What to expect from the latest Green Star refresh

The sustainability goals and standards for our built environment are changing. Fast.

When we talk about sustainability, we’re no longer talking just about the environment but about society and the economy as well.

Governments, investors and communities are demanding improvements for better environmental and societal outcomes across society, including in the physical world around us.

At the Green Building Council of Australia, we are responding to these global trends with a transformation of the Green Star rating system. We want to ensure our built environment is not only sustainable, but able to benefit the environment as well.

In just over a decade, Green Star has been a transformational force, with more than 2250 projects now certified. To maintain that impact in such a fast-moving landscape, we must continue to evolve our tools. 

Thanks to continued support and feedback, we are preparing to introduce changes that will set up the rating system to be even more successful over the next decade in driving further transformation and at the same time expand its uptake to new stakeholders.

What will change?

Green Star for New Buildings builds on its environmental roots to deliver a better, more accessible, and more relevant rating tool. It features the biggest overhaul to the rating system since its inception, with an expanded scope communicated through eight brand-new categories.

Its vision statement is simple: Healthy, resilient and positive places for people and nature, built responsibly and showcasing leadership. 

In addition, and in line with our Carbon Positive Roadmap, we are homing in on carbon emissions to encourage a net zero carbon future for the built environment, harnessing renewable energy and low-emissions technologies. World-leading buildings are now expected to be net zero carbon, so we are ramping up our requirements.

A 6-Star Green Star building will have to have a low energy demand and use 100 per cent renewable electricity to meet certification requirements in 2020. By 2023, 5-Star Green Star rated buildings will also have to source their electricity from 100 per cent renewables. We are also targeting the use of fossil fuels in buildings, with requirements to reduce their use as much as possible and offset the rest. 

Under Future Focus, we will encourage the building to consider impacts beyond just its own. For example, new credits will encourage a holistic approach to address and minimise a building’s impact on neighboring buildings. Not only that, but a new place making category will encourage creating better places within our cities. 

At the same time as we are encouraging the best to do even better, we want to encourage those starting their sustainability journey to use Green Star. 

This includes setting clear requirements and building a library of clauses, contract examples, and additional tools to help deliver energy efficient, water efficient, climate change ready buildings with good indoor environment quality.

What won’t change

While some of the criteria and benchmarks for Green Star ratings will change, our philosophy at the GBCA will not.

Our goal is still to create healthy, resilient and positive places for people to work, live and play. We believe we can achieve this through the sustainable transformation of Australia’s buildings, cities and communities.

Green Star-rated buildings will retain their competitive advantage in the crowded commercial and residential property markets. 

And Green Star-rated buildings will continue to save money, create healthier environments and improve the nation’s environmental sustainability – one building, or community, or fit out at a time.

After certifying more than 2250 buildings, 38 per cent of the country’s office space, communities home to 420,000 Australians, and shopping centres visited by more than 1.3 million people each day, we are continuing to strive for improved sustainability across our built environment.

How we got here

The GBCA has arrived at the proposed new Green Star for New Buildings thanks to significant and ongoing consultation across industry. For more than a year we have liaised with industry representatives through panel discussions, face to face meetings, and online seminars. Ten expert panels have provided valuable feedback with over 130+ participants. We have tried to get the balance right. Now we are asking for more help to refine the new way forward. Consultation is open now, until 10 June, for the first of our Green Star Future Focused rating tools: Green Star for New Buildings

This article first appeared as an exclusive on The Fifth Estate. For more information on Green Star Future Focus, including consultation deadlines and partnership opportunities, head here.