and construction of railway station buildings. The new tool introduced credits adapted for above-ground and underground railway stations across Australia, and also incorporated elements of the Green Star – Communities tool to reflect the function that a railway station plays in a sustainable community and development.

At its core, the development of Green Star – Railway Stations drew on the experiences and lessons learnt from applying Green Star – Design & As Built on Victorian and NSW rail projects. A consultation process involving policy makers and sustainability professionals delivering rail projects also helped to ensure that the tool would be fit-for-purpose, and relevant for different jurisdictions.

Case study: City of Sydney’s Better Building Partnership

Recommendation: Maintain regular dialogue with industry to achieve transparency, industry coordination and support business confidence

  • Better Buildings Partnership is a City of Sydney led initiative to promote dialogue on sustainability issues between leading property owners in the Sydney CBD.
  • The group of landlords in the public, private and institutional sector are working together to make the City more sustainable by collaborating on innovative projects across a number of areas.

The City of Sydney has shown a particular commitment to engaging with leaders across the built environment sector through its Better Buildings Partnership (BBP). A key initiative of Sustainable Sydney 2030, which recognises that buildings have an important role to play in reducing Sydney’s emissions, the BBP seeks to improve the performance of commercial buildings in the City by engaging leading property owners, managers, investment firms, peak bodies and waste industry representatives. 

The partnership represents more than half of Sydney’s commercial floor space in the city centre and is demonstrating how effective new models of collective action can unlock barriers to change. Under the banner of ‘moving industry forward together’, the partnership has worked with industry professionals to create and embed best practice standards in key areas, including leasing, operational waste, refurbishment waste, and energy and water efficiency. Through their collaborative efforts, the BBP has to date reduced member emissions by 55%, energy use by 35% and potable water use by 26% on FY2006 levels. Current initiatives focus on environmental issues, waste, tenants and communities and benchmarking and engagement.

Case Study: Landcom’s Healthy & Inclusive Places Survey

Recommendation: Collect and analyse data to demonstrate progress against project objectives and communicate outcomes to provide accountability

  • Landcom’s Healthy and Inclusive Places Survey is an engagement tool that gathers data on resident satisfaction in line with its targets for health equity and inclusive, community connection and safety.
  • Results from the survey are used to benchmark progress against stated targets, but also to inform the organisation’s approach to continuous improvement.

Landcom is a NSW state-owned corporation that works in partnership with the private sector to unlock surplus or underutilised government-owned sites or large institutional land holdings to create vibrant and sustainable residential communities.

A global sustainability leader, Landcom was recognised as fourth in the world and third across Asia Pacific in the 2018 and 2019 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark Developer Assessment.

As part of their ongoing commitment to social sustainability, Landcom has identified key targets for Health Equity & Inclusion, Community Connection and Safety, which form a part of the Healthy & Inclusive Places pillar in Landcom’s Sustainable Places Strategy. The pillar itself is focused on enhancing Landcom’s international status for delivering world-class liveable places, founded on equity, affordability and inclusion by 2036.

Landcom’s data collection efforts are crucial to gathering knowledge on progress towards its goals under this pillar. As residents begin to live onsite, a continuous feedback loop is applied via its Healthy & Inclusive Places survey (HIPs). This is an engagement tool used to gather data from residents of Landcom communities measuring satisfaction across dimensions such as design, community connection, safety, wellbeing, housing affordability and diversity based on the residents’ lived experience. Results and resident feedback from each year’s HIPs survey is used for continuous improvement, to drive performance improvements in the way Landcom delivers its projects. This can include adjusting Landcom’s approach to the design and delivery of future stages of a project or influencing the way it delivers community development programs and services. Each year, Landcom also publishes the aggregated results from the survey in its annual Sustainability Report.

Whether it’s a school or sporting facility, transport hub or a hospital, there has never been a better time for governments to think seriously about getting the biggest bang for our buck on their investments. The GBCA is pleased to be supporting many projects across Australia which are embracing best practice benchmarks through Green Star.

Read more about how leadership in action is delivering more sustainable social infrastructure across our major cities and through our regions in these showcase examples:

These are just some of the incredible stories demonstrating how governments and industry have collaborated to deliver long-term benefits for their economies and their communities through higher value assets built for the future. Contact the GBCA at for more information, or to discuss how we can support you.