Franklin River, Tasmania
Franklin River, Tasmania

News from the front desk #390: World Environment Day was this week and to mark the occasion there was a bevy of good news to lift the spirits.

A highlight was interviewing Bob Brown who led the biggest environmental wake up call of the past 35 years with the fight for the Franklin River in Tasmania, under threat in those days from the nasty hydro power authority that wanted to dam the beautiful wild river.

Today (Thursday) we read that Tasmania is offering to be the “battery” of the nation, as some quarters of the mainstream media blather on about too much solar. Things can change. Greatly.

Same in property.

From NABERS came tributes to 20 years of hard slog to bring some science and metrics to the job of reducing emissions in our buildings. NABERS and its NSW environment minister Gabrielle Upton celebrated the rating tool’s second decade birthday at a conference in Sydney on Tuesday, with three new rating tools.

You could say they tackled the missing middle of commercial buildings, the invisible bits behind the loading dock doors and the huge swathes in and around the CBD in high-rise apartments where so many people now live.

The event paid tribute to one of its algorithmic stars, physicist Paul Bannister, who’s been bringing the tool to the UK and the Middle East and who in turn paid tribute to Sue Salmon, who spun engagement magic over nearly six years to bring aboard the governments and major property owners of the time to back the scheme.

NABERS Co-assess is an engagement program that allows the program “to reach thousands of small and medium sized businesses”. These are the tenancies in small, medium and we think large office buildings that have clearly been bypassed by the supposed trickle-down effect in sustainability (top owners great; the rest, not so much).

The tool allows tenants to pretty much tag along for the ride when the base building owner gets an assessment at very little additional effort and cost. The idea is that they can finally get their own environmental selfie equivalent and see how they all look stacked up against their peers.

We think Co-assess might also help swing the environmental spotlight in the direction of bigger tenants, those erstwhile “butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth” corporates who live the life of climate Riley in six-star base buildings without having to worry about their own fitout or energy ratings.

Game’s up folks. There is now a perfectly easy way to assess your tenancy’s energy consumption by piggybacking on the regular ratings conducted by the base building owner. No more hiding behind those closing lift doors in splendid isolation.

No coercion here, of course. We all play nice. (Some of us may have proposed a public scoreboard listing the NABERS tenancy rating of the top corporates in the land for all to see, but of course we’re trying hard to keep these wild ideas in check.)

Another new tool was the upgraded NABERS Waste tool, which the minister cited as one of the government’s “most ambitious sustainability projects”.

So it should be.

That green spotlight of accountability could soon swing any which way. On Tuesday, for instance, we also attended a briefing and suggestions sessions at ABC’s Ultimo studios for Season 2 of its hugely successful War on Waste. After China announced it would stop being the world’s dumping ground, it’s timely indeed.

The new NABERS Waste tool ramps up the technology methodology by several notches.

It will allow comparisons of your waste generation with similar premises in the marketplace and measure how much waste is diverted from landfill as a percentage of total materials generated.

Eventually everyone hopes we can get close to zero, don’t we?

The tool uses “actual waste collection” data over a 12-month period to determine the rating.

Here’s where you register your building.

The tool for apartments is equally important and massively overdue.

See our article flagging it’s imminence here, NABERS for apartments could change the game – if it’s mandated

It’s not before time. As our article above pointed out there are huge savings possible. And we learnt that at least one Melbourne company was gearing up for the same competitive streak to hit apartments as had swept through the major office buildings of Australia, making NABERS and Green Star aspirational, first environmentally then financially, and now as we roar into the world of wellness, better socially. So the three-legged stool of sustainability.

Speaking of Green Star, the Green Building Council of Australia also chose this week to announce that the industry was now big, bold and complex enough to move beyond the annual Green Cities conference, which would now be replaced by a rolling series of smaller events.

It’s with mixed feeling we read this as Green Cities early in 2009 in Brisbane was our first “outing” in public as a newspaper. It has always been a highlight of our year but, we agree with the team, the industry is now big, burly and massively diverse. It needs a more nuanced approach to meet its various needs. And maybe instead of singing to the choir it’s time to now to look outwards and bring this industry’s influence to all the sectors and sub-industries it touches within its walls. Which is a lot.

How exciting is that!

Let’s touch base again next World Environment Day and see what progress we’ve made with one more year.

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