Gamechangers, milestones and growth

29 Nov 2023

Hot off the press, in a month of gamechangers, is the Australian Government’s mandate that all its office leases must be Green Star certified and prioritise all-electric operations.

The Australian Government’s ambitious Net Zero in Government Operations Strategy was released yesterday, and it is the best early Christmas present ever.

Aligned with the GBCA’s Climate Positive Pathway, this strategy prioritises all-electric buildings and uses NABERS, Green Star and the IS Ratings to verify that ambition translates into action.

The policy has been many years in the making, and we applaud the federal government policymakers for their forward-thinking leadership. This policy sends a signal to the market that net zero operations is the new norm. It’s a message that Australia’s property leaders have heard loud and clear – as the 4,500-plus certifications chalked up in 20 years of Green Star demonstrate.

More than 61 million square metres of building space is now Green Star certified, and in the last financial year we added another 848 certifications.

These are the headline statistics from our new Green Star: A year in focus report. In the words of our Chief Impact Officer Jorge Chapa: “2023 was the year of gamechangers, milestones and growth.”

But look behind the headline numbers and hundreds of stories unfold that show how sustainability is reshaping our nation.

Sustainability standouts

A massive 46% of Australia's office stock is influenced by Green Star; but Australia’s leaders don’t rest on their laurels.

This year Heritage Lanes at Brisbane’s 80 Ann Street achieved Australia's first ‘world leadership’ 6 Star Green Star Buildings rating. Brookfield rated its entire portfolio with Green Star Performance for the first time, establishing a baseline for its existing buildings. And the 24,000 people who work at Parramatta Square will reap the rewards from Walker Corporation's 5 Star Green Star Communities rating.

Thousands more students will learn in healthy, sustainable space too. Riverbanks College in Adelaide boasts a 300-seat performing arts centre, a food hospitality hub, hockey pitches, an indoor gym and a 5 Star Green Star rating. Curtin University's School of Design and Built Environment achieved a 6 Star Green Star ‘tick’ for its ‘living laboratory’.

All 10 stadiums – many of them long-standing – across the two nations hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup achieved green ratings, with FIFA hailing the “tournament of firsts” as a “catalyst for change” in other sporting venues.

L’Occitane at Westfield Bondi Junction (with a 5 Star Green Star Interiors rating) featured the first ‘refill fountain’ for customers to top up their products in ‘forever bottles’. This first experiment has expanded to 16 boutiques, and counting, and shows how Green Star aspirations can engage consumers in sustainability.

Frasers Property’s $1 billion, all-electric industrial precinct in Sydney’s Kemps Creek, The YARDS, became the first industrial building to achieve a Green Star Communities rating.

These are just a handful of stories beyond the headlines of not only leadership in new building, but also of how we make the most of what already exists. So please download Green Star: A year in focus for a deep dive.

Green finance gamechangers

We’ve taken strong and steady strides forward this year; but we need scale. Next year, we think ESG investment is set to explode – which is why we launched the practical guide for sustainable finance this month.

The guide, developed in collaboration with the Australian Sustainable Finance Institute, unpacks the ‘alphabet soup’ of frameworks, systems, tools and terms with an aim to unlock more capital to fund the net zero carbon transition.

Real estate projects attracted US$127 billion in 2022, around 8% of the total sustainable finance market. And in 2022, for the first time, more money was raised in the debt markets for climate-friendly projects than for fossil-fuel companies.

This guide is a milestone, and we only need to see the list of supporters involved in its development to see why: NABERS, Australian Passivehaus Association, Climate Bonds Initiative, GRESB, International WELL Building Institute, Living Futures Institute Australia and Property Council of Australia all contributed.

We need everyone backing the energy transition, because we can’t do this alone. The electrification of Australia’s existing buildings, alone, is an investment opportunity of at least half a trillion dollars for the finance industry.

Our collective task is to eliminate friction preventing more money flowing to sustainable real estate; that starts by ensuring financiers are equipped with the right knowledge and tools. Less time lining up frameworks, more time growing the pool of green capital and delivering sustainable buildings that change the game.

Leadership legacy

And that brings me back to gamechangers. The Australian Government’s policy shows that advocacy can take many many years to bear fruit. Over more than two decades, dozens of advocates with the GBCA, the Property Council, ASBEC, the Energy Efficiency Council, the Infrastructure Sustainability Council and many more, have championed federal leadership as a lever for game-changing industry transformation.

One of those advocates was the GBCA’s inaugural National Policy and Public Affairs Manager Jeff House. Jeff, who worked with the GBCA from 2007 to 2009, sadly passed away this month. Jeff laid the groundwork of evidence-based policy and established our reputation as a trusted voice with governments. He will be very sadly missed, but we hope his friends and family gain comfort in knowing his work will have a profound and positive impact on Australia for decades to come.