Turnbull’s smart cities plan welcomed by building industry

Photo courtesy Siemens
Photo courtesy Siemens

The Prime Minister’s election promise to fund smart, sustainable cities has been welcomed by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

The Coalition has announced three new smart city policies that GBCA CEO Romilly Madew said have the potential to reshape the nation.

“We applaud the promise of $100 million for a Sustainable Cities Investment Fund, which would be delivered through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation,” Ms Madew said.

“We are particularly pleased to see that funds would be invested in a range of projects, including green building, retrofit projects and precinct-scale energy generation systems. We have long called for extra investment and incentives to encourage building upgrades and retrofits – this is a good start.”

The $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program promises to help local governments apply innovative technology-based approaches to improve the liveability of their cities and suburbs.

Ms Madew said local councils have been very effective in rolling out high-impact sustainability initiatives, and this funding will provide extra support.

“The attention to suburban areas is particularly important, and we look forward to learning more about how the projects will be assessed to ensure they meet best practice benchmarks for sustainability. Green Star – Communities is a precinct and neighbourhood-scale framework, and can measure outcomes from investments made through the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program,” Ms Madew said.

The GBCA also welcomed the Coalition’s commitment to partner with state and local governments on a ‘city deal’ for Western Sydney, with the construction of an airport creating 39,000 new jobs throughout the next two decades, as well as 178,000 new homes.

“The Prime Minister has said the Western Sydney Airport project will be largest planning, investment and delivery partnership in Australia’s history. This makes it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get this right, because the consequences of getting it wrong will be felt for generations,” Ms Madew says.

“We already know how to build these large-scale communities the right way – and the sustainable way.”

The Green Star – Communities rating tool was developed by industry, academia and government, including every land development agency in the country, to set the standards for sustainable large-scale community developments. Brisbane Airport achieved the first Green Star – Communities rating. The Parramatta Square and Barangaroo South projects in Sydney, and Fishermans Bend in Melbourne, which will be home to 80,000 residents, are also using the rating tool.

“Transparency and accountability will be essential elements of these three announcements by the Coalition, and we look forward to seeing more detail to ensure the projects funded meet best practice benchmarks for sustainable cities,” Ms Madew said.

Five-point plan to drive down emissions

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has released a five-point plan for sustainable buildings, communities and cities to guide politicians in the lead-up to the federal election.

Ms Madew, said the plan has been developed to help politicians from all parties understand the policies and programs that drive down emissions while enhancing productivity, liveability and sustainability in Australia’s cities.

“For the last decade, the Australian property and construction industry has been committed to reducing carbon emissions, delivering cost savings, boosting health and productivity, and creating places that are good for the environment and people too,” she said

“The evidence of this evolution is there for all to see. More than 1060 Green Star projects equate to 14 million square metres of Green Star certified space – more than twice the size of the Melbourne CBD.”

Nonetheless, Ms Madew said government and industry need to move fast to arrest climate change and accommodate a growing population in cities that are liveable and sustainable.

The GBCA’s five priorities for federal government action are:

  1. Move towards net zero
  2. Raise minimum standards for buildings
  3. Harness the potential of mid-tier buildings
  4. Accelerate the advancement of a precinct utilities marketplace
  5. Catalyse the sustainable cities movement.

“These policies and programs are important – but strong leadership from our politicians is vital. We’ll continue to work hard over this long election campaign to seek commitment from all political parties to build a better, more sustainable future for all Australians,” Ms Madew said.