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Minimization of New Building Carbon Footprint Editing

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Updated: May 11th, 2022

Abstract

At the start of the 21st century, the western society has obtained greater awareness in the importance of sustainable infrastructure due to the acknowledgment that the sector should not continue to operate “business as usual” in a fashion of neoclassical economics that promotes profit-making and the intensive use of natural reserves without internalizing ecological damage.

Furthermore, recent improvements in the world’s sustainability agenda have set objectives to promote the diminution of Green House Gas (GHG) releases as an urgent concern. To be able to accomplish this, higher building industry principles have been put into practice in regards to building operations, design and performance in order to quantify different grades of sustainability. In this regard, it is important to develop an adequate green building rating tool in Australia in order to be levelled to international environmental building standards.

Green star has an important role to play in helping Australia’s building market to internalize undesired effects on the environment and, consequently, to accomplish more sustainable infrastructures. Furthermore, the strength of the Australian economy, in comparison to the rest of the developed economies, sets favorable conditions to encourage higher levels of capital investment and sustainable development in the infrastructure sector. Consequently, this work will argue that improving the standard for Green Star rating system is fundamental in order to achieve higher grades of environmental performance and speed up competitiveness in a consistently dynamic global economy.

Introduction

Project definition

To be sustainable, buildings should usefully last for many generations without hampering its surrounding environment. The sustainable development is increasingly highlighted because the buildings have a constantly increasing impact on the environment. This project can be defined as an analysis of Green Star rating scheme; which is prepared in order to identify weaknesses (i.e. in comparison to international standards LEED and BREEAM); and to identify course of actions in order to encourage sustainable building practices in Australia.

Project Objectives

To benchmark the rating criteria that Green Star uses in order to assess and grant accreditation in the building stock in Australia. To concentrate specially in the comparative analysis of the major building rating tools: LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment) from the United States and United Kingdom Green Building Councils, respectively.

To propose coarse of actions in order to make a significant enhancement in Green Star rating tool. More particularly, to identify weaknesses in Green Star scheme and suggest more adequate responses.

Project Benefits

The project benefits will be on the way that Green Star rating scheme will be enhanced in order to promote leadership in the development of sustainable building stock in Australia. More specifically, benefits for the building industry will be in the shape of innovative design and construction, a boost in the bottom line and environmental performance and a smoother transition towards a demanding regulation that advocates for a low-carbon economy. At the same time, benefits for the Australia community will be economic (i.e. employment, companies bottom line, investment and economic growth) environmental (i.e. reduction on GHG emissions, energy efficiency and use of less damaging construction materials) and social (i.e. healthcare stakeholders, community development)

Project Deliverable

The project deliverable will result in a course of action for Green Star rating towards the development of environmental criteria that favor the reduction in GHG emissions, the execution of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in construction materials and higher levels in energy efficiency. At the same time, the project will deliver recommendations on Green Star rating in order to produce a more comprehensive assessment based on the consideration of a two staged accreditation process: design review and construction review. On the other hand, improvements in the bottom line for companies under Green Star certification, via reduction in building operation costs and higher return on investment via an increase in property values and more tenant attraction.

In addition, a reduction in environmental and social impacts in the building stock sector in Australia. More specifically, community and workers will have access to healthier places to live and work.

Literature Review/ Research (Rational and Significance of the study with references)

Literature Review

According to Garnaut (2011) the building sector is the largest donor to the world’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, utilizing approximately 40% of the world’s energy and producing approximately 30% of the carbon emissions.

At the same time, sustainability has become the “buzzword” of the academic and the business fields. In particular it is possible to identify two large trends in the development of sustainable infrastructure in the last decades (Hall, Daneke, & Lenox, 2010).

  • The Period 1990 – 2000: the start of the 1990’s puts large emphasis in sustainable design, which was also joined, to the notion of buildings being “eco-friendly”, “environmentally friendly” and “unobtrusive”. A crucial element for building performance during this phase was founded on a “cost efficient” evaluation (Hall, Daneke, & Lenox, 2010).
  • The Period 2000 – 2010: the start of the 21st century reveals the beginning of “calculating carbon” and “measuring efficiency”. This phase has established the measurements of CO2/m2/year as common factors in environmental evaluation of buildings. The principal indicator on building performance during this phase was based on measuring carbon emissions (Hall, Daneke, & Lenox, 2010).

