When our communities are investing millions of dollars in new buildings, it’s absolutely essential that we get it right.
Around Australia, local governments are recognising their responsibility to ensure their buildings are sustainable, not simply to minimise carbon emissions – although this is important – but also to leave a lasting legacy for the communities they serve.
The new Shellharbour City Hub, which will include a city library and museum, civic square, auditorium and cafe, as well as council chambers, is just one of dozens of sustainable community buildings going up around the nation.
In fact, more than 40 councils around Australia are working with us to achieve Green Star ratings for everything from libraries to community centres, and from council offices to art galleries. These building projects deliver valuable community infrastructure that meets the needs of growing communities, and also provides employment and economic uplift.
Research shows that Green Star buildings consume two-thirds less electricity and produce two-thirds fewer greenhouse gas emissions than Australian buildings. This means they have a small carbon footprint and are much cheaper to run – saving thousands of dollars in utility bills each year.
But green buildings aren’t just energy efficient.
A green building addresses a range of environmental impacts – from how water is consumed to how waste is managed, and from the materials that go into the building to its proximity to transport networks.
What’s more, a green building is not just ‘good to the environment’, but also an asset that makes business sense. Sustainable buildings last longer, cost less to run, boost workplace productivity and improve occupants’ wellbeing – with a reduced environmental impact almost seen as ‘the cherry on the cake’.
Councils, Shellharbour City Council among them, are investing in sustainable buildings because they are committed to delivering long-terms assets that are healthy, productive and fiscally responsible, and which help meet long-term objectives and environmental targets.
And that’s the bottom line. When building projects are funded by public money, councils must be able to demonstrate the value of their investments, the health and wellbeing of occupants and the accountability of taxpayers’ dollars. A Green Star rating is a mark of quality that gives rate payers the confidence that their community’s assets will deliver ongoing operational efficiencies and long-term value.
Robin Mellon is chief operating officer of the Green Building Council of Australia