Confusion surrounding sustainability, certifications and best practice is increasing exponentially, so we've decided to cut through the confusion and set the story straight.

Green Design has come a long way over the past five decades. In the mid-20th century, booming post-war economies and a strong global manufacturing industry gave way to unprecedented levels of consumerism, which prioritised the idea of more – more possessions, more buildings, more cities – over concerns for the environment.

For decades, development and production continued unchecked, and climate change, rising sea levels, and shrinking resource pools were little more than distant specks on the horizon.

By the time the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was held in Stockholm in June 1972, it was clear that this would not be the case for much longer.

From the Buffalo Creek Flood Disaster – which saw 125 killed when a coal sludge spill swept through a West Virginian coal town – to the publication of the Club of Rome’s controversial ‘The Limits to Growth’ – one of the first studies to warn of the dangers of industrial output, pollution, and natural resource depletion – the year marked a major turning point in global conversations about the environment.

For the first time, people around the world became aware of the potentially catastrophic effects of human activity, and took their first steps toward change.

In the years since the landmark conference, the Green Design movement has gained significant momentum. Around the world, designers and built environment professionals are investigating sustainable alternatives for design and construction, and sustainability values are now central to global design practice.

Thanks to increasingly savvy consumers, an efficiency-driven construction industry, and precarious environmental conditions, Green Design is no longer a choice: it’s a necessity. And all this can be traced back to 1972, when a group of industry leaders got together and decided that it was time for change.

Certification is Crucial

In Australia, environmental certification schemes fall into two categories: those for construction and fitout materials, and those for buildings, organisations, and urban planning projects.

Schemes for materials recognise construction and fitout products that meet specific performance and manufacturing standards.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) currently recognises the following material certification schemes: the Environmental Certification Scheme of the Carpet Institute of Australia, Standard 150 of the Australasian Furnishing Research and Development Institute, the six standards of Good Environmental Choice Australia, SMaRT 4.0, and Ecospecifier Global GreenTag GreenRate.

Schemes for buildings assess the cumulative environmental effects of a building – including construction and fit out – during both construction and operation. The five building certification schemes currently recognised in Australia are: BASIX, EnviroDevelopment, Green Star, NABERS, and NatHERS.

Look at the Big Picture

The concept of Whole of Life Costing (WLC) is gaining ground in Australia, and for good reason. Instead of limiting cost considerations to the upfront price of a product or project, WLC prompts designers and specifiers to consider costs at all stages of the lifecycle from production to post-use. In doing, it encourages designers to think holistically about specification and prioritise long-term environmental and economic sustainability over a lower up front cost.

Don’t Buy Into the Hype

With all the marketing hype surrounding Green Design and sustainability, greenwashing – the tendency of manufacturers to exaggerate the environmental performance of their product – is rife. Ensure that you have all the facts before making a specification decision: always be mindful of claims of environmental performance and ensure that they are backed up by testing or certification by an independent third party.

Still unsure about the different certification schemes and what they all mean? Come down to FRONT to learn what you need to know about certification schemes and rating tools – and more.

Coming to Sydney’s Carriageworks this 9-10 August, FRONT brings this pioneering spirit back to life. A cross-disciplinary industry event like no other, FRONT gathers together the leading figures in design, construction, and property for a timely conversation about the future of the built environment and the changes that must be made to bring this about. Ready to join the conversation? Here’s what you need to know.

For more information that cuts through the noise and brings you exactly what you need to know to get ahead of the industry of tomorrow, sign up for the latest updates on FRONT today.