Australia’s growth in certified green building projects is lagging behind the rest of the world, according to a new report from the World Green Building Council.

New commercial buildings are no longer leading the charge in certified green construction in Australia, either, with the low-rise residential sector expected to be the top sector for growth in Green Star- and LEED-certified projects, followed by retrofits of existing buildings and institutional construction, such as university buildings and public buildings.

The study, World Green Building Trends 2016: Developing Markets Accelerate Global Green Growth, found leaders in green construction growth were expected to come from the developing world, including Brazil, China, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Colombia, South Africa and Chile. In all of these nations growth is expected to double over the next two years. Developed countries are not reporting the same steep acceleration, the report said.

However, respondents in countries including the US, UK, Germany and Poland reported they expected to be doing more than 60 per cent of projects as certified green construction.

Australia bucking the trend

The one exception to the trend of continued, steady growth in developed countries was Australia, the report said, with a growth rate well below the global average of 24 per cent.

“Given the maturity of the green building market in Australia, this finding is surprising,” the report said.

“It is possible, since green in this study only applies to certified projects, that as a mature green market, green building practices are more widely adopted in Australia, reducing the need for certification.”

Just for the high end?

The report also examined the experience of barriers to clients commissioning certified projects, and 42 per cent of Australian respondents said the perception that “green is for high end projects only” was one of the top three barriers.

“Nearly all of the growth in green implementation in Australia is expected from increased involvement of respondents already doing green,” it said.

“Like other established markets, concern about green being for high-end projects is an obstacle here.”

Australians big on health

In identifying the drivers for certified green construction it noted that interest in the positive impact of green buildings on health was “more notable here than in other countries included in the study”.

Environmental regulations were considered the top trigger in Australia [we’re not sure what the authors mean here – Ed] , with 46 per cent citing them as a driver. Healthier neighbourhoods were cited by 30 per cent – double the global average of respondents that said this was important.

“The high level of green activity in Australia by the survey respondents suggests the effectiveness of environmental regulations in Australia, although the limited growth in the future suggests that regulations are limited in the degree of green activity they can drive.”

In terms of social reasons for building green, the top reason given by 46 per cent of respondents was supporting the domestic economy – the highest percentage of any country in the study and far above the global average of 29 per cent. Encouraging sustainable business practices, a reason given by 39 per cent of participant, was however lower than the global average of 58 per cent.

Fifty per cent said that reducing energy use and protecting natural resources were the top environmental reasons for building green.

“While energy consumption is typically a top environmental factor, it is rare for another factor to be considered equally important by respondents, emphasising the importance of protecting natural resources for Australian respondents.”

Strong business benefits were also reported as a driver. The response was roughly consistent with the global medians, although the report noted the Australians were more optimistic about one-year operational cost savings in new buildings and five-year operational cost savings in retrofits than the global medians.

Asset value uptick

Globally, building owners report seeing a median increase of seven per cent in the asset value of their green buildings compared to traditional buildings, whether it is a new building or a refurbished or retrofitted green one.

The respondents to the survey included owners, developers, engineering firms, consultants, architects, designers, builders and contractors. Three quarters of the respondents worldwide are members of a Green Building Council.

“This study offers further evidence on the strong business case for green building – the growth of which is now truly a global phenomenon,” WGBC chief executive Terri Wills said.

“Green building is playing a critical role in the development of many emerging economies, particularly as their populations grow and create a pressing need for a built environment that is both sustainable and ensures a high quality of life.

“Green building councils and their members around the globe will play a pivotal role in delivering this projected growth, and their leadership and expertise will be vital in realising the multiple social, economic and environmental benefits that green buildings offer.”

The study was based on survey and analysis carried out by Dodge Data and Analytics and United Technologies Corporation in partnership with the WGBC.

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