11 June 2010 – The Green Building Council yesterday released a guide to government policy frameworks to green buildings, as part of a study that shows that all levels of government had embraced a green building agenda.

GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew said  most jurisdictions had developed “well-defined policies that guide whole-of-government strategies to encourage sustainable building, covering efficient use of energy, water and materials.

“The Australian Government’s National Strategy on Energy Efficiency –  the first nationally consistent roadmap to reduce the carbon footprint of businesses and households across Australia, places a strong emphasis on the role of buildings in climate change mitigation,” Ms Madew said.

Key policy frameworks highlighted in the study include:

Federal Government

The Energy Efficiency in Government Operations (2006) aims to improve energy efficiency, and consequently reduce the whole of life cost and environmental impact of government operations, including the buildings it owns and leases.

NSW
The NSW Government Sustainability Policy (2008) commits to state government operations and activities being carbon-neutral by 2020.  The policy includes state-wide targets for government buildings: to return to greenhouse gas emissions from building energy use to 2000 levels of 1.5 million tonnes by 2019-2020, with interim targets of 1.74 million tonnes by 2016-2017.

QLD
Cleaner Greener Buildings lifts the environmental standards for all new homes, offices and government buildings in Queensland.  Among the key requirements is electricity sub-metering in new office buildings and multi unit dwellings, giving tenants an incentive to reduce their power bills.

VIC
The Greener Government Buildings Program allocates $60 million to upgrade government office buildings, schools, hospitals and community buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy costs and water use. By 2018, sites accounting for 90 per cent of the Government’s total energy consumption will undertake Greener Government Buildings projects. The Program is the first key action under Jobs for the Future Economy, a new strategy to facilitate green investment across the Victorian economy.

SA
Tackling Climate Change includes a Government Action Plan which guides the activities of government agencies to meet SA’s commitment to achieve the Kyoto emissions reduction target for 2008- 2012.  A key measure is to improve the energy efficiency of government buildings by 25 per cent on 2000/2001 levels by 2014.

WA
The Energy Smart Government policy requires government agencies to report their total energy costs, consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and key performance indicator data each year.  The policy covers all stationary energy used in buildings, plant and equipment in public sector agencies with 25 or more staff.

ACT
A priority action under Action Plan 1 of Weathering the Change (2007-2011) is to pursue carbon neutrality in ACT Government buildings (including schools, hospitals, shopfronts and other government facilities). Agencies are required to undertake projects to offset their remaining emissions, as well as report annually.

NT
The Energy Smart Building Policy sets a 10 per cent energy intensity and greenhouse gas reduction targets for all Northern Territory Government agencies by 2010-11. This target is set against a baseline established in 2004-05.

Local Government

The study examined the policies and programs of five major cities: Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.  All the city councils have policies in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from council buildings.

Ms Madew said: “Buildings represent both the largest single source of greenhouse emissions and the best opportunity to reduce emissions, while sustaining economic growth.

“That’s why governments at all levels are starting to offer a range of incentives and support programs to encourage awareness of the opportunities to reduce emissions at low cost and with fast paybacks.”

However the transition had a slow start.

“When we conducted our first comparative study of governments’ policies on energy efficiency in buildings in 2007, many jurisdictions did not have comprehensive or cohesive policies,” Ms Madew, said.

“Indeed, we found that it was not uncommon for one agency to be unaware of another’s activities, despite the potential for collaboration.”

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au