Changing Offices, Challenging Churn

With more than 25% of the average Australian office-worker's life – or more than 40% of their waking hours - spent in commercial office buildings, and international research showing that green office fitouts are better for the health and productivity of those who work in them, the Green Building Council's newest rating tool is good news for Australian office-workers.

To be officially launched on Thursday, 10 June 2004 by US green building expert Huston Eubank, of the prestigious Rocky Mountains Institute, the Green Star – Office Interiors rating tool, which is being launched as a pilot tool for public exhibition and stakeholder feedback, will drive the change to healthier, more productive office environments as well as a reduction in the amount of waste from churn to landfill.

For use by designers and tenants in scoping and rating their office fitouts, the Green Star – Office Interiors rating tool is the third of a suite of rating tools for office buildings under the Green Star environmental rating system for buildings, complementing existing rating tools for building design and new office buildings post construction.

“The Green Building Council of Australia's Green Star – Office Interiors rating tool will  promote office fitouts that provide healthier, more productive work-places which also have less impact on our natural environment,” said Executive Director, Maria Atkinson.

“We're talking about fitouts that ensure plenty of natural light and task lighting on work stations; low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) natural or water-based varnishes, finishes and paints; low emission and recycled content fabrics for furnishings; and offices that avoid toxic wood panel products such as E1 Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) and laminates.

“International research has clearly shown that green office fitouts are not just better for the environment but, more importantly, they are better for the health and productivity of those who work in them, with poor indoor air quality and toxic fumes from a range of building materials including paints, wood products and carpets contributing to poor health and productivity of office workers. (see Fact Sheet for details.)
“We also need to drive office fitouts that recycle and re-use where possible. While up to 40% of waste going to landfill is from construction and deconstruction activities, a staggering proportion of that is waste from the churn of fitouts and refurbishments - up to 32% of all waste going to landfill.
“With most Australian offices undergoing a new fitout every three years this is clearly an area in which we need to drive change, and the Green Star – Office Interiors rating tool will help do that.”

Ms Atkinson said the tool will be of use to designers and tenants in scoping office fitouts, although formal certification of office fitouts under the Green Star system will not occur until the fitout is complete.

The pilot rating tool will be on exhibition for two months (to Friday, 13 August 2004) and the Council encourages comments and stakeholder feedback on credit criteria and the allocation of credits.

Ms Atkinson said the members of the Council's Technical Working Group (see full list on separate Fact Sheet), chaired by Max Thomson, Director, Group GSA, and the Technical Steering Committee, chaired by Ché Wall, Group Director, Lincolne Scott, were to be congratulated for producing the tool.

The Technical Steering Committee is charged with ensuring the tool complements market delivery practices and has a low cost of use.

Ms Atkinson said the Green Star – Office Interiors rating tool was based on national and international guidelines, including the US LEED Green Building Rating System for Commercial Interiors, Queensland Government's Sustainable Development Office Fitout Design Guidelines, Melbourne Docklands ESD Guide, and Sydney Olympic Park Authority's environmental guidelines 1993.

“The Council also consulted widely with experts and practitioners in interior design, architectural and manufacturing organisations throughout the development phase,” Ms Atkinson said.

The Green Star – Office Interiors rating tool complements the Council's Green Star – Office Design and Green Star – Office As Built rating tools.

Green Star – Office Interiors has been sponsored by Council members the Sustainable Energy Authority Victoria (SEAV) and office furniture designer and manufacturer Wilkhahn Asia Pacific, as well as the US-based philanthropic organisation the Flora Family Foundation (see Fact Sheet for details).

The Council is now developing the final tool in its suite of rating tools for office buildings, Green Star – Office Existing Building. The existing office rating tool will be useful for property owners and managers to report on a building's performance, allowing market competition with new office buildings in terms of environmental credentials. 

The Green Star environmental rating system for buildings – Australia's first national, voluntary, comprehensive environmental rating system for buildings - assesses the design & performance of buildings against a range of environmental criteria including  water, waste, energy, materials, indoor environment quality, ecology & emissions.

Media contact: Sarah Turner 0416 147 534

International Research
The OECD report Environmentally Sustainable Buildings (2003) found that 'health problems resulting from indoor air pollution have become one of the most acute environmental problems related to building activities' and that 'relatively high levels of pollutants, arising from building materials and components (i.e. finishes, paints, and backing materials), can pose various health problems, such as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches and dizziness'.

Studies of human exposure to air pollutants by the US Environmental Protection Agency have indicated that indoor air levels of many pollutants may be 2.5 times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor levels. These high levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because it is estimated that most people spend as much as 90% of their time indoors.

Green Building Council of Australia Technical Working Group
Max Thomson (Group GSA) – Chair
Andrew Corney (Advanced Environmental Concepts)
David Craven (Sustainable Energy Authority Victoria)
Edward Warcaba (Interface)
Paul Edwards (Bovis Lend Lease)
Peter Cotton (Mirvac)
Digby Hall (Woodhead International)
Aidan Mawhinney (Wilkhahn Asia Pacific)
Alan Jenkins (Davis Langdon Australia)
Harlem Suhanic (ISIS Projects)
Haico Schepers (Arup Australia)
Chris Derksema (Green Building Council of Australia)

Additional advice was also provided by:
Trudy-Ann King (Woodhead International)
Brian Falls (Bovis Lend Lease)
Phil Wilkinson (AIRAH)
Sue Salmon (Sustainable Energy Development Authority)
Nicole Campbell (Sydney Olympic Park Authority)
Richard Sebo (RMIT University)
Ross Trethewy (University of NSW)
Ed Robusto (Schiavello Group).

Flora Family Foundation
The Flora Family Foundation, incorporated as a private foundation in the State of California late in 1998, was established by the family of William and Flora Lamson Hewlett.  The purpose of the Flora Family Foundation is to promote selected activities of charitable organizations and institutions as determined by members of the Board. It is predicated on the belief that each individual has an obligation to go beyond the narrow confines of his or her personal interests and be mindful of the broader concerns of humanity.