Stories of sustainability at speed and scale

15 Dec 2023

Every story about sustainable real estate is a combination of bricks and mortar, blood, sweat and tears. Here, our writer Karen Jamal says it is that elemental mix of physical outcomes and passionate people that make every story leap off the page. But this year, five articles captured the imaginations of Green Building Voice readers above all others.

Davina Rooney’s clarion call captured more clicks than any other story this year. A master of translating megatrends into practical tools that deliver real impact, our CEO offered a new take on the old adage “think global and act local” in October. 

Drawing together seemingly disparate threads, from the new Australian High Commission in Washington and global GRESB results to the City of Melbourne's zero carbon policies and the new guide for sustainable home renovations, Davina laid down a clear challenge: listen to the global call to action, but “tackle every building from the bottom up”.

Following the launch of Every Building Counts for Local Governments in October, we checked in with Katy Dean, our Senior Policy Adviser. Katy has championed green building policy for well over a decade and has witnessed government action shift from incremental to transformational. Local governments are Green Star champions and most have set targets for zero carbon operations, Katy noted. The next step is to “underpin these commitments with a clear plan for achieving zero-carbon-ready buildings”. For local governments setting their sights on a more sustainable 2024, this article is a good place to start.

Lendlease has confirmed the ‘diffusion of innovations’ curve many times over the years, and its work to tackle upfront carbon emissions is being followed by sustainability specialists across the world. In May, the GBCA and Lendlease launched a practical guide to upfront carbon reductions. When Lendlease made the decision to swap out concrete and steel for timber at 25 King Street in Brisbane, it delivered the world’s tallest engineered timber building at the time, cutting upfront emissions by almost 40%. 

But as Lendlease’s Head of Sustainability Australia, Ann Austin, says in our article: “While we’ve delivered 26 engineered timber buildings globally, our research shows more needs to be done to decarbonise steel, concrete and aluminium – the three leading materials that typically contribute to more than 70 per cent of a building’s embodied carbon footprint.”

“Ho ho ho. Gas has to go,” Santa might say this Christmas. In July, our story about the health and hip pocket benefits of electrification sparked plenty of interest.

“There are so many good reasons to have induction and no good reasons to have gas. It outperforms on every level,” Virginia Jones, Global Cooksafe Coalition’s Australian Program Manager, told us in June. Viriginia shared some shocking statistics. Children who live in a home with a gas stove are 42% more likely to suffer from asthma. Three quarters of methane leaking from gas stovetops occurs when an appliance is not in use. And top chef Luke Burgess saved $30,000 a year in cleaning costs when one restaurant made the switch to all electric cooking. With these statistics in mind, 2024 can be the year where gas goes for good.

As interest rates continued to climb in 2023, we weren’t surprised to see readers attracted to the headline numbers in this story. Homeowners of Green Star Homes can expect to save up to $115,000 and shave several years off their 30-year mortgage, according to KMPG’s analysis.

The cost benefit for green homes is compelling. According to KPMG’s Partner of ESG Advisory and Assurance Mark Spicer, the findings "show that the economics now align with the significant amenity uplift of a greener, more efficient and healthier home."

Since this article was published in August, we’ve started a new climate conversation with the finance industry with the launch of our practical guide for sustainable finance that suggests, in Davina Rooney’s words, that “Australia is on the cusp of a sustainable finance revolution”.

And a bonus story...

While it wasn't a Green Building Voice story, the Green Star Buildings resources section on the GBCA’s website attracted thousands of visits and downloads for its handy guides, robust business case and one-stop-shop of training and technical materials. A record 848 buildings achieved Green Star ratings over the 2023 financial year. Let’s make 2024 bigger, better and greener.

What do all these stories have in common? Whether the topic is global gamechangers or local leadership, landmark buildings or business cases, one theme underpins them all: people. To everyone who worked together this year to drive sustainability at scale and speed, we salute you.