Green Star – Communities: A MUST READ game changer

WED 13 JUN 2012 Romilly Madew, Chief Executive / Green Building Council of Australia

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For many years, a Green Star rating has been a symbol of environmental sustainability.  From towering skyscrapers to low-rise schools, Green Star has driven a market shift towards integrated, holistic design and construction.
However, buildings are just one part of the sustainability equation.

Broader sustainability issues around our communities and cities are just as significant, such as the design of our public spaces, the affordability of housing, engagement processes with our stakeholders, climate adaptation and community resilience.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has long recognised that improving the sustainability of our communities is Australia’s next great challenge.

And tomorrow, after two-and-a-half years of hard work and extensive collaboration, we will release our response to this challenge: Green Star – Communities,  one of the world’s first independent, transparent, national schemes able to assess and certify the sustainability of community-level development projects.

At Green Cities 2009 I led a discussion on how we could evolve from greening our buildings to greening entire communities. The feedback from industry was definitive: a rating tool to help transform and better plan our communities was the answer. This rating tool, industry said, should encompass the full spectrum of sustainability issues – economic, social and environmental.
Our first step was to establish a national framework for sustainable communities. By 2010, the framework outlined five national best practice principles to guide sustainable communities in Australia. These have since expanded to six categories: Liveability; Economic Prosperity; Environment; Design; Governance; and Innovation.
Once those principles were clearly articulated, the GBCA pulled together 135 talented people from across the industry – from academia, social and town planning, project, development and facilities management, economics, policy, built form and urban design, scientific and environmental engineering, and all three tiers of government – to work on the project. Thirty eight sponsors, including every state and territory government land organisation threw their weight behind the development of the rating tool. 
We believe tomorrow marks the beginning of a new voluntary national standard for our industry. The Green Star – Communities rating tool will provide federal government with a vehicle for delivering and measuring policy outcomes, state governments with guidance for planning, approval and benchmarking of significant projects, and local governments with a framework for greater sustainable development outcomes and collaboration with industry. 
The tool will also facilitate more efficient development processes and ultimately help developers get their products out to market quicker. Financiers will gain a framework for sustainable investment. And consumers will have the ability to make informed decisions about their lifestyles.
This next phase of the tool’s evolution is no less important than the development phase, and from tomorrow, Thursday 14 June, we are seeking expressions of interest from potential PILOT projects. The PILOT process will enable us to test the tool’s draft benchmarks and analyse feedback, which will then be incorporated into Version 1 of the tool. 
Fact sheets, a business case and a Green Star – Communities PILOT Submission Guideline and Scorecard can be downloaded from our website:
We will also be supporting the application of Green Star – Communities with new education and skills development opportunities, as well as an accreditation for practitioners who specialise in green communities.
With some of Australia’s largest greenfield and urban infill projects lining up to pilot the rating tool, Green Star – Communities is set to be a ‘game changer’

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