According to the head of market transformation for the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) Jorge Chapa, ‘low-carbon’ will not be enough to help meet the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. 

“We are reaching the limits of what efficient systems can achieve by themselves, and need a much more integrated approach to façade and systems,” Chapa says.

“This is why we have set new minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions within Green Star.”

“A project with 5 Star Green Star certification is now required to achieve three Green Star points in the ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ credit, and to be 25 percent more efficient than a benchmark building. A 6 Star Green Star building must achieve a minimum of six points and demonstrate efficiency of almost 40 percent above the benchmark.”

“This change sends a signal to the market that we are prioritising carbon, and industry can expect these requirements to be strengthened over time,” says Chapa.

“We are also working on a Carbon Positive Roadmap in response to the zero-carbon imperative.”

“Over the last few months, we’ve released a discussion paper, hosted workshops, unpacked a lot of issues, and we are now working on the next draft which we expect to release later this year.”

“This will cover everything from the nuts-and-bolts of designing a zero-carbon building to how to engage tenants on the journey,” he says.

And the industry is coming on board according to Chapa.

“In my conversations with architects throughout Australia, I find them very receptive to our approach. They understand that we are not saying all buildings must be zero carbon today, but that the industry needs to start to prepare, and to think about the strategies needed to do this over time.”

“My advice to architects would be to have genuine discussions with your clients about how buildings designed today will not only need to respond to climate change policy in 2017, but to the policies and drivers in five, 10 or 15 years’ time,” he says.

Chapa notes that architects are well placed to consider holistic, rather than just technical, solutions to the problems we face. 

The challenge revolves around how zero carbon building demand an integrated approach to design. 

“I think architects understand they have a duty to drive innovative solutions that are both practical and beautiful, and I’m inspired by the work architects are taking to think outside the box,” Chapa says.

“As the thinking behind sustainability in the built form continues to evolve, it is the creative solutions to sustainability challenges that inform our most iconic buildings,” he says.

Moving forward, Chapa says that the GBCA anticipates that all 6 Star Green Star buildings will be designed to be carbon neutral by 2021, and any architect scoping a 6 Star building today should be targeting that. 

“We expect 5 Star buildings to be carbon neutral by 2024, and 4 Stars shortly after that.”

“It’s important to emphasise that these aren’t ideals - these are minimums,” he notes.

“The message is clear, if you aren’t thinking about carbon neutrality in your building now, you are putting your team’s capacity to deliver a high Green Star rating at risk, which in turn impedes the ability of your building’s owner to attract tenants.”