The sustainability phenomenon has resulted in an abundance of green building rating tools and frameworks around the world to evaluate property development against a collection of “sustainability criteria”. Green Building Councils are members of the World Green Building Council; and on its respective country are conformed by partnerships between government and private organisations that have worked in collaboration to develop Green Building rating tools. Internationally the most widely recognised rating system includes LEED, BREEAM, Green Star, CASBEE, SICES and EEWH. The sustainable building industry is shaped by the influence of the mentioned rating tools, which are mainly endorse and applicable through diverse Green Buildings Councils around the globe. Which are, LEED in the US Green Building Council (USGBC), Canada Green Building Council, Brazil Green Building Council, India Green Building Council; CASBEE in Japan; BREEAM in the UK Green Building Council; SICES in Mexico Green Building Council; EEWH in Taiwan Green Building Council and Green Star in the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), Green Building Council of New Zealand (NZGBC) and in the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA). Although, there are many others international building tools available, the three larger rating systems in the world are: LEED, BREEAM and Green Star.

As the proposed research will demonstrate on subsequent sections, there is a substantial disparity in terms of the global methodology (i.e. LEED, BREEAM and Green Star) to be applied in order to evaluate sustainability criteria in the building sector. This discrepancy can be explained by several factors; perhaps one of the most influential is the fact that each of the rating systems was conceived and adapted to a specific geographical context that regards unique characteristics in terms of: environmental conditions, politics and legislation, industry sector and socio-economic structures. For instance, BREEAM methodology is tailored, and therefore, better applied and representative when assessing the sustainability performance of the building industry in the United Kingdom than anywhere else in the world (Dirlich, 2011).

Furthermore, the topics for building assessment vary according to different weightings and categories. LEED 2009 grants an overall score of 110 points with a weighting system that considers: 23.6% to sustainable sites, 9.1% to water efficiency, 31.9%to energy and atmosphere, 12.7% to material and resources, 13.6%to indoor environmental quality, 5.5% to innovation and design, and 3.6% to regional priority. The overall score for BREEAM 2011 goes up to 110%and its weighting system considers: 10% to land use and ecology, 6% to water, 19% to energy, 12.5% to materials, 15% to health and wellbeing, 8% to transport, 7.5% to waste, 10% to pollution, 12% to management and 10% to innovation. The overall score for Green Star 2013 is 100 points and its weighting system considers: management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, innovation, emissions, and land use and ecology. These building weighting aspects are not fixed like LEED and BREEAM, as they change according to states and territories in order to consider diverse environmental priorities across Australia. For example, potable water has a high relevance in South Australia than the Northern Territories, and consequently the water category has a higher weighting in South Australia.

Therefore, it can be argue that a customized building rating system will be more representative and meaningful in addressing the specific context and particular requirements of the building sector in a determined country, state or territory. However, on doing this, drawback effects appear as international comparison becomes more difficult because multiple rating tools are built upon different categories and weightings. According Dixon, Colantonio, Shiers, Reed, Wilkinson, and Gallimore, 2008), the proliferation of rating tools around the globe has created market distortions that prevent stakeholders and property investors from having a clear understanding on the implications of different sustainability methodologies. In this regard, Reed, Bilos, Wilkinson, and Schulte (2009) point out that while it is established that states and territories possess unique characteristics, the objective of reaching a global rating tool can be achieved in a similar way. According to him, financial methodology works for analysing property values in different countries: by using a twelve-year discounted cash flow technique that considers exchange rates fluctuations, it is possible to directly contrast the value of an office building in Berlin, London, New York City, or Melbourne. In other words, a straightforward approach that relies on developing a global rating system will deliver important benefits that will facilitate the access to transparent information in the form of sustainability features and building assessment around different countries. The underpinning reasons behind not having a global rating system can be attributed to lack of knowledge and willingness to compromise towards a single rating tool since it may not be the possible best tool applicable to a wide range of states and territories.

In an attempt to attain sustainability in building, the steps have been categorized into the first, second, and the third wave. The first wave is a reference to a group of companies that were opposed to the notion of sustainability. Birkeland (2012) provides the highly effective perspective on the natural environment and the employees. The culture of exploitation was synonymous with the first wave organizations and this was largely to blame for the failure to achieve sustainability during the time. Organizations in this era were opposed to green activists and the government’s attempts to bring about policies that would cater for sustainability in building (Olgyay & Seruto, 2010). The community was distanced from the sustainability debate with its claims being labelled by the organizations as illegitimate; this development reveals the less regard the organizations of the first wave gave to the community and the environment (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2010).

According to Shove (1998), organizations in the first wave were characterized by ignorance in the form of non-responsiveness. This greatly hindered and dissatisfied any attempts to achieve sustainability in building. Primacy was given to technological and financial factors with less regard being reserved for environmental factors. Ignorance came in a higher degree as the workforce was condemned to be compliant of decisions made and business was conducted as usual. In the light of this, organizations during the first wave regarded environmental resources as free goods requiring little attention (Green Building Council Australia, 2008).

