If you are considering the possibility of making your building more sustainable, then you are a part of a growing movement that is striving to make a difference in reducing the carbon footprints left by buildings on the environment.
Research has proven that the built environment is a significant contributor to climate change. It is estimated that 40% of global energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions can be attributed to residential and commercial buildings.
Close to 80% of these carbon emissions are created during the daily operations of a building.
Green building standards and certification systems are focused at alleviating the degree of environmental impact buildings have on the natural world.
‘Greening’ your building can make a difference and encompasses the complete life cycle of the building and not just the initial design and construction phase.
Here are some key elements to consider if your building will be transforming to a more sustainable and eco-friendly design…
Green Building Standards and Certification
Energy use and emissions can be minimized by adjusting the way you build and prepare the building.
Are you planning to certify your building under a globally recognized green building rating system?
There are many green building certification systems currently being used throughout Australia that ensure high standards of quality.
Some examples are…
- LEED Gold Certification
- Green Star
- NatHERS (Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme)
- NABERS (National Australian Built Environment Rating System)
Indoor Environmental Quality
Optimal air quality guidelines are aimed at reducing toxic emissions and odors, as well as ensuring adequate ventilation.
Indoor environmental quality also involves providing access to natural daylight and views.
Do all interior paints, adhesives, sealants, and flooring have low VOC or no VOC?
Is there access to fresh air ventilation such as windows that can be opened?
Are fresh air intakes situated away from sources of air pollution?
Is there access to a natural light source and views?
Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced through improvements in building technology such as energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy, passive design, and performance monitoring.
These changes can reduce operating costs as well.
- Does your building have a NABERS Energy rating of 4 stars or above?
- Are the heating and cooling systems of enhanced energy efficiency?
- Does your company use CitySwitch Green Office program?
- Is a performance monitoring system being used to track and optimize energy and green building performance?
Sustainable forms of transportation are encouraged to reduce dependence on fossil-fuel burning vehicles and improve air quality.
- Is public transport accessible from your building?
- Do you offer improved facilities (ex. bike racks, storage, showers) to encourage cycling and walking?
- Does your company offer employee incentives for green mobility such as transit passes, car share memberships, plug-ins for electrical vehicles, or shared bicycles for short term use?
Water conservation is achieved through efficient use of indoor and outdoor water as well as reducing storm water run-off.
- Does your building have a NABERS Water rating of 4 stars or above?
- Is your building fitted with high efficiency water fixtures such as dual flush toilets, automatic shut-off taps, or low flow showerheads?
- Are alternative water supplies being utilized on site? (Ex. Rain water collection, black and grey water treatment)
Materials and Resources
Products and materials that are sustain-ably grown, produced, and transported help ensure the conservation and best practices of raw resources.
- Re-using and recycling of material also helps lessen the strain on landfills and extends the life-cycle of products.
- Are you sourcing materials and products from manufacturers who have third party environmental certification?
- Are you using materials with recycled or reused content?
- Does the building offer enhanced waste management such as recycling facilities, composting, and e-waste?
Land Use and Ecology
Responsible management of the landscape can contribute to maintaining biodiversity, protecting the watershed, and restoring natural vegetation.
- Are new trees being planted to increase the urban forest?
- Is existing native vegetation being protected on site?
- Are the use of toxic cleaning products being reduced to preserve the environment?
- Do you have an environmental management plan to help reduce consumption and preserve the natural world?
- For more information on how to make your green building a reality, contact the Green Building Council of Australia.