Back Where does Australia sit with respect to global sustainability efforts? In conversation with Davina Rooney, CEO, Green Building Council Australia When you look at Australia on the property scale, and when you look at sustainability, we absolutely punch above our weight. Whether it’s GRESB (Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark), where Australia has topped global rankings for nine years running, or the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Australian property is highly recognised in that space. We see that reflected in the 2030 Net Zero Carbon Commitment with the World Green Building Council. Globally, 45 businesses have signed up, 28 cities, and 6 regions and capitals, so to put that into context, that’s the likes of California and Scotland, and Paris and New York on the city side – but also Sydney and Melbourne. But most exciting, on the entity side, Australia has 17 of the 45 global businesses signed up, which is extraordinary. However when you look at the science and what we need to do – yes, Australia is performing very well against other countries, but there is still so much to do, and so the Australian companies who’ve already made this commitment will hopefully inspire many others to do the same. How do you see the role of the GBCA in nurturing this? We play three specific roles: we seek to rate, using our Green Star program, we seek to educate the sector, and we seek to advocate, so we’re partnering very closely with a diversity of industries and leaders to help us reach our longer-term goals. What are the impediments for organisations and developers committing to these ambitious sustainability goals? There are a few things we need to do. The first is we need to de-mystify the language. So when we talk about a net zero carbon building and operation, we’re predominantly talking about a highly efficient building powered by renewables. We have to simplify the language so that’s easier to understand and digest the practical side of these goals. And we have to clearly communicate the businesses cases we know prove the long-term sustainability of these commitments. So for instance, we know that when you compare Green Star office buildings to a non-Green Star building, they’ll do 5% better on immediate valuation, 13% better on return, and they’ll have a 25% better WALE (Weighted Average Lease Expiry) – or in plain English, tenants stay longer in Green Star buildings. We also know that Green Star buildings only cost between 1% and 3% more to build, so it’s an immediate win compared to the valuation bump that having a high Green Star rating delivers. And if you looked at the investment case for net zero – five years ago, you couldn’t make the business case stack, however the renewables market in Australia has radically transformed; corporate power purchasing agreements have changed; the placement of solar panels on building roofs and LED lighting is providing double-digit returns, so things have radically changed, and it now makes financial sense. It still requires leadership from the organisations tenanting new commercial buildings to make this work… When you look at the policy document that we developed with the Property Council, launched by Minister Taylor last year, it talks about key things government can do at a federal, state and local level, and unsurprisingly, government accommodation and government procurement policy are right up there in the things we’re asking for. And although there has definitely been some positive movement in policy over recent years, much of it is now requiring a refresh to embrace all the recent innovations, and also to respond to the critical nature of climate change right now. What are the next phases of the movement? The thing that’s bringing me the most excitement is that we’re already starting to see changes in the building code, and we need to work very closely with business on all the steps to get us to net zero by 2030. We’re also seeing exponential growth in the buildings that are adopting Green Star guidelines and ratings, and it’s expanding to a much wider group of asset owners, investors and developers, which is very encouraging. The greatest opportunity for growth is in the residential space, which accounts for 57% of emissions across the whole property sector. People want comfortable, sustainable, resilient homes, so it all goes back to education, and the language we use to make it more accessible and understandable to everyone. For example, we’re revising terms such as “indoor environment quality” to “healthy”, which is something everyone can understand and appreciate. How is GBCA enjoying the workspace within International Towers? We love the space! We actually reduced our rented area by over 50% when we moved to International Towers because of the community structure. Not only do we have the privilege to work in these beautiful buildings, but we’re also in the first community hub space, where we have a smaller area dedicated to ourselves, and share spaces such as meeting rooms, kitchens and beautiful communal spaces with other organisations within the community. The International Towers team take the curation of the community very seriously – one example is the Indigenous art that is exhibited within the communal spaces, that’s cycled on a regular basis as part of International Towers’ cultural heritage commitment. It’s very hard for a development to transition from a vision and concept through to a real, breathing place, and I have to give the team enormous credit for what they’ve achieved.