Shove, reveals that the motivation to move to the second wave stemmed from the perceived need for organizations to be compliant to legal, environmental, safety, and health requirements and the numerous expectations of the community. Business opportunities during the second wave aimed at avoiding the huge costs of failing to comply with the stipulated standards. Moreover, there was the increased need to create an efficient system to mitigate risk. The objectives of the organizations in the second wave were to eliminate waste progressively and increase efficiency in materials and processes. The second wave was synonymous with increased attempts for reorganization and waste reduction (Harmelink, Voogt, & Cremer, 2006). Three paths catered for efficiency in this era. These were; cost reduction, improving quality through value addition, and flexibility and innovation through the advantage of the first mover (Gann, 2000). An example of efficiency attained in the second wave was eco-efficiency, a concept that converged at the use of fewer resources to attain more. This was attained through the delivery of goods that were competitively priced and services meant to satisfy the numerous human needs and foster equality in living standards (Hawkes, 2010). All these developments were achieved by reduction of ecological impact and the intensity of the resources throughout the life cycle to a level that was in line with the carrying capacity of the earth. Core eco-efficiency principles fostering efficiency in building sustainability during the second wave were reduction of material intensity, minimization of energy intensity, reduction in the dispersion of harmful substances, recycling, capitalizing on renewable resources, extension of product durability, and increased service intensity (R.S. Means Company, 2011).

As opposed to the first and the second wave, the third wave was synonymous with numerous achievements in building sustainability. The companies in this era went ‘green’. The need for understanding the motives behind ecological responsiveness in the corporate domain is for a number of reasons (Bell, 2000). First, such an understanding is vital in helping organizational theorists to predict behaviours related to ecology. For example, if the corporations adopted practices that were ecologically responsive with the view of meeting legal requirements, the firms would engage in activities that would be in line with the legislation (Jaraminiene, Bieksa, & Valuntiene, 2012). Second, the understanding would expose mechanisms that would foster organizations with ecological sustainability. Such an attribute would allow managers, researchers, and policy makers to assess control mechanisms and command efficacy, voluntary measures, and market measures (Roodman, & Lenssen, 1995).

More closely related to the building development sector, in the last two decades there has been a significant evolution in the way rating tool methodologies assess the building sector. In the beginning of the 1990’s, the first rating tools techniques were developed (i.e. BREEAM) with a main focus in design stage, whereas the actual construction was not so important (Sustainability Building Australia, 2013). At the start of the 21st century, this trend has gone in reverse, where most rating tool methodologies show significantly increased concern in the actual construction and a less focus in merely building design (Therivel, 2004). At the same time, since 2006 a new trend in green building rating has risen, where the main focus is now on the form of sustainable performance. This recent performance trend has expanded the implications of sustainable buildings, in an attempt to establish as a common practice for the infrastructure sector the measurement, through international audit and standards, of the levels of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, energy and water footprint. As the orientation in direction to the construction stage and sustainable performance expands in time, the rating tools methodologies will accommodate accordingly, shifting increasing categories and weighting from building design perspective to building performance. Hence, this will have a powerful effect on the future configuration of the building sector.

In addition, one important issue that also has a significant impact over the lack on global consensus on “sustainable buildings” is that the world most accepted technology rapidly becomes the benchmark and, consequently, there is no much space to include new breakthroughs. In this direction Curwell and Cooper (1998) point out that because the notion of sustainable development is continuously evolving (i.e. in terms of conceptualization, implementation and monitoring) whereas building standards remain within their respective sustainability frameworks, there is an essential constraint to reach global agreement. At the same time, Dovers (2002), Godfaurd (2005), and Kibert (2003) sustain that this quest for global agreement is disregarding insightful knowledge that could be put in practice in the sustainability field,

Research in current solutions

LEED, BREEAM and Green Star are the most accepted and common global rating systems in the current sustainable building industry. In this regard, LEED, BREEAM and Green Star schemes are similar in aims, approach and structure to rate the performance of the building sector and create according grade levels for accreditation (Sustainability Building Australia, 2013). However, the sustainability rating methodology varies considerably, from tool rating system one to another, in terms of measurement of building performance, scope and environmental criteria within the infrastructure sector.

BREEAM is a rating tool introduced in the United Kingdom in 1990 has an extended track record that is mainly applied in the UK. The mentioned system is applied in a number of various building infrastructures such as: retail, schools, industrial offices and homes. Under BREEAM scheme buildings score is categorized as a “Pass”, “Good”, “Very Good” and “Excellent” rating based on the general score.

