GBCA has called on political leaders of the ACT to strengthen their commitment to more efficient and sustainable buildings and communities.
Could Canberra be Australia’s most sustainable city?
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has called on political leaders of the ACT to strengthen their commitment to more efficient, productive, resource-friendly and sustainable buildings and communities.
With the ACT election set for Saturday 20 October, Australia's leading green building and sustainable community organisation has assessed the ACT against five green building priorities.
“The ACT Labor Government is to be congratulated for providing bold leadership with an ambitious target of all government operations – including schools, hospitals, public transport and emergency services – to be carbon neutral by 2020,” says the GBCA’s Executive Director of Advocacy, Robin Mellon. To facilitate this outcome, $5 million has been committed to a carbon neutral government fund to finance energy efficiency measures in ACT government buildings.
“The ACT also has the highest investment in sustainable construction per capita, and 19 per cent of the ACT’s office market is currently Green Star-rated. The ACT Government is also delivering a green education revolution with a number of Green Star-rated schools.
“The ACT has the potential to be Australia’s most sustainable jurisdiction, but we urge all political parties to reaffirm their commitment with polices and programs which support sustainable buildings and communities. We look forward to working with all sides of politics to realise Canberra’s potential as a world-class sustainable city,” Mr Mellon adds.
Priority 1: Provide visionary government leadership
One of the most influential ways for the incoming government to demonstrate its green leadership is to commit to achieving Green Star ratings for buildings it owns, occupies or develops, whether offices, schools, hospitals or public buildings. This demonstrates both financial responsibility and long-term thinking.
“The Victorian and Queensland governments have both mandated minimum Green Star standards for their office accommodation, but the ACT Government is yet to make such a commitment,” Mr Mellon says. “Moving to Green Star-rated buildings will support more productive, healthy and efficient work places for all ACT Government employees.”
Although the ACT Labor Government has committed to upgrading and consolidating its office accommodation in the city centre, and to achieving high level environmental performance for new office accommodation in Gungahlin, Canberrans should expect Green Star ratings to be achieved for such ACT Government projects.
Priority 2: Retrofit and improve existing buildings
Greening the vast amount of existing building stock in Australia is an enormous challenge. State and territory governments are introducing a range of policy incentives to improve existing buildings' energy efficiency, reduce water use, widen the range of green building materials used and reduce construction and demolition waste.
“The ACT is faced with a looming oversupply of office accommodation. More than 140,000 square metres of office stock will enter the market in the second half of 2012. Just over half has been pre-committed. Next year, an additional 62,000 square metres will be released, and again just over half is pre-committed. In this competitive market, older buildings that aren’t upgraded to higher environmental standards are unlikely to attract government and corporate tenants,” Mr Mellon says.
"We call on all ACT politicians to recognise the long-term value embedded in the built environment, and to unlock the opportunities of the territory’s existing building stock through supportive policies and incentives such as environmental upgrade agreements and the use of the Green Star – Performance rating tool, due for release next year.”
Priority 3: Green education and healthcare facilities
Every pupil has a right to fresh air, daylight and good indoor environment quality within a building that reflects longterm sustainability goals and financial responsibility. Similarly, patients and staff across Australia have a right to healthy and productive healthcare environments.
“We applaud the ACT Government’s commitment to Green Star-rated schools. Currently, six government schools in the ACT are either certified or registered to achieve Green Star ratings, including Harrison Secondary College and Gold Creek Primary School’s Environment Centre. In addition, the CIT’s Sustainable Skills Training Hub is seeking Green Star certification. This investment in green schools will not only improve educational outcomes for the ACT’s students, but also help the people of Canberra to reach the ambitious target of carbon neutrality by 2020,” Mr Mellon says.
“We call on all political parties to take this shift to sustainability a step further, and commit to achieving Green Star ratings for every new school and healthcare facility,” Mr Mellon says. “By seeking Green Star ratings for each new project, the ACT Government will demonstrate its ongoing commitment to best practice and keep pace with evolving Green Star benchmarks.”
Priority 4: Move beyond buildings to communities and cities
The GBCA has recently launched the Green Star – Communities rating tool to provide best practice benchmarks for delivering adaptable, liveable, prosperous and sustainable cities, communities and precincts. The new rating tool was launched at the Built Environment Meets Parliament conference in Canberra in June by Federal Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese.
“We commend the ACT’s Land Development Agency for sponsoring the development of the Green Star – Communities rating tool, and the ACT Government for demonstrating green leadership in this area,” Mr Mellon says. Large-scale and community energy solutions are also at the centre of the recently released ACT Climate Change Strategy (AP2) that aims to see 90 per cent of power sourced from renewable energy alternatives by 2020, and which looks at the benefits of combining renewable energy alternatives like wind with existing solar projects, encouraging more use of public transport to reduce traffic emissions, and boosting energy efficiency in homes and buildings to save money and reduce the territory’s carbon footprint.
“We look forward to working with the ACT Government on possible Green Star – Communities developments, which will create more affordable, liveable and sustainable places for the people of Canberra.”
Priority 5: Embed green skills across all industry training
The demand for 'green collar workers' across the economy continues to grow. To capitalise on these job opportunities, the people of the ACT must have the necessary skills.
“We are encouraged by the opening of the CIT Sustainable Skills Hub, which is inspiring students with ‘hands-on’ skills training. In much the same way that OH&S has become an integrated part of industry training, green skills must be embedded into the ACT curriculum to ensure we develop better, safer, greener buildings and provide people with job opportunities and skills in a low-carbon economy,” Mr Mellon explains.
"Can the National Capital become Australia’s most environmentally and economically sustainable city? We look forward to hearing both Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Leader of the Opposition Zed Seselja outline how they plan to deliver a better built environment between now and the election on 20 October," Mr Mellon concludes.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is Australia’s leading authority on green buildings and communities. The GBCA was established in 2002 to develop a sustainable property industry in Australia and drive the adoption of green building practices. The GBCA has 850 member companies who work together to support the Council and its activities. The GBCA promotes green building programs, technologies, design practices and processes, and operates Australia’s only national voluntary comprehensive environmental rating system for buildings - Green Star. See: www.gbca.org.au