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    Green Star changes herald the era of low carbon buildings

    Branko Miletic

    The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has released new versions of the Green Star – Design & As Built and Green Star – Interiors rating tools which it says will drive the uptake of low-carbon buildings and challenge the building and architecture sector market to innovate both its technologies and worker’s conditions.

    Among the key changes to Green Star, are:

    • minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions for 5 and 6 Star Green Star buildings
    • measures to build industry capacity in air-tightness testing
    • a new materials pathway to incentivise the use of sustainably-sourced structural timber
    • new requirements to enhance the health and wellbeing of construction workers.

    Therefore, under the new changes, a project with 5 Star Green Star certification is now required to achieve three Green Star points in the ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ credit, and be 25 per cent more efficient than a benchmark building.

    Meanwhile, a 6 Star Green Star building must achieve a minimum of six points and demonstrate efficiency of almost 40 per cent above the benchmark.

    “Our analysis has found that 95 per cent of Green Star-certified projects meet these criteria, so it’s not a big change at the moment. However, it sends a signal to the market that we are prioritising carbon. We expect to strengthen these requirements further over time,” says the GBCA’s head of market transformation, Jorge Chapa.

    Along with those changes, there have other upgrades, including to the ‘Commissioning and Tuning’ credit to accelerate the uptake of air-tightness testing. Therefore, a new ‘Air Permeability Performance Testing’ requirement is now part of a core component of the credit, contributing to a total of two points.

    According to the latest available figures, almost 1,500 projects around Australia have Green Star ratings.

    Another change is a new ‘prescriptive pathway’ for the use of structural timber aims to recognise engineered timber, such as Cross-Laminated Timber and glulam while also including all other sustainably-sourced structural timber.

    According to Chapa, “This change makes it easier for project teams to gain points using responsibly-sourced timber, just the way we encourage the use of sustainable concrete and steel.”

    “While some of these changes are small, they will continue to build capacity and drive innovation in sustainable design and construction,” says Chapa.

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