Policy Perspective - July 2018

11 Jul 2018

We're midway through the year - and what fantastic progress we've made so far! Industry has taken action on reducing the built environment's carbon emissions to meet the critical targets set by the Paris Agreement. With the release of our Carbon Positive Roadmap and Built to Perform by ASBEC and ClimateWorks, government is positioned to support us on creating a carbon positive built environment by 2030. We applaud your support on this seminal milestone for us, as an industry, and look forward to welcoming policy action as we move forward on this bold new trajectory.

GBCA paper maps decarbonisation journey for industry and governments

At our recent Next Generation Utilities with Minister Don Harwin, we launched the Carbon Positive Roadmap for the built environment discussion paper. The Roadmap establishes a pathway to decarbonise commercial, institutional and government buildings in Australia, to help meet our international commitments and keep global warming below two degrees.

In addition to targets and changes proposed for the Green Star rating tool, the Roadmap outlines a set of policy actions for governments to support industry through the next decade of transformation. These actions are aimed at meeting the underlying targets set out by the Roadmap: ensuring that new buildings and fitouts have no carbon emissions by 2030, and the same for existing buildings and fitouts by 2050.

Each policy action contains a timeline for new and existing buildings, as well as positions that will be adopted by GBCA through our advocacy.

Broadly, the Roadmap outlines a plan for industry to:
• commit to a permanent transition to zero net greenhouse gas emissions;
• switch to, install, or procure renewable energy and support the decarbonisation of the grid; 
• build, operate, or occupy low energy intensive buildings and fitouts;  
• adopt net zero carbon products, materials and services; and,
• support the transition to electric vehicles.

Many of the priorities reflect areas where we are already taking action – examples include our advocacy for the expansion of mandatory disclosure to new sectors,our work with ASBEC and industry partners to deliver a trajectory for energy performance standard upgrades and calling for greater access to energy consumption data for building owners.

Others will require us to continue our engagement with local, state and federal governments urging them to support the Roadmap through their own policy leadership. 

We encourage you to consider these priorities, and provide us with your feedback on the discussion paper by the end of August 2018. 

Read the Carbon Positive Roadmap for the built environment discussion paper.

New report calls for Zero Carbon Ready building code

A new report from ASBEC and ClimateWorks Australia has delivered a strong case for increased energy requirements in the National Construction Code, showing that stronger targets can deliver emissions savings while reducing energy bills.

Titled Built to Perform – an industry led pathway for a carbon neutral building code, the report argues that Australia needs an improved building code that prepares buildings today for a zero carbon future.

The National Construction Code is just one of many tools available to help Governments ensure our transition to a zero carbon built environment. It is a critical component however, because it influences both the building ‘envelope’ (the walls, roof and windows that separate the indoors from the outside world) and fixed equipment like air conditioners and water heaters -  elements of buildings that will be in use for decades to come. 

To assess the potential for the Code energy requirements to push new construction towards net zero energy, Built to Perform modelled eight building archetypes across four climate zones. It found that even taking a conservative approach, increased energy efficiency requirements in the Code can cut the energy use of buildings by 19-56% by 2030, compared with standards proposed to be introduced in 2019. This could be achieved through simple measures such as more airtight buildings, higher levels of insulation, more shading, ceiling fans and light-coloured walls (in warmer climates), and increased efficiency standards for lights, hot water equipment and air conditioning units. Further gains could be achieved through faster adoption of best practice design for energy efficiency, or inclusion of other energy uses into the Code.

Stronger targets would also reduce stress on the electricity grid, and reduce energy bills. If the Code energy performance targets in the report were implemented, residential energy bills could be reduced by up to $900 per household per year, and non-residential energy bills could be reduced by thousands of dollars each year. Across Australia, $19 billion in residential energy bill savings could be realised, and $8 billion in non-residential energy bills, between now and 2050.

On the other hand, delayed action will mean that many of these opportunities are lost. The report shows that a three-year delay in further upgrades to building energy performance standards could lead to a further $2.6 billion in wasted energy expenditure to 2030 and lock in 9 million tonnes of emissions to 2030, increasing to 22 million tonnes by 2050.

Increasing the stringency of the Code has been a long-term advocacy priority for the GBCA and we are proud to support this industry-led push to increase the stringency of energy efficiency provisions within the NCC. Yet despite the leadership shown by market-leading Australian companies, the market alone cannot turn things around. Governments need to get on board and provide clear targets to give industry the certainty they need to invest in high performing buildings.

Lastly, the report recognises that the Code can only take us part of the way to net zero. It recognises that the Code needs to work with suite of other policies and actions that includes, for example, adding more renewable energy to our electricity supply and making appliances more efficient. The GBCA will continue to advocate for the adoption of the results from this report, through our advocacy and as we develop a suite of recommendations to Governments to help transition the buildings sector to a net zero economy.

