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The pathway to a more productive Australia: $2 billion a year boost for federal government

Improving the performance of the federal government’s building stock has the potential to boost public sector productivity by almost $2 billion a year, says the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

“Our political leaders agree that we must find new ways to increase Australia’s productivity for our economy to continue to grow and remain globally competitive.  One of the most effective ways to boost the productivity and performance of people is to improve the quality of their working environments,” says the GBCA’s Chief Operating Officer, Robin Mellon.

“Even a one per cent productivity improvement – equating to just five minutes a day – can mean nearly 20 hours of additional productive working time over the course of a year.  Multiply that by the hourly rate of each person and you can quickly see the returns,” Mr Mellon says.

Australia now has many examples of Green Star-rated projects that have improved worker productivity by between 10 and 15 per cent, and numerous international case studies are shown in the WorldGBC’s Business Case for Green Building report from April 2013, which details health and productivity gains. Australian examples include:

  • Some groups of Macquarie Bank employees reported a 15 per cent increase in perceived productivity after moving to new Green Star-rated headquarters at 1 Shelley Street in Sydney.
  • A floor-by-floor Green Star retrofit of 500 Collins Street in Melbourne delivered a nine per cent improvement in the average typing speed of secretaries, and a seven per cent increase in lawyers’ billings ratio, despite a 12 per cent decline in the average monthly hours worked.
  • A post-occupancy survey of the City of Melbourne’s Council House 2 found that productivity had increased by 10.9 per cent after staff moved into their Green Star-rated office, with an estimated annual cost saving of $2 million.

“With a federal government wages and salaries bill of $18.9 billion in the last financial year, a mere one per cent increase in productivity equates to improved performance with a dollar value of almost $200 million each year.  A 10 per cent improvement, similar to that already being achieved in Green Star-rated buildings across the country, would bring the value of annual productivity improvements to nearly $2 billion.  

“We need a government committed to visionary leadership if we are to improve Australia’s productivity and performance, and truly compete in the Asian Century,” Mr Mellon says.

“Our federal government must ‘walk the talk’ and commit to achieving environmental ratings for all the buildings it owns, occupies and develops.  This would ensure that federal government employees are working in high-performance workplaces which maximise productivity, health and wellbeing, whilst minimising staff turnover, sickness and absenteeism.

“As the federal election draws near, the Australian people have the right to ask which political parties will lead by example and commit to policies that outline clear targets, pathways and incremental improvements for federal government buildings – and commit to Green Star-rated outcomes which will save money and support more productive employees,” Mr Mellon concludes.

The Green Building Council of Australia's three-point plan for better buildings and communities outlines three priorities for all political parties in the lead-up to the federal election.