BREEAM offers a comprehensive approach whose goal is to minimize environmental impacts in the different stages of construction and building operations. This methodology seeks to provide a sustainability strategy that takes into account all areas in the building industry and not just the simple mandate of cutting down on carbon emissions (Sustainability Building Australia, 2013). Hence, there are multiple environmental and economic benefits on adopting the BREEAM system in the building industry such as: access to lower energy requirements and building operational costs, higher property rent value, enhancement in productivity levels due to workers access to a comfortable working environment, improved reputation for the building industry that commits to environmental protection, shorter selling times in buildings, and other publicity benefits. The principal criterions for sustainable design and construction under BREEAM include management, health and wellbeing, energy, transport, water, materials, land use, ecology and pollution.

Although there is an extensive record in the Building sector that is achieving high levels of accreditation in the BREEAM rating systems as their core sustainability strategy, the implications of the rating tool are not considered by U.S. design professionals (Reed, Bilos, Wilkinson, & Schulte, 2009). Perhaps, the major constrain in the BREEAM rating system is that in spite of its contribution towards sustainable design and construction, it is not as widespread as LEED, and only selected as the favourite rating system by the building industry within the boundaries of the UK.

On the other hand, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a system-rating tool that was created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and is more globally recognized as a reference for sustainable building practices. Furthermore, not only in the United States but also in a multiple number of different countries around the world, LEED accreditation is the most commonly accepted standard for assessing building sustainability performance (Lee, & Burnett, 2007).

The LEED green building rating system, developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council, is designed to promote design and construction practices that increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improving occupant health and well-being.

The most remarkable economic incentives granted by LEED are among the following: 8% to 9% decrease in building operating expenses, 7.5% increase in property values, 6.6% improvement in return over investment, 3.5% augment in tenancy, 3% rent increase (Skanska, 2013). The construction cost is also an important advantage because the large majority of buildings are capable to achieve LEED certification without requiring additional funding. Some do need extra funding, but only for specific features, such as photovoltaic. In addition, comparative costs advantage in adopting LEED rating systems are given where LEED buildings are globally recognized, hence enjoy a greater reputation, and incurred on a similar cost (i.e. cost per square meter) than what it takes to adopt alternative building system rating methodologies.

LEED scheme provides four accreditation categories for buildings: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The grade of accreditation depends on the score achieved in five fields of assessment: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality (Brundtland Commission Our Common Future, 1987).

In particular, the evolution towards the implementation of Green Star rating system in Australia can be regarded as a consequence of the escalating pressure of environmental legislation. In this manner, Warren, (2009) points out that there has been a great response coming from several infrastructure developers in Australia to seek Green Star accreditation for their recent constructions. The fact is that over 4 million m2 have turned into Green Star certified space around Australia.

However, two environmental rating frameworks are present in the building sector of Australia: NABERS (i.e. National Build Rating) and Green Star scheme from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA). Each of these rating schemes aims to evaluate several parameters in order to reward with a number of stars. The amount of stars awarded is different in the two schemes, with NABERS giving up to 5 stars and Green Star up to 6 stars. The environmental criteria in NABERS include: energy (previously known as the Australian Building Greenhouse Rating), water, waste and indoor environment. On the other hand, the environmental standards under Green Star include: management, indoor environmental quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, emissions and innovation.

Although the council methodology of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) varies considerably, their rating systems do allocate a number of resemblances. For instance, both rating systems have minimum eligibility criteria and demand certain prerequisites for certification, both have taken an approach of collecting up credits under a type of category and both institutions have credentials in place to promote the active participation of certified experts in their respective rating systems.

According to Reed, Bilos, Wilkinson, and Schulte (2009) by doing a benchmark analysis on the different categories and weightings parameters for the rating tools LEED, BREEAM and Green Star, the methodologies can be directly comparable. Reed, Bilos, Wilkinson, and Schulte (2009) reach some important conclusions, by analysing different aspects on the rating tools.

Table 1: Comparison Table by Category Weighting. (Source: BRE 2008)

BREEAM LEED Green Star
Management 15 8 10
Energy 25 25 20
Transport 25 25 10
Health and Wellbeing 15 13 10
Water 5 5 12
Materials 10 19 10
Land use and Ecology 15 5 8
Pollution 15 11 5
Sustainable Sites 16

LEED and BREEAM also reach a higher standard than Green Star in terms of energy efficiency (Kirk, 2005). This is because LEED and BREEAM schemes take into account a larger number of parameters for assessing the building performance based on two comparable building models (Sleeuw, 2011). On the contrary, the Green Star scheme predicts building performance from one single building model based on fewer parameters to be assessed; therefore, Green Star is not as effective in the evaluation of energy efficiency rating scores. BREEAM outperforms in the category of building management compared to LEED and Green Star.

