The start of a new sustainability sprint

28 Jun 2021

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

Behind Brisbane’s “irresistible” bid for the 2032 Olympics and Paralympics is a secret weapon: a legacy of hosting green games and a truly authentic vision for a sustainable future. 

Green Star is embedded into Brisbane’s bid with a promise that all new vertical infrastructure and significant upgrades will target 6 star Green Star. This commitment alone is worthy of stadium-sized standing ovation! 

IOC President Thomas Bach has said Brisbane impressed with a “clear vision for a sustainable and feasible Olympic Games”. Our Olympics bid shows how “forward-thinking leaders recognise the power of sport as a way to achieve lasting legacies for their communities”. 

Cities invest billions in sporting infrastructure that they hope will last a lifetime, but what often gets left behind is not a pretty picture: deserted venues and dilapidated villages ready for demolition.  

But Australia has a different story – one that stretches back to before the Sydney 2000 Olympics, when a group of green building pioneers set their sights on sustainability.  

Sydney was a laboratory for green design and construction with world-firsts for solar arrays, water recycling and waste management. The Olympics catalysed entire industries around sustainability, as suppliers along the supply chain started thinking differently about their products, services and designs. 

After the Games were over, Australia’s builders, designers and developers had positive proof that they could deliver sustainability at scale. But they also had a big challenge ahead: how would we measure best practice and separate green from greenwash? The idea for the Green Building Council of Australia was born, and with it Green Star. 

Since then, we have rewarded game-changing sporting infrastructure with Green Star ratings, like the La Trobe Sports Stadium in Melbourne and Scarborough Beach Pool in Perth.  

The 4 Star-rated Gold Coast Commonwealth Games athletes’ village was transformed into a build-to-rent apartment precinct in recognition of its enduring appeal as a sustainable asset. 

And 20 years after the Green Games, Sydney Olympic Park achieved a 6 Star Green Star Communities rating – an acknowledgement of the ground-breaking work that laid the foundation for a sustainable future and two decades finding ways to be even better.  

Olympics venues are the jewel in the crown of social infrastructure, but there are also innumerable schools and hospitals, museums and libraries being built around Australia that could be influenced by Green Star. Our new Green Star in Focus paper builds our strongest case yet for sustainable social infrastructure. The hard numbers are all there to support better decisions: a 20% saving in energy efficiency and a 4.3% premium in asset value are just the beginning. 

Olympics leave legacies that echo for generations. But, as we know from our experience with Sydney, they can also shape values long before a brick is laid, or a sod is turned. We can expand our industry’s sustainability skills and amplify the Games’ impact by committing to Green Star on all new projects – whether that’s a new hospital or a housing development, a school or a shopping centre. 

On 21 July we will know if Brisbane is successful. We are standing on the starters blocks as new era for sustainable social infrastructure awaits. Here at Green Building Council of Australia we are ready for the starter pistol to fire and we’ll be off at a sprint.