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Choosing a good green consultant

Green consultancy can cover a wide range of specialist skills - from sustainability strategists to energy efficiency experts. If you're looking to register your project to receive Green Star certification, you'll need a qualified and experienced Green Star Accredited Professional (GSAP).

Navigating the Green Star process requires much more than filling out documentation and accruing points, so employing a dedicated and experienced Green Star consultant on your team is extremely valuable. Here are some tips for appointing consultants for your green building project.

Ensure your consultant has a practiced background in the built environment. Project management skills are important to orchestrate the process, but relevant professional experience in the building industry - such as in architecture, engineering, interior design or facility management - is the key to understanding how a building functions and taking advantage of environmental opportunities from the start.

While the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has trained almost 15,000 on how to apply the Green Star tools to projects, less than a third of those have passed the GSAP exam - so check that you'll be working with a fully qualified GSAP. You can find a full list of Green Star Accredited Professionals online.

Ask the following questions to your consultant:

  • What is your professional background?
  • Are you a registered Green Star Accredited Professional?
  • What other green building credentials do you have?

Experience is everything when it comes to managing a Green Star project; so ask questions that determine the consultant's level of experience. Ask:

  • Have you worked on a Green Star project in the past?
  • If so, in what capacity?
  • Has that project been Green Star certified?
  • Did you prepare the Green Star submission for that project?

Ideally, you want a consultant who has been responsible for preparing a Green Star certification submission, rather than contributing some parts. If you aren't sure about this, you can ask the prospective consultant for the name of the GBCA Case Manager they worked with previously. The names of the certification team are listed on the GBCA website so you can double-check this information.

You may also like to ask the consultant how many Green Star certified projects they have worked on. An experienced consultant will have completed at least two submissions for certified projects. It may be worth contacting some clients of the person in question to learn more about their role on each project.

To achieve Green Star certification, you need someone with the know-how to assess your project's opportunities and identify those you should - and shouldn't - pursue. You need someone who can listen to the entire team, prioritise goals and stay focused on managing the Green Star process - and that means selecting someone who truly understands it.

Here's what you should ask:

  • Have you undertaken any Green Star courses?
  • Which courses have you undertaken, and when?
  • How do you update and maintain your green building knowledge?
  • Have you participated in a GBCA Technical Working Group?
  • Are you a certified Green Star assessor or independent chair?

Be sure your consultant has a solid practical understanding of what Green Star is trying to accomplish beyond the details of the technical manual, and that they can recognise the synergy between credits. The right consultant will help you implement policies that address the framework as a whole, as well as the associated cost implications.

Also, it is important to determine those parts of the Green Star submission for which your consultant will be personally responsible and which parts they will be relying on other people to prepare. For example, you should be very clear about which consultant will be responsible for producing energy, daylight, thermal comfort, noise and/or glare modelling as each of these models and reports can be expensive.

The Green Star process requires a cast of many different players, which means your consultant must understand the varying agendas and be able to pull people together to focus on the common goal. Empathy for the design professionals and facility managers - their objectives and the decisions they face - is essential. So, look for someone with relevant experience in the built environment and the people skills to manage complex and sometimes competing sets of agendas.

Look for a consultant who displays passion and commitment to the green building field, and is actively engaged in furthering sustainable building practices. Some questions that may indicate your consultant is committed include:

  • Is your company a member of the GBCA?
  • Have you personally participated in a GBCA or Green Star committee or working group?
  • If so, please elaborate on this.

Developing and delivering a Green Star project will reduce your building's maintenance and operational costs, ensure its viability in a rapidly changing marketplace, support occupant health and comfort, boost productivity and reduce your overall environmental footprint. The right Green Star consultant can make the process more efficient, and help to create a building that operates sustainability both now and in the future.