Again, in comparison to the other scheme methodologies, Green Star falls behind in the category of Pollution. However, since water scarcity is an important sustainability issue in Australia, the water preservation standards of Green Star are consistently higher than LEED and BREEAM. In regards to land use and ecology BREEAM appears to be setting the greatest emphasis, which is coherent to the current infrastructure scenario in the UK that presents high levels of density population. To some extent, this analysis shows how the major rating tools LEED and BREEAM are better adapted than Green Star to asses sustainable performance in the building sector in terms of energy and emissions, and consequently, offer a better response to this local sustainability issues where the respective frameworks were initially originated.

Another important difference between these three major rating tools (i.e. LEED, BREEAM and Green Star) can be found in terms of category weightings (referenced in Figure 1). This rating methodology gap, based on Green Star categories, is displayed in the figure 1, where the identified areas of contrast that resemble most significant differences, between Green Star and the alternative LEED and BREEAM are: water, materials, emissions/pollution and land use and ecology.

Category Weightings
Figure 1: Category Weightings(Source: Green Building Council Australia)

In addition, since the LEED rating system is applied in multiple building project around the planet, it can be argue that this methodology is more adjustable to a broad range of scenarios. For instance, assessing an airport), whereas Green Star requires the development of a custom rating system for project types not covered by their current tools (CSIRO, 2013).

Undoubtedly, there are gradual and significant differences between LEED and Green Star system ratings. For instance, LEED applies an environmentally friendly method (i.e. online system) to submit records and documentation, whereas Green Star initiative for submission is through paper and CD. The submission stage is a long process that can involve thousands of pages of documentation. However, the greatest discrepancy can be found in the technique in which the buildings industry gets accreditation. In LEED, the procedure for accreditation is two staged: design review and construction review. The building projects can obtained expected score at the end of the design stage but will only be given certification at the end of the construction stage. LEED approach secures the execution of the initiatives acknowledged in the design stage. However, in comparison to LEED, Green Star rating system has a “loop hole” in this situation, since it is feasible to obtain accreditation at the stage of design, and then execute the project in an entirely different manner. In an attempt to solve this issue, Green Star now offers a number of ‘As-Built’ ratings (to assess the consistency of the design stage during building implementation). In addition, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is also commanding a time limitation on the promotion of design certification (Green Star, 2013).

However, as it is illustrated in the Table 2: Green Star Certified Office Buildings, the introduction of “As Built” ratings is not sufficient to secure sustainable building practices. This premise is applicable for all states and territories except for South Australia, where out of a total of ten design-certified office buildings; four office buildings have passed through “As Built” certification such as 40 per cent rate (Green Building Council Australia, 2008). However, for the states and territories of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia the situation is more shocking since once that design accreditation has been granted a much smaller proportion (i.e. 5 per cent) of Green Star certified office buildings opt for accreditation at the construction stage (Gifford, 2009).

Table 2: Green Star Certified Office Buildings. Source: Warren, C. M. “Who needs a Green Star?” (2009) UQ Business School.

Office Design Office As Built
State / Star Rating 4 5 6 4 5 6
VIC 5 16 3
NSW 8 6 3 3
SA 2 7 1 2 2
QLD 10 10 2 1
ACT 2 2 1
TAS 1 1 0
NT 0 0 0
WA 4 2 1
Total 32 44 11 2 6 0

On the other hand, carbon emissions from building are projected to grow over the next 25 years by an annual rate of over 1% (Garnaut, 2011). The contribution of building to the increase of carbon emissions when combined with other sources of carbon emissions such as industry and transportation result in an even higher rate of carbon emission (United Nation Environmental Program, 2009).

The great concern over carbon in the atmosphere is the characteristic of carbon in the form carbon dioxide to trap heat within the atmosphere leading the phenomena known as global warming. Increased temperature in the atmosphere will result to an increased rate of ice melting at the poles, stronger cyclones, and tornadoes, the faster spread of deserts and ultimately increased emissions as building attempt to maintain a conducive environment for working and living within the building environment. The most significant factor that contributes to the high rate of carbon emissions in buildings is the consumption of electricity (Dunphy, Griffiths, & Benn, 2007).

When other attributes of a building are considered the result is an even higher carbon emission. Buildings have a life span of 50to 100 years and through this period the building emits carbon to the atmosphere. It is estimated that if new commercial buildings are built to consume 50% less energy 6 million tons of carbon dioxide would be reduced from the high contribution of buildings (Shi, 2008). To get a good impression of this, it can be equated to removing 1 million cars from the road annually. Without the considerations of the building environmental performance, and seeking out ways to improve this performance building will be a great contributor to the increasing carbon emissions (Ramanathan, & Carmichael, 2008).

