What exactly is a "green building"?
In Perth, buildings are increasingly being designed as “green” in an effort to increase sustainability and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The trend towards green buildings is no surprise considering recent research has suggested that our built environment is the world's single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, consumes around a third of our water, and generates 40% of our waste.
What is a green building?
A green building has design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate its negative impact on the environment and its occupants. Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from design to construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.
Any building can be a green building, whether it is a home, an office, a school, a hospital, a community centre, provided it has the following features:
- Efficiently uses energy, water and other resources;
- Uses renewable energy sources, such as solar energy;
- Has measures in place to reduce pollution and waste and enables re-use and recycling;
- Has good indoor environmental air quality;
- Has been constructed using materials that are non-toxic, ethical and sustainable and in a manner that takes into account the environment and the quality of life of occupants; and
- Has been designed in a manner that enables occupants to adapt to a changing environment.
Green buildings go beyond minimising energy consumption, using durable materials and reducing demolition waste. Green buildings promote health and wellbeing by bringing fresh air inside, incorporating natural light and creating the right indoor temperature through passive design or building management and monitoring systems.
Green buildings also aim to connect communities and people by creating diverse environments that enhance communities through engaging local communities in their planning. Green buildings preserve nature, and ensure diverse wildlife and land quality are protected or enhanced, by, for example, remediating and building on polluted land or creating new green spaces. When designing green buildings, developers also consider transport options and the distance to amenities in an effort to reduce the impact of personal transport on the environment, and encourage environmentally friendly options such as walking or cycling.
Benefits of green buildings
The features of green buildings, while effective in addressing climate change, also provide social and economic benefits. Green building are said to also create sustainable and thriving communities and drive economic growth.
Buildings that have a "green' certificate produce 62% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, use 66% less electricity and consume 51% less water than the average Australian building and recycle 96% of their construction and demolition waste.
Further, green buildings offer a number of economic or financial benefits, such as cost savings on utility bills for tenants or households (through energy and water efficiency), lower construction costs and higher property value for building developers, increased occupancy rates and job creation.
Green buildings also provide a range of positive social benefits. Workers in green, well-ventilated offices recorded a 101% increase in cognitive scores, brain function and employees in offices with windows slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.
Launched by the Green Building Council of Australia in 2003, Green Star is Australia’s national rating system for buildings and communities. Green Star offers a framework of best practice benchmarks for sustainability by assigning a “Green Star” rating ranging from 1 to 6.
The Green Building Council assesses projects and awards a "Green Star" rating based on management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, emissions and innovation.
There are five steps to achieving Green Start certification:
- Registration: projects can be registered online.
- Documentation: As projects are designed, built or operated, teams compile a range of documentation to demonstrate that their building, fitout or community meets Green Star’s sustainability benchmarks.
- Submissions: The documentation is then submitted to the Green Building Council for Green Star assessment.
- Assessment: Green Star submissions are reviewed by an independent panel of sustainable development experts and an overall score is assigned.
- Certification: A Green Star certified rating is awarded as a third-party verification of a project’s sustainability.
Overall, green buildings have signicant benefits - for the environment and the people who work in them.
How green is your building?
Anna Prentice, HFW
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