Electrifying every building

29 Sep 2022

A message from the CEO Davina Rooney

When Green Star Performance was launched in 2013, the GBCA team picked the perfect place. The Sydney Opera House illustrated everything that was challenging about driving down emissions in existing buildings – because each building is unique.

One of Green Star Performance’s catchcries was that it could rate “any building type”. The Sydney Opera House’s world-leading rating was positive proof. Since then, we’ve built up to rating more than 1,200 buildings each year.

But when buildings are responsible for around a quarter of Australia’s emissions and most of those buildings will be standing in 2050, 1,200 buildings are not enough. This is why the release of Green Star Performance v2 is a milestone moment on Australia's road to net zero. 

More than 200 industry experts worked with us to redesign the rating tool and to test it on a diverse range of buildings and portfolios. Green Star Performance v2 takes all the themes that have changed the sustainability conversation since 2013 – everything from the Paris Agreement to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to tenant and investor demand for healthy buildings – and translates these into existing buildings.

Version two sharpens the focus on social sustainability and streamlines the trajectory to net zero. We are working on an online platform that will offer a digitised route to reporting for global benchmarks like GRESB. Version 2 will set even more buildings – especially those that have been traditionally hard to rate – on the pathway to net zero by 2040.

To complement the release of Green Star Performance v2, we have produced a practical guide to electrification for existing buildings. Developed in partnership with Cundall and supported by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and NSW Government, this guide outlines the most effective ways to electrify buildings.

Eliminating gas – which is responsible for almost 30% of Australia’s building energy consumption – can make a material difference in a short space of time, which is why governments are moving towards electrification mandates.

The ACT Government, for instance, has made great strides with a plan for Canberra to be powered by renewable electricity by 2045. The first step is banning all new natural gas connections for homes and businesses from 2023. The Victorian Government recently launched a gas substitution roadmap and the NSW Government is starting to focus on all electric buildings in planning with the NSW Sustainable Building SEPP. These policy commitments are important, but we still need a nationally consistent approach – and that starts with the National Construction Code update in 2025.

We are seeing some surprising asset classes stride towards an all-electric future. Iconic new building projects like Atlassian tower and the new Powerhouse Museum, the expansion of Canberra Hospital and Adelaide’s new Women's and Children's Hospital, and the Brimbank Aquatic and Wellness Centre offer a new chorus of the “any building type” catchcry.

Policy change is led by critical projects, and we applaud this leadership from governments and industry for new buildings. But when we move the goalposts for entire portfolios of existing buildings, the game changes. Green Star Performance v2 does just that.

We also need industry leaders to champion electrification, which is one of many reasons why I’m thrilled that Cbus Property’s CEO Adrian Pozzo is the new Chair of the GBCA board. Cbus Property fast-tracked its net zero carbon commitment from 2030 to early 2022, highlighting that an ‘intergenerational shift is underway’, with apartment purchasers wanting homes that are healthier for them and their families. For Cbus Property this means electrification of new apartment buildings moving forward. Adrian steps into the top job at just the right time, you can read our interview with him in this month's Green Building Voice

People and places are at the heart of all we do, and we were honoured to host a special alumni event this month to celebrate our 20th anniversary. More than 80 of the GBCA’s strongest supporters and members of our fabulous team came together for a celebration aligned with World Building Week 2022 and the theme #BuildingsforEveryone. Our alumni – many of them linchpins in the development of Green Star Performance v1 and present at that Sydney Opera House launch nearly a decade ago – are a golden thread that connect our past and present to our future.

Eliminating emissions from the built environment will require a lot of heavy lifting from our entire industry. We know that. The net zero pathway is not an easy one to tread. But with the right tools, clear guides, vocal champions and a collaborative network, we can walk down the road to decarbonisation together.

GBCA 20th anniversary celebrations