New rating to enhance existing buildings’ environmental performance

by FM Media
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Of Australia’s 21 million square metres of existing office stock, 81 percent is over 10 years of age. The upcoming Green Star – Performance rating will assist in bettering the environmental management of these existing buildings, notes ROBERT MILAGRE, the new ratings project leader.

The operational phase of a building is responsible for up to 90 percent of its environmental impacts, such as greenhouse gas emissions. You can design and build a building to be sustainable, but it is up to the facility management team to ensure it delivers on its potential. But, how can this be done without a reliable, consistent method to measure and report on the ongoing operational performance of a building?

Buildings are the single largest contributor to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, using 40 percent of global energy and generating around 30 percent of the carbon emissions. In Australia, commercial and residential buildings alone contribute 23 percent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s no stretch to see that our buildings need to be part of the response to climate change. Of course, a building’s impact is not limited to its energy consumption. Commuting patterns of occupants, the use and consumption of goods and materials, waste production and water use are all ways in which buildings can adversely affect our planet and its resources.
While the last few years have seen a ‘green gold rush’ of new buildings designed and constructed to the highest environmental standards, new construction accounts for only a fraction of our building stock. Of Australia’s 21 million square metres of existing office stock, 81 percent is over 10 years of age, equalling more than 17.5 million square metres.
Most of these buildings are ‘brown’ buildings – not the green buildings we need. Many were constructed between 1960 and 1980 for as little money as possible, and with little thought to issues such as energy efficiency or indoor environment quality.
And that’s just offices. Australia also has around 9500 schools and universities, 1300 hospitals and 1300 shopping centres, as well as countless square metres of other facilities, such as libraries, law courts, town halls and industrial facilities. The vast majority of these buildings perform well below our current best practice environmental benchmarks.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) believes that measurement is the first step towards better environmental management of our buildings; therefore, we are developing the Green Star – Performance rating tool to assess the ongoing operational performance of buildings.
Currently in the development phase, Green Star – Performance will enable building owners, facility managers and governments to undertake assessments of individual buildings, as well as their entire portfolios in operation. They’ll gain holistic ratings covering the nine Green Star categories of management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, emissions and innovation.
The rating will provide useful benchmarks and operational practices that can be used to set targets to increase energy and water efficiency, reduce waste and improve factors that influence productivity, health and learning, such as indoor environment quality.
A growing body of evidence highlights the influence that green buildings can have on the health and well-being of occupants. Green buildings can enhance workplace productivity, reduce staff turnover, decrease patient hospitalisation time and even enhance student achievement in green schools.
Tenants are also beginning to understand how operating from a Green Star-rated building can deliver a range of intangible benefits, such as increased brand equity and the ability to attract and retain the top talent.

The response from industry to the new project has been overwhelmingly positive. “The Green Star rating tools have had a profound impact in setting benchmarks for the sustainability of new buildings. The new Green Star – Performance tool will complement the current suite of Green Star tools and allow building owners to monitor and improve the ongoing performance of their existing premises,” says Stefan Preuss, buildings manager at Sustainability Victoria.
According to Darrel Williams, director of Norman Disney Young, “Existing buildings represent the single biggest opportunity to reduce the environmental impact from the built environment. The link between commissioning, tuning, operations and management has been somewhat missing from the discussion. This performance tool is a real opportunity to bring those influences together.”
Chris Luscombe, general manager of Mirvac, says that the tool will help building owners and facility managers to set clear pathways for their upgrade programs. “Not everyone has the money to take a building straight to six-star Green Star benchmarks, but Green Star – Performance will help us to make decisions that support both long-term investment in green building and incremental improvements,” he comments.
Nicholas Burt, chief executive officer of the Facility Management Association of Australia, adds that, aside from the opportunity to improve building performance, the tool will also help to improve knowledge transfer within and between the various stakeholders in the design, construction and operation of buildings.
Green Star – Performance has the potential to be a major catalyst for change in the property and facility management industry. The US Green Building Council’s rating tool for Existing Buildings’ Operations and Maintenance, LEED-EBOM, has driven more certifications in one year than all the other LEED tools have done in their history. We expect Green Star – Performance to have the same impact in Australia, and encourage Australia’s property and construction industry to get behind this exciting and innovative project.

Robert Milagre is the Green Star – Performance project leader for the Green Building Council of Australia.

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