Read our media release
Read the report: Built to Perform: An industry led pathway to a zero carbon ready building code

Building with nature

Healthy, resilient and positive places for people and the natural environment. The GBCA’s vision places the natural environment as core to what we do, and recognises that cities depend on healthy ecosystems to sustain long term conditions for life, health and ongoing prosperity. Research and evidence demonstrating the positive impacts of green space and biodiversity on people and urban space is significant. They show that cities which embrace their dependency on healthy ecosystems, make green space and promote biodiversity stand to gain significant benefits. 

However, the current economic value and benefits of ecosystems and biodiversity is often not adequately accounted for in the built environment. As we look to the future of Green Star, we believe that bringing back nature to our cities should be a core value of the built environment. 

To enable this discussion we recently released an existing new discussion paper. Building with Nature: prioritising ecology and biodiversity for better buildings and cities outlines the role of biodiversity and ecological value in the built environment. But more than this it also make key recommendations about putting nature at the front and centre of our work, by proposing significant changes that will be made to Green Star as part of the Green Star Future Focus review.

These changes aim to:
• Increase the amount of urban green spaces in cities;
• Connect landscape and habitat to support biodiversity;
• Create links between natural and human made landscapes; and,
• Promote responsible restoration of the environment, not just locally but for the surrounding landscape and beyond

Central to the review is a need to ensure that connectivity (at habitat and broader landscape scale) is considered during assessments, development of plans and implementation of actions.

Over time, it is envisages that long term biodiversity planning will lead to greater biodiversity and improve future decision make on ecological value for the local and regional area.

However, this vision cannot be developed without the input of our members, industry professionals and subject matter experts. We look forward to working together to continue to enhance and improve Green Star, and ensure the built environment is part of delivering world leading ecological and biodiversity outcomes. 

Read the Building with Nature executive summary and discussion paper. Our thanks to Stockland for supporting the development of this paper.

Making Sydney a Sustainable Destination: the role for environmental ratings
Written by City of Sydney

Making Sydney a Sustainable Destination is the latest of City of Sydney’s sector sustainability plans, setting a vision for Sydney to be recognised globally as a sustainable destination for business and holidays. 

Sydney’s accommodation and entertainment sector continues to expand, with visitors now contributing $16.7 billion a year to the local economy. However this scale brings environmental impacts. The accommodation and entertainment sector contributes 21 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, 14 per cent of potable water consumption, and 47 percent of the commercial waste in the City of Sydney area.

The City has committed to work with the sector to dramatically increase the number of accommodation and event venues measuring, reporting and improving sustainability performance. Despite the fact that many in the sector are already investing in ways to ensure their buildings have less impact on the environment, there are only a handful translating this into third party accredited ratings. 

The office sector has long used environmental ratings as a consistent and transparent mechanism to demonstrate corporate commitment and drive efficiency improvements, and we have ample data that year-on-year ratings in office buildings drive efficiency improvements and operational cost savings.  

In the same way, ratings can help owners and managers of accommodation and entertainment venues benchmark performance, reduce business costs, increase profitability and promote leadership. Ratings also provide guests and clients with a standardised way to understand how venue performance aligns to their corporate or personal values.

The City provides grants of up to $10,000 for building owners and managers to get third party sustainability ratings and certifications, including Green Star, NABERS AND EarthCheck. Its recently launched Sustainable Destination Partnership of accommodation and events leaders, of which the GBCA is a member will be discovering how environmental ratings can help drive systemic improvements through their buildings. 

In the absence of a national policy mechanism such as mandatory disclosure of ratings for accommodation providers, client demand and corporate policy levers are key catalysts for change. When the NSW Government introduced policy requiring minimum performance standards in government leases of office space, that single action completely transformed the business case for sustainably motivated investment. It went from being something building owners did to save money, to something they did to attract more business. 

In the accommodation space, corporate leaders such as Stockland (a member of both CitySwitch and the Better Buildings Partnership) are using their purchasing power to ensure the hotels their staff stay in when travelling on business have corporate values and standards that align with theirs. 

During their annual hotel tender, accommodation is assessed against four main criteria: Location/Accessibility; Safety & Security; Cost; and Sustainability. Narelle Mills, Stockland’s Senior Manager Corporate Procurement also notes that possession of a third party certified sustainability rating can be a differentiator in a market where pricing is often very similar across the hotel brands.

Stockland’s preferred hotels then provide data back to the corporate procurement team on how a hotel or hotel chain is performing over time against its sustainability commitments.

You can find sample clauses in the Global Business Travel Association Hotel RFP template - these can be tailored to include sustainability ratings recognised in Australia. You can also speak with the City of Sydney’s sustainability programs— accommodation and entertainment team for more information.