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    Five principles for sustainable communities

    Geraldine Chua

    The Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star – Communities National Framework has established five principles to encourage the development of new and existing sustainable communities in Australia.

    The Green Star – Communities rating tool is a voluntary rating tool providing best practice benchmarks and third-party verification of the sustainability of community and precinct-wide developments.

    It one of the world’s first independent national schemes able to assess and certify the sustainability of community-level projects.

    For this framework, ‘community’ encompasses the ideas of precinct, place, neighbourhood or other geographic areas that may be used by stakeholders to describe their projects. This includes buildings that accommodate activities associated with working, living and recreation, as well as areas freely accessible to the public.

    “A sustainable community is the one that has aspirations for the future that acknowledge the challenges brought about by change. It is liveable, resilient, diverse and adaptable,” notes the GBCA.

    “It strives for a lower carbon and ecological footprint. A sustainable community evolves through policy and collaborative practice that respects and embraces the aspirations of existing and future community stakeholders.”

    The five principles are:

    1. Enhance liveability

    • Providing diverse and affordable dwellings, buildings and facilities that reflect the broad socio-economic needs of the community.
    • Enabling and promoting healthy and safe communities through partnerships and effective planning, urban design and landscape architecture that support physical activity and social engagement
    • Stakeholders should be engaged in the evolution of their communities, from policy through to adaptive management
    • Building capacity to adapt to changing community and individual needs and expectations

    2. Create opportunities for economic prosperity

    • Providing opportunities for the community to access a variety of education and learning systems
    • Creating diverse employment opportunities that meet the needs of local and regional communities, and encouraging production and procurement of local goods and services
    • Enabling ongoing sustainable and ethical investment into local business opportunities and ensuring business and community connectivity
    • Applying lifecycle impact management approaches to encourage resource efficiency and reduced lifecycle costs

    3. Foster environmental quality

    • Protecting, restoring and enhancing natural and cultural heritage assets, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, contaminants and other pollutants to land, water and atmosphere
    • Promote environmentally efficient systems for water and wastewater management and reuse; sustainable energy generation and distribution, and waste management and recycling
    • Encouraging greater resource efficiency within a life cycle context
    • Reusing and retrofitting existing sites and buildings

    4. Embrace design excellence

    • Creating opportunities to retrofit and revitalise existing communities, precincts, places and buildings
    • Providing for development and planning flexibility and adaptability, while adapting effectively to changing climatic and other environmental and physical conditions
    • Providing quality built form and landscapes that are responsive to climate and context, while conserving and celebrating cultural heritage and archaeological assets across landscapes, places and sites

    5. Demonstrate visionary leadership and strong governance

    • Facilitating coordinated approaches among cross-sectoral stakeholder interests and establishing a transparent and accountable decision-making process
    • Developing practically enforceable standards of ownership, accountability and delivery
    • Providing open access information sharing to enable the enhancement of innovation

    While the framework is not designed to provide specific development solutions or strategies, it aims to provide national consistency and a common language around the definition of best practice sustainable communities.

    It also aims to promote integration and collaboration across the spectrum of sustainability issues relating to sustainable communities, as well as offer a basis for consistent and ongoing assessment and evaluation of sustainable communities.

    For the full break down of each principle, visit www.gbca.org.au.

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