The Greens recognise the massive opportunity to reduce carbon pollution, drive innovation and create new jobs and more comfortable, healthy places to work, and transform our cities to cooler, more liveable places to live, work and play through a large scale Green Buildings program.
Green buildings are cheaper to run and good for business. Recent data shows green buildings consume as much as 80% less energy after energy efficiency retrofits.
Australia’s commercial buildings account for about 10% of our national energy consumption and represent the opportunity for some of the most significant pollution reduction using the lowest cost using technologies that are already available.
In 2014 just 8% of Australian buildings were rated at the highest NABERS (National Australian Build Environment Rating System) category, and just 18% of all CBD office space had achieved a Green Star rating.
The Green Buildings Plan
The Greens will invest $62.1m per year over ten years to introduce:
• A national target of 100% zero carbon buildings by 2040
• A new $100m annual loan facility through the CEFC for large scale retrofits of commercial buildings with a focus on mid-tier commercial buildings (small and medium size businesses)
• A new $50m annual grant funding for new buildings to achieve ‘world leadership’ 6 Star Green Star certification or an equivalent rating
• A new $10m Green roofs and walls fund and a requirement for any buildings receiving government funding to include green walls or roofs
• An urgent review and upgrade of the National Construction Code energy performance standards with a trajectory to net zero emissions by 2040, and an amendment of the Code to include end-of-trip facilities for bicycle users
• Incentives for local governments, worth $10.1 million over forward estimates, to enrol commercial building owners in Environmental Upgrade Agreements
Retrofitting Commercial Buildings
The Greens plan to enable large-scale retrofits of our commercial building stock will focus on Australia’s ‘mid-tier buildings’, including offices, shopping centres, schools, hospitals, hotels, and small to medium sized businesses and organisations. It’s estimated there are 80,000 mid-tier buildings across Australia, and mid-tier offices account for about 52 million square metres of the 64 million square metres of office space in Australia.
The Beyond Zero Emissions Buildings Plan includes a number of case studies that modelled the impact of retrofits on various types of commercial buildings, and found:
- 80% overall energy reduction in a pre-1945 Brisbane office building
- 78% reduction in a 1980s era Sydney office block
- 83% reduction in a Melbourne school, and
- 63% reduction in a large Sydney shopping centre.
World Leadership in New Buildings
To really kick-start the green building revolution in Australia, we need to provide stronger incentives and regulations for Australia’s new buildings. Australia is rated 17th in the world on the Global Innovation Index, and we lag behind most OECD countries when energy efficiency and sustainability requirements in building codes for new buildings are compared. Australia is lagging globally in energy efficiency. In 2014 we were ranked 10th out of the world’s 16 largest economies, and we have been nominated as having one of the highest energy intensities in the commercial building sector, only underperformed by Italy.
Yet world leadership in green buildings can be achieved for the same or minimal extra cost. Data from 34 Green Star projects over the last 12 months show that projects can deliver a Green Star rating for between 1% and 3% of their project budget.
This is why the Greens propose a new funding stream of $50 million per year to offer an ‘innovation top up fund’ of up to 2% of total construction costs, to cover the cost of achieving world leadership such as 6 Star Green Star buildings.
Green Walls and Rooftops
Rooftop and vertical gardens can reduce carbon and air pollution, act as thermal insulation for buildings, can help prevent flooding by absorbing heavy rain, and reduce the urban heat island effect.
The city of Toronto is a great example of successful legislation promoting green roofs. In 2009, Toronto became the first city in North America to mandate green roofs on new developments including commercial, institutional and many residential. Since 2010 over 260 green roofs and 196,000 square metres of green roof area have been created.