Green Plaza / Barcelona CAT
Green Plaza / Barcelona CAT

New research has brought to light gaps in the ecologically sustainable developments (ESD) ratings tools used to grade Australia’s buildings. The findings from Nature Based Cities and ESD consultants Ark Resources reveal that Australia’s five most common green accreditation schemes don’t require any greenery at all. 

The study found that projects can achieve a world-leading “green” rating without a single tree being retained or planted. Green Star, Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard (BESS), BASIX, EnviroDevelopment, and Climate Active accreditations can be achieved with no nature-based landscaping whatsoever. 

  • The Fifth Estate Urban Greening event on 28 July will focus on many related topics. The event is in collaboration with the Australian Institute of Architects, the  University of Technology Sydney, and Living Future Institute Australia.

The report comes from the recently launched Nature Based Cities nonprofit, alongside key research partners Urbis, Ark Resources and the University of Melbourne. An Ark Research study, alongside a commissioned Urbis report titled “The Growing Value of Green Space”, highlights the importance of the industry prioritising the inclusion of green spaces in the design of urban projects. 

The Nature Based Cities initiative is seeking to communicate the economic, environmental, societal and cultural benefits of green spaces, open-source and publicly accessible. 

The project aims to “encourage developers and large property owners to reverse urban tree loss and create new green space in our cities, while offering planners, designers, and developers a much-needed framework to incorporate more green open space into projects in cities’ inner and middle-ring suburbs,” Nature Based Cities co-founder Paul Hameister said. 

More than half of humans live in cities – despite the fact that only 5 per cent of the earth’s surface is urban space.

park-front properties have grown in price by 9.6 per cent a year over the last decade – a rate nearly double that of the surrounding market average annual growth of 5 per cent

The research points to green spaces as a lucrative investment – finding that park-front properties have grown in price by 9.6 per cent a year over the last decade – a rate nearly double that of the surrounding market average annual growth of 5 per cent. 

It also revealed that park-front units attracted a 17 per cent premium on average, and park-front houses attracted a 34 per cent premium over the past ten years when compared with surrounding properties. 

In master-planned communities and inner/middle-ring developments, park-fronted properties generated premiums of up to 28 per cent, and rental premiums of up to 49 percent. 

Mr Hameister, who is also executive chairman of Hamton Property Group, said that he hopes to see green rating tools updated to include this metric when assessing the environmental footprint of buildings. 

“We are advocating to refine Australia’s ESD standards to include greenery as part of their rating systems,” Mr Hameister said.

“It’s currently possible to achieve a 6 star Green Star rating for a building – the highest level of ESD recognition possible – without a single tree or blade of grass. To me this is outrageously deficient.” 

“It’s currently possible to achieve a 6 star Green Star rating for a building – the highest level of ESD recognition possible – without a single tree or blade of grass. To me this is outrageously deficient. 

“One of the simplest and most effective ways we can cool the earth and address climate change is to retain and plant more trees, and it’s time to provide every tool possible to the development industry to be a leading force for this change – starting with an urgent update to our Nation’s ESD accreditation tools.” 

The report looks to cities that put green space at the centre of design. 

“The case studies considered in our research – ranging from New York, Barcelona, Stockholm, Amsterdam and even Sydney’s Barangaroo precinct – are highly regarded by the global community as thriving centres for commerce and culture, whilst also being characterised by placing greenspace at the centre of urban design,” said Dr Judy Bush, lecturer of urban planning at the University of Melbourne. 

In 2020, Barcelona’s city council announced plans to transform one in three streets in its Example district into green, car-free public spaces to tackle air pollution. 

“We recommend the introduction of mandatory minimum thresholds for incorporating vegetation across all green accreditation tools and believe that this requirement could be readily incorporated into all the rating frameworks we assessed,” managing director of Ark Resources Jan Talacko said.

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