Green Star eliminating natural gas and electrifying buildings

sustainable building
The University of Wollongong’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre

Green Building Council of Australia is pushing to eliminate natural gas in buildings with the biggest overhaul of its Green Star rating system in 18 years.

Launched today, as the first of the new suite of Green Star Future Focus tools, Green Star Buildings sets a clear new requirement that buildings must be net-zero – fully electric, fossil fuel free and 100% powered by renewables – to achieve the highest possible 6 Star rating.

GBCA CEO, Davina Rooney said the release of Green Star Buildings marks the start of a new era that will drive the transformation of buildings to net-zero at scale. 

“While we currently have a lot of ‘nearly net-zero’ buildings in Australia, there are only a handful of genuine net-zero buildings. Green Star Buildings has been designed with industry and government to ensure net-zero becomes the norm,” Ms Rooney said. 

“There is overwhelming support from industry to eliminate carbon emissions from buildings and construction to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement, prevent assets becoming stranded and, ultimately, put a stop to unsustainable changes to our climate.

“Climate change is a global challenge that manifests itself in very local ways. The bushfires and coronavirus pandemic have shown us that our buildings need to be more resilient to changes in climate and more focused on the health of people. 

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“Green Star Buildings responds to these challenges in very practical ways introducing, for example, a new filtration requirement to help clean the air that we breathe and reduce the risk of disease spreading.

“It is a timely and necessary response to a rapidly evolving risk environment. Certification under the new tool will set projects apart, enhancing their enduring value through increased resilience.”

The Green Star Buildings rating tool has been in development for some time, with GBCA consulting closely with a broad range of industry and government stakeholders. 

The result is a fresh approach to Green Star which translates industry’s ambition into a much higher standard for action geared towards delivering highly efficient buildings, powered by renewables and designed for the future.

Prominent projects across Australia have been given early access to Green Star Buildings to test how it will work in a range of different buildings – and Ms Rooney says the results have been very promising.

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“Our early access partners have proven that Green Star Buildings can be applied to any type of building–from offices and industrial facilities to aquatic centres and university precincts,” Ms Rooney said. 

“We’ve been excited to see Darebin City Council’s plans unveiled for the Northcote Aquatic Centre which is targeting 6 Star Green Star certification to become a fully electric powered swimming pool.

“We also have some great examples of industrial facilities targeting Green Star certifications including a banana ripening facility and Charter Hall’s new temperature-controlled logistics hub which will have capacity to hold 730 million Mars Bars.”

GBCA anticipates a sustained take-up of the new rating tool during the transition period from the legacy Design & As Built rating tool, with industry demonstrating strong support for the rating system’s changes.

“Atlassian signing on to use Green Star Buildings for its flagship new Sydney headquarters is just one example of how global brands, investors and tenants are matching the leadership we have historically seen from developers and owners in the property industry to become a driving force for change,” Ms Rooney said.

On average, GBCA has certified over 1.6 million square metres of new building space per year over the last five years.

“If we continue at our current rate of certification, over the next ten years we will cumulatively save the same volume of emissions that 1.32 coal-fired power stations emit in a year. Our new Green Star Buildings will multiply those savings even further,” Ms Rooney said.

“With buildings accounting for one-quarter of Australia’s carbon emissions on average, Green Star Buildings is the rating tool we need to achieve the level of change our nation and our future generations need.”

While Green Star Buildings encourages electrification, the rating tool also supports any emerging technologies or green gas which align with Australia’s goals in energy transformation and emissions reduction.