Building more environmentally friendly building is referred to as building green. Building green not only reduces the carbon emissions of the building but also results in savings and the general improvement of the bottom line. Some of the ways that a building can be made more efficient include using the most efficient electronics in the building construction to improve performance. Some of these systems including the building heating and cooling systems, another is taking advantage of the daylight to reduce the need for lighting. The primary ways in which the building meets the minimal carbon footprint emissions is through ecologically responsive design and improved energy competence (Jaraminiene, Bieksa, & Valuntiene, 2012).

The general argument in favour of more energy competent buildings is that greener building ischeaper to run and provide a better environment for the occupants. In Australia, electricity accounts for 89% of the total carbon emissions. Electricity in Australia is produced from brown coal, which is found in abundance in the country. A change from this to using gas as a source of electricity would greatly reduce the carbon emissions. This is however not likely to occur considering the social-political conditions. The current efforts focus on the performance of the building and how specific it utilizes energy. The general consensus is that the improvement in the thermal, day lighting and natural ventilation of a building would significantly improve the energy efficiency of the building and thus the carbon footprint (Wang, Zmeureanu, & Rivard, 2005).

Governments in developed nations have started programs that are geared towards increasing the energy efficiency of existing building and those being built. In order to achieve the best possible standard a comparison of these programs must be done to determine the area each encompasses. Recent research has shown that the Australian program green star is significantly behind those of other developed nations such as the United States and United Kingdom (Shah, 2012). The research however does not specify the sectors in which the program lags behind and how best this challenge can be tackled. Consequently, this research seeks to fill this gap in knowledge (Roodman, & Lenssen, 1995).

The general argument in favour of more energy competent buildings is that greener building is cheaper to run and provide a better environment for the occupants. In Australia, electricity accounts for 89% of the total carbon emissions. Electricity in Australia is produced from brown coal, which is found in abundance in the country. A change from this to using gas as a source of electricity would greatly reduce the carbon emissions (Sabnis, 2011). This is however not likely to occur considering the social-political conditions. The current efforts focus on the performance of the building and how specific it utilizes energy. The general consensus is that the improvement in the thermal, day lighting and natural ventilation of a building would significantly improve the energy efficiency of the building and thus the carbon footprint (Harmelink, Voogt, & Cremer, 2006; Kibert, 2003).

Lighting, air conditioning and ventilation account for 84% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Heating the building takes the largest share of energy but whoever is not the highest production of carbon. This position is reserved for cooling which account for 13% (Roodman, & Lenssen, 1995). A focus on commercial buildings reveals that buildings are used for a number of purposes including commercial, office, recreation and communication. Office buildings are the single largest contributor to the carbon emissions of the building and it is in this section that considerable efforts need to be put (San-José, Losada, Cuadrado, & Garrucho, 2007), 2009). In order to make a substantial impact and reduce the production of carbon building for his purpose need to be built in a more environmentally friendly manner. The focus of the regulating programs is to reduce the energy consumption of the building and the effect is the reduction of carbon emission.

According to Bansal, & Roth (2000), carbon emissions from buildings has been a major source of concern because of increased estimates of energy consumption and carbon emissions by various types of buildings. Reports on this matter have led to increased knowledge of emission of Green House Gases from buildings in the quest to come up with better levels of building sustainability. Pout, MacKenzie, & Bettle (2002) mentioned that in year 2000, CO2 emissions from the use of energy in commercial buildings accounted for a quarter of all UK emissions. This emission included industrial energy use by public sector and commercial buildings. Lighting accounts for a quarter of these emissions (Olgyay, & Seruto, 2010). Space cooling translates to about 5% of commercial and public emissions. Nevertheless, in buildings where there is installation of air conditioning, cooling can account for a large portion of carbon emissions and the use of air conditioning has increased in the recent past (Stern, 2006).

Abatement curves for cost indicate contributions made at national levels with an option that is efficient in terms of energy. Moreover, saving cost to be realized after implementation is also indicated. This form of assessment reveals technical potential of saving carbon in commercial and public buildings across a number of countries. Concisely, this technical potential lies at around 35% although 20% more can be achieved devoid of cost increments. According to UN AGECC (2010) there was a decrease of carbon emissions by 45% during the period between 2000 and 2010. Analogously, there was a 14% increase in consumption of energy.

