'Australia in the Asian century': Opportunities for green buildings and sustainable communities
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) welcomes the release of the ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ white paper, and looks forward to working with the Australian Government to capitalise on opportunities for Australia’s built environment.
“The white paper points to the scale and pace of development in Asia, and the fact that this region will soon be home to the majority of the world’s middle class, and yet no mention is made of the opportunities within the built environment. All of these people need to live in buildings, and the vast majority of them will live in cities,” says the GBCA’s Executive Director of Advocacy, Robin Mellon.
“Many developing nations within the region have made a commitment to green buildings. They have established green building councils, and are setting green building targets and mandates. Australia is recognised as a leader in green building, but this leadership position will not last without the full support of the Australian Government,
“The forecasted growth for Australian industries over the next five years shows us where our nation’s biggest opportunities lie: construction is forecast to achieve a 4.0 per cent average growth, compared with mining at 3.6 per cent and manufacturing at 1.2 per cent.
“While exporting ‘rocks and crops’ will remain a focus, exporting our skills and knowledge - particularly in burgeoning fields such as sustainability - can help us to create a more prosperous and resilient Australia.
“But before we export those skills, we must demonstrate that we can build better buildings and cities in Australia. A sustainable, productive, liveable built environment will also ensure Australians are more able to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the Asian century,” Mr Mellon adds.
The GBCA has five priorities which it believes will place Australia on a clear, long-term pathway to sustainability, and the white paper highlights the relevance and importance of these five green building priorities to Australia’s future.
1. Provide visionary government leadership
One of the pathways identified in the white paper is to “foster a constructive debate and cooperative solutions in global and regional forums on energy markets; and support regional partners to improve energy efficiency and enhance cooperation on research and development, and the deployment and commercialisation of new technology.”
“Visionary government leadership will be vital if Australia is to improve energy efficiency, increase research and development and commercialise new technology for our infrastructure and built environment solutions. At the same time, as water scarcity is set to increase, Australia can take a leadership role in promoting water efficiency, harvesting and recycling capabilities,” Mr Mellon explains.
“The Australian Government is using Green Star for new office accommodation requirements, which is reducing the government’s energy and water use, improving the health and productivity of staff and driving higher expectations across the office market,” Mr Mellon says.
2. Retrofit and improve existing buildings
As the white paper points out, navigating the Asian century requires a commitment to a clean energy future. By 2025, Australia must achieve emissions reductions of at least five per cent below 2000 levels to make progress on its goal for an 80 per cent reduction on 2000 levels by 2050. Much of this will be through sustainable energy and water use, and through biodiversity conservation.
“The buildings sector remains the sector with the highest potential when it comes to energy and water efficiency. Upgrading our existing building stock is a smart and sustainable way to reach the 2025 target,” explains Mr Mellon.
3. Green education and healthcare facilities
One of the pathways identified within the white paper is to “improve Australia’s early childhood education, schools, universities and training systems as strong foundations for building capability to improve productivity and connections with Asian nations.” This can be best achieved in greener, more efficient and productive education facilities.
“We now have more than 50 real-world examples of Green Star-certified schools and university facilities around the country, and urge the Australian Government to prioritise funding for green schools and universities as an efficient and cost-effective way of improving student learning, health and well-being, and reducing teacher illness and turnover,” Mr Mellon says.
4. Move beyond buildings to communities and cities
Another of the pathways is to “improve the productivity, amenity and liveability of Australia’s cities by helping provide transparent and forward-looking analysis”.
“We applaud this approach, and encourage the Australian Government to capitalise on collaborative efforts of all levels of government and industry in developing the Green Star – Communities rating tool and adopt it as the method of measurement for best practice sustainable communities,” Mr Mellon says.
5. Embed green skills across all industry training
The white paper’s goal that “Australia will have vocational education and training systems that are among the world’s best, building capability in the region and supporting a highly skilled Australian workforce able to continuously develop its capabilities” is an admirable one.
“We are committed to upskilling not only Australia’s property and construction industry, but everyone connected to our built environment. To ensure Australia has the green skills to deliver in the Asian century, we must take an holistic approach by integrating sustainability into the nation’s skills base as part of an overall approach, rather than green skills being seen as an ‘add-on’ to current curricula,” Mr Mellon says.
“Australia’s property and construction industry has a well-deserved international reputation for its sustainability skills. We’ve taken a leadership role in the World Green Building Council, and currently mentor green building councils in a number of Asian nations, including Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong. This white paper reconfirms our approach.
“We look forward to working with the Gillard Government to identify the funding and policies needed to seize the opportunities represented by an efficient, productive and healthy built environment, and to develop the capabilities, skills and jobs that will confirm Australia’s place in the Asian century,” Mr Mellon concludes.
Green Building Council of Australia
Phone: 0412 179 135
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