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    Big changes to Green Star: new focus on GHG, envelope tightness and engineered timber

    The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has proposed new updates to their Green Star program that aim to accelerate action on climate change, incentivise new industries and encourage market leaders to push the innovation envelope.

    GBCA’s Head of Market Transformation, Jorge Chapa explains that the organisation is reprioritising carbon as a key environmental issue and setting minimum requirements is an important part of this objective.

    Proposed updates to Green Star include: minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions for different star ratings; measures to build industry capacity in air-tightness testing; a new materials pathway to incentivise the use of engineered timber; and new requirements to enhance the workplace environments of construction workers.

    MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

    A building project seeking 5 Star Green Star certification would be required to achieve three Green Star points in the ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ credit, and be 25 per cent more efficient than a benchmark building. A 6 Star Green Star building would be required to achieve six points and demonstrate efficiency of almost 40 per cent above the benchmark. The improvements would be addressed through energy efficiency or onsite renewables.

    According to Mr Chapa, this proposed change would enable GBCA to provide clearer differentiation between the star ratings, and to guarantee, as a minimum, that a 5 Star building would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a 4 Star building, and so on. He added that the minimum requirements were part of a broader plan to align Green Star with the distinct trajectories outlined in the Paris Agreement.

    AIR-TIGHTNESS TESTING

    Aiming to drive the uptake of air-tightness testing, the proposed change to the ‘Commissioning and Tuning’ credit would require project teams to undertake testing to demonstrate that the facade airtightness specifications have been achieved. Information gathered from the credit will be analysed and shared by GBCA to “better understand where Australian buildings are landing”, to support industry action on air-tightness testing and standards that respond to Australia’s unique climate conditions.

    INCENTIVISING THE USE OF ENGINEERED TIMBER

    The GBCA proposes to introduce a new pathway for engineered timber within the Materials category, with the initiative recognising the innovative approach taken on projects such as Lendlease’s Forté and acknowledging the industry’s growing appetite for products such as Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) and Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL).

    Mr Chapa explains that the new pathway would reduce the need for project teams to undertake a lifecycle assessment to demonstrate CLT as a viable product to reduce a building’s impact. Additionally, the proposal seeks to support the creation of a regional industry with one point granted when the material is sourced or manufactured in Australia or New Zealand. Expected to contribute to job creation and skills development, this change to Green Star is about incentivising a new industry for engineered timber in Australia.

    ENHANCING THE WORKPLACES OF CONSTRUCTION WORKERS 

    A new requirement within the ‘Construction and Environmental Management’ credit would see all contractors receive sustainability training alongside workplace health and safety. Introduced to emphasise the point that sustainability was as non-negotiable as safety, the credit would include requirements to address the provision of well-designed site offices that foster the health and wellbeing of workers.

    Introduced along with a few more small changes to Green Star, these four updates are expected to have the biggest positive impact on the industry.

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