eTool Response to the Green Star Future Focus consultation paper 2019

Green Star Future Focus
Suggested changes to the framework have been presented in the Future Focus consultation paper – Green Star for New Buildings. The industry has been asked to submit comments to the proposed changes, that include the new set of categories and credits, encourages the elimination of carbon emissions from the built environment and sets high and ambitious requirements for 5-star and 6-star projects.

It is a POSITIVE change to see the proposed integration of the categories Energy, Water and Materials into one new category called “Positive”.

Previous and new credits

For LCA devotee like eTool, it gives hope that the new rating (Green Star for new buildings) will bring the circular economy thinking within Green Star to a whole new level. It is a great chance to close gaps in the previous rating “Green Star Design and As Built version 1.2” as pointed out by eTool feedback on the Material Life Cycle Impact Reduction credit.

How each decision, like a PV system, a new material with an available EPD or water saving technology, would influence the proposed design of a green building? These options need to be modelled to provide a transparent picture of the environmental footprint of the whole project, ideally before drawings are finished and contracts are signed.

eTool believes that the previous separation of energy, water and materials is no longer necessary with the advancements in standards, LCI data sources, LCA tools available and the knowledge within the industry.

Higher requirements for 5 and 6 Star projects.

Another positive change presented in the Discussion Paper is the redefinition of the 5-Star and 6-Star requirements. It is not new to anyone, that the construction industry moved to a new level with an increasing number of Green Star certified projects. Original 4-Star and some of 5-Star projects in Australia became business as usual, which means the “Reference” needed to be redefined – and the rating required a shift to a higher level.

GBCA is aiming to have the new 5 Stars as “Net zero ready”, and 6 Stars as “Net zero carbon”.

net carbon ready and zero

In short, the “Net zero Carbon” (= future 6 Stars) must be 100% powered by renewables and reduce their embodied carbon by 20%. This cannot be done just by simply buying offsets, but through the building design improvement.

The “Net zero READY” projects will still need to reduce embodied carbon (by 10%) but won’t have to be 100% powered by renewable energy.

This is a very positive change, however a clear definition how this needs to be measured is still missing. The European standard EN15978 sets the calculation method and potential options for specific performance targets include an absolute figure (i.e. 85kgCO2e/m2/year) or a percentage reduction against equivalent code compliant design.

New Badges for Champions.

The idea of badges is great and it is a good way to encourage innovations. Supporting the GBCA badges, eTool suggested the following ideas:

  • “Super positive champion” badge for those projects that used LCA model to achieve a “Super Credit” within the new rating, integrating energy, water and materials into the same analysis.
  • “Life cycle costing champion” badge for those projects using LCC to achieve the best environmental performance at the lowest cost, and use that as a metric to prioritise improvement strategies.
  • “Full Operational Net Zero Carbon champion” badge (including building-related and non-integrated building energy use as per EN15978). More details in our Position Statement on Green Star Net Zero Label from 2016.

How can we make sure that “Net zero carbon projects” (ready or not) consider ALL GHG emissions?

Is it enough to use 100% renewables in the Scope 2 and reduce water consumption for the building operation? Is it enough to reduce the embodied carbon (in the building materials) by 10-20% and offset the remaining carbon by purchasing the NCOS certificates?

Zero carbon is a very ambitious goal and to get there the projects will need to use life cycle design from concept phase to understand the key impact areas, prioritise strategies and make sure they are economically viable. The goal is to capture as much impact as possible in the LCA scope and use the design methodology to provide full transparency on the results and support the industry to make the right decisions towards a future in balance with the planet.

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