The Green Building Council of Australia has updated its Green Star tools to prioritise carbon reduction, in another signal that industry is gearing up for a push towards carbon zero commercial buildings.
There are now minimum greenhouse gas requirements, with 5 Star Green Star buildings needing to obtain three Greenhouse Gas Emissions credit points and be 25 per cent more efficient than a standard building; and 6 Star Green Star buildings needing a minimum of six credits and to be 50 per cent more efficient than a standard building.
The tightening of requirements is quite modest, as 95 per cent of Green Star-rated buildings currently meet the requirements, though GBCA head of market transformation Jorge Chapa said it sent a signal to the market that carbon reduction was being prioritised.
“We expect to strengthen these requirements further over time,” Mr Chapa said.
The news follows comments by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council revealing that “significant” increases in minimum energy standards for commercial buildings could be seen in the 2019 National Construction Code update. ASBEC’s project with ClimateWorks will also create an industry-led evidence base to adopt long-term energy stringency targets from 2022, which could see a pathway to net zero set in the NCC.
Air tightness testing, structural timber and construction worker health promoted
Other changes made include measures to build industry capacity in air-tightness testing, a new materials pathway to incentivise the use of sustainably sourced structural timber; and new requirements to enhance the health and wellbeing of construction workers.
An air permeability performance testing requirement is now part of a core component of the Commissioning and Tuning credit.
“This is about building industry capacity and educating project teams about the value of air-tightness testing,” Mr Chapa said.
There’s a new prescriptive pathway for the use of structural timber. The pathway was originally designed to promote engineered timbers like CLT and glulam, but after industry feedback it has been extended to the use of all sustainably sourced structural timbers.
“We have always recognised the use of sustainably sourced structural timber, but until now project teams needed to undertake a full lifecycle analysis to achieve Green Star points,” Mr Chapa said.
“This change makes it easier for project teams to gain points using responsibly sourced timber, just the way we encourage the use of sustainable concrete and steel.”
The Construction Environmental Management credit has been renamed the Responsible Construction Practices credit, and includes a point for project teams that can demonstrate staff support through health and wellbeing programs.
“Research has found the mental health of employees on construction sites does not meet that of other industries,” Mr Chapa said.
“This change to Green Star is about recognising that a building is not truly sustainable if it doesn’t look after the workers who constructed it.”
Another small change includes new innovation challenges on carbon neutrality, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks.
“While some of these changes are small, they will continue to build capacity and drive innovation in sustainable design and construction,” Mr Chapa said.
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