Ready for resilience

Alkimos Beach, WA. Lendlease and Western Australian Land Authority. 6 Star Green Star - Communities PILOT v0.1.

27 Sep 2021

A word from Davina Rooney, CEO, Green Building Council of Australia

The financial costs from shocks and stresses are starting to add up.

Natural disasters already hit Australia’s hip pocket to the tune of $13.2 billion a year – but this is expected to climb to $39.3 billion by 2050. Cybercrime costs Australian business around $2 million each time they fall victim to an attack. South Australia’s taxpayers spent $120,000 a minute during the state’s energy blackouts a few years back. And retailers in Martin Place found their earnings fell by up to 70% in the aftermath of the Lindt Café siege in Sydney.

These are just four examples of the financial consequences – outlined in our latest Future in Focus paper – of systems that aren’t set up with resilience front-and-centre. 

But our failure to embed resilience into our systems may have many more non-financial impacts: to our health and wellbeing, to our natural world and to the fabric that holds our communities together.

Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has been thinking carefully about resilience for many years. We know that a resilient built environment is mission critical when disaster does strike and as businesses, people and communities get back on their feet afterwards. Resilience in the built environment, developed in partnership with AECOM, brings together these thoughts into one comprehensive piece of work.

The timing of our report launch couldn’t be better, as last week was World Green Building Week, and the World Green Building Council’s network of 36,000 companies came together under the theme of #BuildingResilience.

There is no ‘quick fix’ for the acute shocks and chronic stresses that we increasingly face in our interconnected and complex world. But our report outlines four areas of focus for governments. Chief among them is a review of building codes and standards. 

We have some other asks for government: that resilience is considered at the earliest stages of government projects to maximise investment; that policy and planning rewards private sector projects that prioritise resilience; and funding for applied research so we can make more informed decisions about resilience impacts on the built environment.

GBCA is already doing a lot of heavy lifting in Green Star’s new Resilient category. We are challenging project teams to embrace solutions that help the built environment bounce back – and that starts with a climate change risk assessment which is now mandatory for any Green Star project.

COVID-19 may be capturing a lot of headlines and headspace, but the World Economic Forum's 2021 Global Risk Report still ranks extreme weather as the top risk by likelihood, with climate action failure, human environmental damage and biodiversity loss also in the top five. 

This is food for thought as the world’s leaders gear up for COP26 in Glasgow, arguably the most critical climate change discussions in a decade. We have the lowdown on COP26 in this Green Building Voice. COP26 comes not a moment too soon, given the latest warning from the IPCC that global warming is reaching a dangerous tipping point. 

We were honoured that Independent federal Member of Parliament Zali Steggall OAM could join us to help us launch our resilience paper recently, members can view Zali’s speech and the panel discussion here. Zali has been a vocal champion of climate action legislation which would set Australia on a path to net zero.

While Zali’s private member’s bill was unsuccessful in July, she attracted more than 6,500 submissions from people around the country, garnered widespread support from the business community and sent a strong signal to Australia’s national parliament. Australians want change – and this change must happen at scale. To make that change possible our buildings, infrastructure, communities and homes must be ready, and they must be resilient.