“Measuring what matters”

01 Jul 2024

Big news for sustainable building champions this month.

Firstly, the GBCA and our alliance partners - UK’s Building Research Establishment, the US Green Building Council, the Singapore Green Building Council, Alliance HQE-GBC, GRESB, the Climate Bonds Initiative, and the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor - launched global guide for sustainable finance last Thursday as part of London Climate Action Week.

With more than US$35 trillion needed to fund the global energy transition, this guide provides clarity and certainty for investors. It also shows that the world’s most influential rating tools and green finance frameworks are heading towards the same north star goal.

Nuclear may capture headlines but money makes the world go round and that money is flowing to clean, green, electric buildings. You can read all the detail in article in this month’s Green Building Voice.

CBD program expands

The next big piece of news is that the Australian Government has signalled its intentions to expand the Commercial Building Disclosure program.

The CBD program was launched in 2011, and today requires a NABERS Energy rating for every office building more than 1,000 sqm in size to be disclosed when it sold or leased.

The simple act of mandatory disclosure has driven a remarkable 35% reduction in energy use – a truly world leading achievement.

Over many years, I’ve had conversations with our global peers in which they’ve expressed their amazement at our achievement, and their astonishment that we have never applied the same approach to other building types. Now we can.

Expanding the CBD program is the best way for Australia to reduce emissions from our buildings in line with net zero by 2050, analysis by KPMG has found.

This review of the CBD program was one of the recommendations from Every Building Counts, a policy platform the GBCA and the Property Council of Australia have championed for several years.

Now is our chance to be ambitious and to look beyond building types. How could mandatory disclosure of renewable energy certificates, for instance, or the new NABERS embodied carbon rating tool help us move further and faster?

I joined Frankie Muskovic, the Property Council’s National Policy Director, on a panel at the NABERS + CBD Conference this month, during which she noted that people often ask her why Australia’s biggest landlords would be champions of the CBD program. Why? “Because it has saved our members millions and millions of dollars... $1.7 billion in energy bills,” she said.

Upfront carbon conversations

Expanding the CBD program is possible because, 25 years ago, NABERS was established to “measure what matters”.

It is in this spirit of “measuring what matters” that the GBCA team has been working with NABERS since 2021 on the development of a national standard to measure, benchmark and certify embodied carbon in buildings.

We’ve engaged more than 300 stakeholders in an “upfront conversation” about upfront carbon, which our research suggests could represent 85% of built environment emissions by 2050 if we don’t take action today.

NABERS is now calling for pilot projects, and those registered under Green Star Buildings will be rewarded with one Green Star Innovation Challenge point. The final tool is expected to hit the market by the end of 2024.

Commonwealth, state, and territory building ministers have flagged their intention to use the new NABERS embodied carbon tool as a verification pathway to support new commercial building requirements in the National Construction Code 2025.

In tandem, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), of which the GBCA is a committed member, has released an issues paper to explore broader policy options to address upfront carbon emissions. The paper looks at 250-plus policies and suggests solutions across seven core policy “dilemmas”. It’s a must-read for policymakers thinking about the future.

Scope 3 discussion paper out now 

“Measuring what matters” is also the philosophy behind the launch of a new Scope 3 discussion paper. Scope 3 emissions are, as our Chief Impact Officer Jorge Chapa says, the “largest and most elusive” source of emissions for most property companies.

An abundance of tools and methodologies can help property companies measure their Scope 3 emissions, but we have not achieved consensus on which tools or methodologies to use. While we debate the way forward we’ll have circular conversations. What we need is everyone pointing in the same direction.

In this discussion paper we explore scenarios for buildings as they are developed, sold, leased and operated. We look at different lease types and their impact on emissions. We review current frameworks and standards, and assess their relevance to corporate reporting.

The discussion paper outlines the areas of consensus, the issues that are still contested, and asks for feedback. From there, we will work with the Property Council to develop comprehensive guidance.

Global momentum and Green Star champions

There’s so much going on this month, from the Australian Energy Market Operator releasing its latest Integrated System Plan to the ACT Government’s commitment to an all-electric, zero emission future for Canberra with the release of the Integrated Energy Plan. None of the progress I’ve outlined would be possible without the incredible talents and tireless dedication of many people working together – which is why we were thrilled to announce the 2024 Green Star Champions at Green Building Day in Sydney on 20 June. Please reach out to your colleagues to congratulate them on this recognition and remind them that their work matters.