Green Star on the global stage

18 Apr 2017

Late last year, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that the aging 1960s structure in Washington DC’s diplomatic precinct would be replaced with a $237 million embassy designed by Bates Smart. The Foreign Minister has said the new embassy design will “promote an enduring vision of a contemporary and innovative Australia, paying tribute to the Australian landscape”.

In particular, the Australian Government has promised that state-of-the-art design features will achieve the highest global environmental design standards. 

Helpfully, the world’s leading standards for sustainable building are now certified through an Australian tool – Green Star, and to that end we are pleased that the government has indicated its support for Green Star on this project.

This building represents a great opportunity, sitting as it will on Australian soil in the United States, to showcase our global leadership in sustainable design, construction and products.

Our real estate industry is considered the world’s most sustainable on a number of global indexes. More than 1,460 building projects around Australia have achieved ratings under Australia’s rating system for sustainable buildings and communities, Green Star.

A whopping 30 per cent of the nation’s office space is Green Star certified, and five per cent of the workforce head to a green office each day. More than 34,000 people live in Green Star-rated apartments, and an eye-watering 1.3 million people visit a Green Star-rated shopping centre each day.

These buildings reflect the best of Australian industry, ingenuity, know-how and innovation across a deep supply chain of successful Australian services and manufacturing businesses. These are indicators of our success in exporting our ideas and skills across the world.

Australian companies now top the global Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and the 2016 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) – which assessed 66,000 international assets last year – has ranked Australia the world’s most sustainable real estate market for six years in a row.

Bragging is not characteristically Australian for fear we will be cut down to size by our peers. But independent benchmarks like GRESB and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index aren’t just an opportunity for us to pat ourselves on the back.

They also reflect the appetite of hard-nosed investors looking for the best performing real estate and infrastructure in the world.

And that is found in Australia.

As the world looks to solutions that meet global commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating liveable cities that attract investment and human capital, Australia is where their attention is turning. 

Consider just a few examples that are well-recognised overseas, but are perhaps worthy of more domestic applause.

Frank Gehry’s Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at the University of Technology Sydney has been called the world’s most beautiful crushed paper bag, while Canberra’s Nishi Building, with its jaw-dropping timber staircase and achingly-cool interior, has bagged a number of international awards.

One Central Park on Sydney’s Broadway, with its living tapestry of plants, flowers and vines, has graced countless architecture magazines. And Forté in Melbourne is currently the tallest timber high rise apartments in the world.

Each of these buildings has one thing in common: they each have achieved Green Star ratings.

Each of these buildings stands as a bricks-and-mortar demonstration of Australian industry foresight and leadership. And that's why it's vital that governments use their own investments in buildings and infrastructure to showcase our excellence at home and abroad. Whether the world is watching our success on the field in our newest sporting stadiums, or negotiating new trade deals in our high commissions, these buildings must represent the very best of Australian design, construction and products, and be certified as world-class through an Australian rating - Green Star.

The Australian Government’s’ commitment to achieve Green Star for these buildings showcases our industry’s talent for sustainable design to the world. It demonstrates government leadership in sustainability, and sends a signal that it takes its commitment to both the Paris Agreement and its associated policies and platforms seriously.

Our buildings, cities and the industries that create them are now globally recognised as a great Australian success story. This success can be multiplied with the support of our governments – both through our most iconic buildings at home, and our embassies across the world.