For more than 20 years, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has been a leading force in improving the sustainability standards of the built environment in Australia. The GBCA educates industry, government practitioners and decision-makers, and advocates for policies and programs that support their vision and purpose. They also represent more than 550 members including individual companies with a collective annual turnover of more than $46 billion.

But perhaps they are best known for their best practice sustainability framework, Green Star. Since 2003, Green Star has been Australia's largest voluntary and truly holistic sustainability rating system for buildings, fitouts and communities. It is widely considered to be the shining light of sustainability within domestic construction; people in the industry know that if someone is building to Green Star specifications, they’re serious about sustainability.

“The story behind the Green Building Council of Australia is pretty simple,” says Jorge Chapa, Head of Market Transformation at the GBCA. “The Sydney Olympics were marketed as the first green olympics, the construction really took the environment into account. And after the olympics, the industry got together and said, ‘It turns out delivering great, sustainable buildings does make sense. And so why don't we just actually do that?’”

In his 14 years at the GBCA, Jorge has seen the industry’s approach to sustainable built environments shift dramatically. “It's really gone from a conversation around how we stop making people sick by being in buildings, to a conversation around how we use the built environment to make us healthier and more socially responsible. And that's a big shift from even just 15 years ago, or even five years ago. And that conversation has now become mainstream within the industry.”

The GBCA’s holistic approach to sustainability means its interests, advice, and expertise extend much further than advising developers on how much solar they will need to offset their fossil fuel energy requirements. They provide advice relating to all aspects of the built environment, including building reuse. “There are a lot of cases where a building needs to have very specific functions - like a stadium, or a commercial block. The challenge we face is to consider what else we can use those buildings for? Or how do we set out the building so that in 20 years, once its initial commercial life has ended, it can be refit and repurposed into a residential space? How do you make residential spaces more adaptable?”

But it’s through Green Star that the GBCA aims to have its most significant impact on the construction future of Australia. “Green Star is very much a standard,” says Jorge. “It’s based on the idea that if we can set leadership targets, we can start changing how industry practices work. So the newest version of the rating system, for example, has requirements that buildings have to be operating at net zero emissions, highly efficient, powered by renewables, fossil fuel free. What we want is to be able to go to the Government in 2030 with a range of sustainability suggestions and say, ‘hey, you should be updating the building code because there are already thousands of buildings that we rated that are able to do what we're asking you to mandate.’”

But when developers and designers are looking to get Green Star certified, a great deal of time and thought must go into specifying the most environmentally friendly products within the building itself. And for commercial or larger scale constructions, flooring is one of the most significant considerations. Interface is one of the leading suppliers of sustainable flooring to the Australian market recycled PVC carpet tiles.

Interface was the first flooring company in Australia to publish Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all their product categories. Their EPDs, ratings and certifications can help construction professionals achieve full points towards Green Buildings under Green Star®* Materials Calculators and Best Practice Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Credits.

Interface recently achieved a carbon negative milestone, launching the world's first carbon negative carpet tile, and has been leading the way by reducing the carbon footprint of their products and manufacturing processes for more than two decades.

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This podcast was brought to you in association with Interface, proud sponsors of the Sustainability series of podcasts.