Carbon positive roadmap for Australia’s built environment

by Tiffany Paczek
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Australia’s built environment can lead the world in creating a carbon positive future and offers more opportunities and lower costs to help ease the transition required to reduce emissions across other more challenging economic sectors.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has released ‘A carbon positive roadmap for the built environment’, a discussion paper that establishes the steps required for commercial, institutional and government buildings and fitouts to decarbonise.

The roadmap clearly outlines the high-level outcomes, actions, targets and policy positions required. These are proposed alongside changes to the GBCA’s Green Star rating tool to ensure it helps lead industry through the next decade of transformation.

Developed in close consultation with industry and government, and now being released for their feedback, the discussion paper plots a world-leading path to raise the benchmark for sustainable design, construction and building operation in Australia’s built environment.

GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew says the roadmap has been developed to help ensure Australia’s competitiveness and attractiveness for investment while fulfilling international commitments to reducing carbon emissions.

“This roadmap was developed as a response to GBCA’s vision of healthy, resilient and positive places for people and the natural environment and is the result of extensive industry and government consultation and engagement,” Madew says.

“It proposes a range of policy positions for industry to support and calls for upgrades to energy efficiency requirements in the national construction code and an expansion of requirements for the mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency in buildings and fitouts. Broader reforms in the energy sector are also discussed, with practical incentives to support building upgrades and retrofits and the development of carbon neutral products and services.

“As a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the Australian Government’s continued support is needed to bring carbon emissions down.

“Our roadmap supports the work of the World Green Building Council, which earlier this month launched its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, and means the we are leading the emissions reductions charge, as one of only five Green Building Councils to have a net zero carbon buildings certification scheme in place.

“Whether you are a developer, building owner, industry professional, product manufacturer, building occupant or policy maker, this roadmap will help you lead in the delivery of a more sustainable built environment,” says Madew.

The roadmap proposes a significant increase in performance for buildings and fitouts over the next decade. It is being developed in tandem with Green Star Future Focus – a comprehensive review of existing Green Star rating tools to set leading targets for certification.

Buildings seeking a Green Star rating would have to meet updated requirements – with a proposal that new and existing Green Star rated buildings will have no greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and existing buildings having to meet this target by 2050 or earlier.

It will drive transformation in the rest of the built environment by promoting policies to retrofit existing buildings, improve new buildings, increase the supply of renewable energy and phase out fossil fuel use.

The roadmap also acknowledges the contractual, policy and commercial barriers that discourage joint action between building owners and tenants to address whole-of-building emissions.

“Achieving the roadmap’s targets requires a whole-of-building approach,” Madew says.

“Where the building owner has control over the fitouts and energy use changes are easier to implement. However, in buildings where there is a contractual relationship with another party collaboration and cooperation is needed.

“Problems can be overcome by first incentivising decarbonisation, then requiring collaboration between all parties to share energy data. Encouraging the use of operational ratings will drive both parties to use renewable energy.”

This work is part of a series of activities taken by GBCA in this space, including working with the Australian Government on their National Carbon Offset Standards for Buildings and Precincts, the release of our Green Star Innovation Challenges, and our participation in the Global Commitment for Net Zero Carbon Buildings.

‘A carbon positive roadmap for the built environment’ was launched at the Next Generation Utilities Breakfast with Minister for Energy and Utilities the Hon Don Harwin in Sydney on 29 June and is available at

Image: 123RF’s lightwise ©

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