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By Kylie Scott
March 25, 2019
Our built environment is responsible for almost half of global energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. That’s why the decisions we make today about energy, infrastructure, and buildings are critical in achieving a reduction in emissions. They're also essential for addressing climate change.
Green building offers vast opportunities to save energy, cut greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, improve air and water quality, and reduce waste. There are many green rating tools (more than 600 available worldwide) which asses a range of sustainability parameters, such as those mentioned above.
These tools help many developers and builders plan and achieve change. The most common measures used here, in Australia, are listed below:
Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS)
Run by the Commonwealth Government, NatHERS is essentially a measuring tape for estimating how much energy will be needed to heat or cool a prospective home.
The software, developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), mimics house plans and predicts future thermal performance. The software also takes into account the direction the building will face, climate, and building materials.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage uses NABERS to compare a building against similar buildings to weigh up energy performance.
NABERS looks at a building’s energy consumption and/or other environmental uses, such as water use, over a 12-month timeline. Other factors are considered including building size, the local climate, and how many people it houses. The tool is used widely, particularly for office buildings.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) runs the Green Star rating measure which rates buildings and communities on both design and performance.
There are Green Star ratings for design and construction, interior fit out and construction, precinct planning and development, as well as performance across a range of categories, including energy, transport, water, materials and land use. Green Star ratings are available for every building type and are currently quite popular.
The Living Building Challenge
Considered the highest honour and one of the most rigorous performance standards, the Living Building Challenge is either met or not. There is no rating or score, just a simple yes or no.
In order to meet the requirements, buildings must behave like plants. Building projects must operate as "cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature's architecture," according to it website. Projects must meet numerous requirements, among them, net zero energy, waste and water, over a minimum of 12 months.
Available in NSW, BASIX aims to reduce water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in new homes or renovations.
It covers the building envelope thermal performance and a wide range of household energy uses by fixed equipment like heating and cooling appliances, lighting and hot water.
BASIX is run by the NSW Government and is a web-based tool. Users input data about the home or renovations—location, size and building materials—for BASIX to analyse and works out how the building scores against set targets.
The WELL Building Standard
The WELL Building Standard is a building certification that focuses exclusively on human health and wellness. The standard looks at the quality of air, natural light, and water in buildings. It also encourages healthy eating choices, active lifestyles, and good mental health.
Melbourne Leads by Example
In the last five years, the city of Melbourne has achieved a 24 per cent reduction in emissions across its building portfolio. They have undertaken energy-saving upgrades in existing buildings, including several heritage-listed buildings.
In 2006, Melbourne developed Australia’s first new 6-star Green Star-rated office building, Council House 2. This building trialled new energy-saving technology, sustainable materials, and a green roof garden. It is now powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.
According to the recently published Climate Change Mitigation Strategy, moving forward, Melbourne plans to:
Demonstrate innovative carbon positive design of council-owned buildings and precincts.
Facilitate the take up of the NABERS for apartments.
Renew and implement planning policies to support the development of zero emissions buildings and precincts.
Partner with industry to advocate for higher energy performance standards in the National Construction Code, Building Act 1993.
Adopt circular economy principles to reduce the environmental impact and embodied emissions from products, materials and buildings across the city through procurement, urban design and planning.
Australia is doing well across the board
According to the GBCA, Australia is embracing green building collaboratively as a nation.
In a recent interview with Architecture and Design, GBCA CEO Romilly Madew said, “Australia’s green building sector is continuing to innovate and is leading the world. 2018 was monumental for the GBCA and in October we certified our 2000th Green Star project.”
Madew also said that 37 per cent of Australia’s office space is now Green Star certified.
global energy use
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