Research on International Green Building Rating Systems: USA, UK, UAE

The Green Star rating system for building was formulated by the GBCA, the building council in Australia. This rating system is comprehensive in evaluating the environmental performance and design of Australia buildings based on a variety of categories. The categories in the tools for Green Star rating are; management, energy, transport, indoor environmental quality, water, materials, ecology and land use, and emissions (Peters, 2011).

The rating tool in UAE includes a number of systems for rating building sustainability in the global marketplace. Estidama Pearl Rating is a rating system is primarily adopted in assessing building sustainability in the UAE. The UAE has also adopted the use of other building sustainability rating systems such as LEED developed in the United States, and BREAM, established in the United Kingdom (Lee, & Burnett, 2007).

The Estidama rating tool is split into seven categories, vital for sustainable development. These categories include a development process that is integrated. Such a development process aims at encouraging teamwork across all disciplines with the aim of delivering solutions that are environmentally sustainable for the established environment. In addition, the Estidama rating tools incorporate natural systems that conserve restore, and preserve, critical habitats and natural environments (Kibert, 2003). Third, Precious Water is a concept in this rating tool catering for reduction of water demand, and encourages the use of alternative water sources. The concept of Liveable Buildings in the Estidama Rating tool ensures that there are quality indoor and outdoor spaces. Further, there exists the Resourceful energy concept that promotes the conservation of energy via measures of passive design, renewable and energy efficiency (Dixon, Colantonio, Shiers, Reed, Wilkinson, & Gallimore, 2008). Stewarding Materials in the Estidama rating tool is important in catering for the reduction of the impact of extraction of building materials. It also caters for the manufacture, transportation and the disposal of building materials. Through Innovative Practice, the Estidama rating tool encourages cultural expression and innovation in design building and construction in order to facilitate industrial and market transformation (Fowler, & Rauch, 2006).

Methodology

Benchmark: Green Star, LEED and BREEAM

Based on a benchmark analysis between the principal rating tools: LEED, BREEAM and Green Star, the current work has identified the categories and weightings where Green Star rating is falling behind in regards to the other two mentioned schemes. In this regard, this work states that the main two main desired features to be improved in Green Star rating are in the materials and Green House Gas (GHG) emissions/pollution categories.

Currently, the materials category under Green Star is based on specific environmental criteria that encourage the use of recycled and re-used objects and also concentrate on a vast range of material used in the building sector, such as: timber, steel, PVC and concrete. However, Green Star is deficient in not requiring a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to measure the environmental performance of such materials. However, the importance in the implementation of a LCA lies on the fact that construction materials have a significant environmental impact that extend beyond the building itself. In other words, most of the buildings environmental impacts are derived from the materials that are used in construction. Furthermore, according to the 2030 Challenge for Products it is estimated that the environmental impact (i.e. measured by Gas (GHG) emissions and energy usage) from the materials required in constructing buildings will only be equalled after a period of twenty to thirty years of building operations. In addition, the difference between environmental impact of construction materials and building operations will only extend further if the scope of the analysis were to consider the full collateral effects that are involved along the multiple production steps required in the life cycle of construction materials: extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use and final disposal. In this regard, one more reason that justifies the execution of a LCA is the need for a coherent Green Star rating system that includes a better measurement in the material category and, therefore, favours the use of environmentally friendly construction materials in the building sector. This will create an incentive for demand and innovation in the use of more sustainable materials across the building industry. A good example of these products can be found in sustainably produced wood and green cleaning products.

Moreover, a LCA on construction materials would generate a comprehensive analysis that includes the life cycle of a product and, in doing so, facilitates knowledgeable decisions that will consequently deliver higher benefits for local communities, the environment and human health. The implications of including a LCA analysis on the Green Star rating has the potential to transform and expand new directions in sustainable building across Australia.

In regards to the Green House Gas (GHG) emission and pollution category Green Star is considerably far behind BREEAM and LEED schemes. This is mainly because Green Star’s attributes are more design-oriented; rather than being a rating tool to be applied for actual performance on sustainable building operations. Therefore, Green Star rating is inefficient in measuring and controlling Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and pollution levels in the building stock. This sustainability issue is addressed in different ways by BREEAM and LEED rating systems: the first scheme directly encourages the reduction in carbon emissions to zero net emissions by granting in this category up to 10.56 per cent of its overall score; whereas the latter is more focused in indoor air pollutants reduction, especially those that are detrimental, scented or irritant to the well-being of occupants. The actual performance sustainability gap in the Australian construction industry is filled by NABERS; which is a national and mandatory rating tool which role is to evaluate performance in terms of energy efficiency and carbon emissions. Consequently, the green building industry in Australia has a high level of dependence in the federal government to establish adequate levels of sustainable performance, through measures that include: the Commercial Building Disclosure scheme and Tax Breaks for Green Buildings program.

