The Green Building Council of Australia would have you believe there is some kind of green building ‘revolution’ sweeping the country. But the facts suggest otherwise.

Head shot of van der Heijden

Dr Jeroen van der Heijden – questions the green building ‘revolution’

The reality is that the GBCA’s Green Star system, which rates the environmental performance of buildings, has labelled less than 0.5% of Australian building space.
This is according to new research by Australian National University assistant professor Dr Jeroen van der Heijden. He says outside the country’s major business districts, green building labelling has not caught on, and the much-touted revolution has not happened on the broad front
Green Star has been most successful in commercial office buildings – particularly in the CBDs of the major cities – where the GBCA claims a strike rate of about 18%. “But if the vast majority of buildings are not hitting the highest sustainability standards, then are we really witnessing a revolution,” van der Heijden asks.
His study also shows that since its launch in 2008, uptake of Green Star labeling has levelled out. “Before then, it was increasingly sought by developers for future building projects, but this no longer seems to be happening.”
Failed to catch on
It is in the residential sector where Green Star has failed to catch on, and van der Heijden told timber+DESIGN that is explainable: “Leadership matters in the commercial sector, especially for owners or tenants of commercial property. A Green Star ranking may be a way to showcase their organisation’s environmental credentials … to meet their social corporate responsibility strategies. Households do not face such incentives, or face them to a much smaller extent.”
Commercial property owners and building managers are also more frequently exposed to environmental and resource sustainability developments.
“The commercial market for high end buildings is demand driven. The future owners are very involved in the design and development of their ‘flagship’ buildings. The residential sector is a supply driven market. Designs for homes in the suburbs are generally ‘off the shelf’, and strata buildings in city centres are largely developed without the future owners having any say in their design.
“I hear time and again from developers that the residential market is not asking for green buildings; moms-and-pops are not willing to pay for it. But if you do not offer the product there will not be a demand.”
He says it is time to re-educate developers and owners of residential property about the (financial) advantages of resource sustainable buildings – and in that way change the residential market for the better.
Dr van der Heijden’s website:

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