Going 'green' and integrating sustainable practices in the building and construction sector, is gaining increased momentum Australia-wide. The green building market has grown significantly over recent years, expanding from the construction of niche projects, to becoming more commonplace across all new developments.
This 'green' revolution has been spurred by the growing emphasis on the preservation of the environment and its resources, consumer demand for greener construction, and the strengthening of the minimum sustainability requirements in the design and construction of new buildings.
The shifting public and political attitude towards sustainability, highlights that going green in the construction industry is not just a fad, but a lasting movement.
The push for greater sustainability has been particularly pronounced for Australia's building and construction industry, as this sector is a major producer of waste and indirect green house gas emissions, and one of the largest consumers of materials and resources. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australia's construction industry contributes 30-40% of all solid waste that goes into landfill, and the buildings that are eventually constructed contain very high levels of embodied energy. This ranges from 2 gigajoules per tonne for concrete to hundreds of gigajoules per tonne for aluminium.
The large volumes of waste and greenhouse gas emissions that this industry generates, makes it clear that there is huge potential for mitigation efforts with the implementation of more environmentally responsible practices.
The rise of green buildings and communities in Australia, has also been boosted by the introduction of sustainability rating systems. These rating systems help to highlight exactly how sustainable a building is, and allows for easy comparison among the rated structures. This incentivises developers and construction companies to achieve a green accreditation, as it creates a point of difference in the market and builds a positive reputation for the company.
The most prominent rating system in Australia is the Green Building Council of Australia's (GBCA) Green Star rating system.
Green Star is a voluntary rating system that assesses the environmental performance of a building in nine categories (management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, and emissions and innovation). The total score that a building achieves determines its Green Star rating out of six. Since GBCA's Green Star rating system only rewards structures that achieve best practice or above, the rating is awarded to developers that gain 4 stars or higher. On average, buildings and structures that have been awarded with a Green Star rating produce 62 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than regular buildings.
GBCA currently has 1,767 Green star-rated projects, including office spaces, apartments, communities, shopping centres, and so on. This number is expected to grow exponentially in the near future as sustainable practices become more standard across various projects.
The move towards greater sustainability has been the main focus for many construction companies and developers, as it provides many benefits for the business.
Some of these benefits, include:
- Reduced Environmental Impact
- Reduced Long Term Costs
- Increased Market Value of Property
- Improved Company Reputation
Although the development of 'green' buildings and communities is becoming more widespread, Australia still has some way to go. Currently, green construction projects are concentrated in Australia's major CBDs. In order for green buildings to truly make their mark, sustainable efforts need to be made throughout Australia, and include more than just uptown office spaces.
Progress may be relatively slow for now, however with the green building market projected to continue to strengthen, it is inevitable that the integration of sustainable practices will become common practice in Australia's construction industry.
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