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100 per cent renewable by 2020: GBCA’s bold plan for green buildings

In less than two years any commercial, institutional or government building wanting to get the top 6 Star Green Star rating could be required to source 100 per cent of its energy from renewables – either on-site or procured off-site – under sweeping changes proposed by the Green Building Council of Australia.

These buildings would also have to be up to 50 per cent more energy efficient than minimum standards by 2020.

Under the proposed changes – out now for discussion in the updated A Carbon Positive Roadmap for the built environment – buildings going for all other Green Star ratings would have to meet the criteria by 2026. New builds would also need to be carbon neutral by 2030, with the entire sector following by 2050.

As well, all new buildings would, from 2020, be required to commit to a Performance rating, reduce embodied carbon by 10 per cent, and be incentivised to offset embodied carbon and other emissions. By 2030, existing buildings would too need to meet all these standards.

The GBCA said the proposed changes have been suggested in order to meet climate obligations and Sustainable Development Goals.

GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew said the roadmap was also calling for government support and broader changes to regulatory frameworks.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

A key part of the roadmap is encouraging a whole-of-building approach to reduce the gap between base building and tenancy performance.

“This roadmap acknowledges the contractual, policy and commercial barriers that discourage joint action between building owners and tenants to address emissions,” the roadmap states.

“This roadmap aims to begin breaching these barriers by first incentivising, then requiring collaboration between all parties to share energy data, encourage the use of operational ratings, and drive both parties to use renewable energy.”

From 2020, building and fitout owners would be incentivised to disclose energy information, seek operational fitout ratings, use renewables, and address other emission sources. This would be a requirement from 2030.

The roadmap proposes 10 actions building and fitout owners can adopt to achieve the roadmap’s vision and goals:

  • Adopt a vision for a zero emissions built environment by 2050
  • Measure, disclose, collaborate on, and improve, the ongoing performance of building and fitouts
  • Power buildings and fitouts with 100 per cent renewable electricity, and switch away from fossil fuel use
  • Increase the use of on-site, or near site, renewables, and measures to support the decarbonisation of the grid
  • Reduce building and fitout energy demand by prioritising passive design, demand control and efficient systems
  • Stimulate markets for carbon neutral products and services
  • Phase down refrigerants with a high global warming potential
  • Support high quality offsets for remaining emissions as a transition strategy
  • Increase access to active transport facilities and public transport
  • Support the adoption of electric vehicles

The roadmap was welcomed by Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand.

Executive director Adam Beck said it was an opportunity for the smart cities market.

“The Green Building Council of Australia’s roadmap is backed by some of the biggest developers and property owners in the country,” Mr Beck said.

“Many of these companies have already committed to meet net zero emissions. But they won’t meet those targets without the help of smart technology and data solutions.”

He said the targets would stimulate “unprecedented demand for technologies such as smart meters, Internet of Things devices, renewable energy solutions, battery storage systems and other technologies that promote grid decarbonisation”.

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