The built environment can produce numerous dividends – Green Building Council of Australia.

By Tina Perinotto

13 August 2013 — The Green Building Council of Australia has called on all major political parties to commit to greener federal government buildings as a way to lift productivity that could add up to $2 billion a year to the economy.

And it’s offered to help.

As the federal election enters its second week,  and the weekend debate between the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott yielded almost no mention of environmental or sustainability issues, the GBCA has finally “mentioned the war” (against carbon) and that buildings are key to this.

In a three-point plan the GBCA has urged a focus by the federal government to green its own buildings, rate them with Green Star, and to embed the Green Star — Communities rating tool into local, state and federal government policies for neighbourhoods and cities.

In return, the GBCA has offered to, among other things, “promote and celebrate government leadership”. It will also:

  • Provide support for Green Star projects throughout the certification process
  • Act as a conduit between government and industry and share lessons learned
  • Provide information resources and opportunities for education and training

But the GBCA wants some serious action. Such as a commitment to:

  • achieving Green Star certification for all government accommodation
  • providing financial and non-financial support to encourage more healthy and efficient schools and healthcare facilities
  • supporting the establishment of an Australian Centre for Green Schools
  • to embed green skills across all industry training by requiring a more holistic approach to sustainability in education and training in all government- funded initiatives
  • achieving Green Star certification for all government accommodation
  • providing financial and non-financial support to encourage more healthy and efficient schools and healthcare facilities
  • supporting the establishment of an Australian Centre for Green Schools
  • embed green skills across all industry training by requiring a more holistic approach to sustainability in education and training in all government- funded initiatives

And it has reasons. Namely around direct government consumption of energy through its buildings. But also because:

  • Retrofitting buildings is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce carbon and save energy
  • A 10 per cent improvement in energy efficiency across government buildings could save over 620,000 gigajoules of electricity and over $35 million per year in energy bills
  • Green Star-rated buildings use 66 per cent less energy than average buildings and emit 62 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions
  • Many Green Star-rated projects report a 10-15 per cent improvement in worker productivity. In 2011-12, the Australian Government spent $18.9 billion on wages and salaries; a 10 per cent improvement in productivity would provide a boost worth almost $2 billion

According to GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon setting a greener agenda for the nation’s built environment would have broad and deep dividends for the entire country.

It would place Australia on a “clear, long-term pathway to a healthier, more productive, more resilient and more sustainable built environment”, Mr Mellon said.

“Our political leaders agree that we must find new ways to increase Australia’s productivity for our economy to continue to grow and remain globally competitive.

“One of the most effective ways to boost the productivity and performance of people is to improve the quality of their working environments.

“Our federal government must ‘walk the talk’,” he said.

Aside from government, the plan also details action sought from the community, industry associations, and builders, developers and owners.

See the plan here