By Romilly Madew

Since the introduction of Green Star environmental rating tools in 2003, we have seen Australia’s property and construction industry embrace sustainable building practices to the extent that 11 per cent of Australia’s CBD office space is now Green Star certified.

Now, it’s time to broaden our focus to examine how we build and support sustainable communities.

The Green Building Council of Australia and the Victorian Government’s urban development agency, VicUrban, recently agreed to a partnership agreement for a national framework to drive the development of sustainable communities and precincts.

The new framework is timely, given the emerging need within the industry for a set of sustainability benchmarks for precincts. A number of developments are being planned around Australia, including VicUrban’s Officer township in Melbourne’s south-east, Frasers Broadway, Macquarie University and Barangaroo in Sydney, CUB in Melbourne, and Eastlake in the ACT.

We recognise that a Green Star framework devoted to precincts or communities will be more complex than other Green Star rating tools developed for specific building types, such as offices, shopping centres, hospitals, and schools, particularly as many urban precincts embrace multiple uses.

In June, the GBCA and VicUrban held a visioning workshop with 48 representatives from Australia’s development and building industry, leading private-sector developers, including Stockland, Lend Lease, MAB, Leighton, Mirvac, Grocon and GPT Group, as well as the three tiers of government to outline what a framework could look like.

The desired framework will establish a language of excellence to inform consumers about achievable and desirable levels of sustainability, and act as a mechanism for industry to raise standards and deliver best practice against measurable benchmarks.

Both the GBCA and VicUrban agree that while government regulation can play an important role in mandating higher standards for some aspects of urban development, optimal outcomes can only be achieved through partnership, industry leadership and informed consumer choices.

We have a vision for sustainable communities that are more than just sensitive to their environment.  In the future, we hope to see sustainable communities that meet the diverse needs of both existing and future residents and workers and contribute to a high quality of life.

Romilly Madew is chief executive, Green Building Council of Australia