In addition, one of the main issues under Green Start that needs to be corrected for achieving a more sustainable building stock in Australia is the fact that most Green Star accreditation occurs under the design stage, where a considerably less amount of buildings undergo through “As – Built” accreditation. Hence, this could potentially lead to developers to execute the project in an entirely different manner. To deal with this issue, Green Star has a number of ‘As-Built’ ratings; which are not necessarily attached to obtaining an overall Green Star rating.

Case Studies

Pixel is the first building in the world to undergo certification in Green Star, LEED and BREEAM. An example on how a perfect score in Green Star may not be reflected in BREEAM and LEED can be found in the Pixel building. This is an infrastructure that was built in Melbourne with the ambitious goal to score every point in the green rating systems. In Green Star this building score a perfect 105, but in so far it has only scored a 99.4% out of 110% in BREAM and 103 out of 110 in LEED. The main difference in the score of Pixel building is explained is that Green Star favors the score of infrastructure within Australia. More importantly many of the things they did to earn credits aren’t very good solutions at all, so it definitely revealed many flaws with Green.

VS1 is a new 35 thousand square meter office building that is based in Adelaide that has also obtained accreditation in Green Star, LEED and BREEM. Due to the local conditions in Adelaide this building is highly efficient in usage of water and energy. The score achieved by this building in the three major building rating tools can be better appreciated in Figure 2: VS1 Building -Points achieved (based on 100 total). In this case VS1 has obtain a higher score in Green Star than in other two rating schemes. LEED rating system has been particularly hard on VS1 mainly because of the difficulty to get score in the construction materials category and because LEED also regards highly the use of renewable green energy.

Building -Points achieved
Figure 2: VS1 Building -Points achieved (based on 100 total) Source: Green Building Council Australia

The 55 St Andrews Place is a refurbished building in Melbourne CBD with a construction area of 6 thousand square meters and granted the BSJ award for sustainable refurbishment of the year 2007. The objective of 55 St Andrews Places was merely in achieving high levels of sustainable design. This building has also taken certification from Green Star, BREEAM and LEED. The results can be appreciated in the Figure3: 55 St Andrews Place Building -Points achieved (based on 100 total). In this case the highest score for this building was achieved under BREEAM, this is mainly because this rating scheme rewards improving existing building infrastructure more than LEED and Green Star and because it gives more points for energy improvement.

St Andres Place
Figure 3: 55 St Andres Place (Refurbished) -Points achieved (based on 100 total), Source: Green Building Council Australia

The Cundall office is 4 hundred square meter fit-out project that is based in Sydney. This building project has also been certified in LEED, BREEAM and Green Star. The results can be better appreciated in Graph 4:The Cundall Sydney office (fit-out) – Points achieved (based on a 100 total). In this particular case the methodology of the rating tool systems varies significantly due to the nature of the project (i.e. fit out) the building assessment is done in an entirely different manner. Furthermore, the assessment changes drastically for fit – out furniture where: Green star evaluates furniture piece by piece, LEED adds up all the furniture together and BREEAM doesn’t evaluate. One factor that also explains the considerable disparity in rating building scores is that BREEAM and Green Star are mainly focused on tenancies with formal contracts.

Cundall Sydney office
Figure 4: Cundall Sydney office (Refurbished) -Points achieved (based on 100 total), Source: Green Building Council Australia

Assumption Testing and Results

Assumption 1:“Overall the environmental criterion of Green Star rating system is not is as strong as LEED and BREEAM in regards to the assessment of design, actual and performance of sustainable building in Australia”.

Assumption 1 validated by the following tests and results:

Results on Test A: Benchmark analysis between LEED, BREEAM and Green Star tool rating systems

  • LEED approach secures the execution of the initiatives acknowledged in the design stage. In LEED, the procedure for accreditation is two staged: design review and construction review. The building projects can obtained expected score at the end of the design stage but will only be given certification at the end of the construction stage. Green Star rating system has a “loop hole” in this situation, since it is feasible to obtain accreditation at the stage of design, and then execute the project in an entirely different manner. Except for South Australia, the situation is more shocking in the rest of states and territories since once that design accreditation has been granted a much smaller proportion (i.e. 5 per cent) of Green Star certified office buildings opt for accreditation at the construction stage.
  • BREEAM outperforms in the category of building management compared to LEED and Green Star.
  • LEED and BREEAM also reach a higher standard than Green Star in terms of energy efficiency. LEED and BREEAM rating tools take into multiple environmental criteria for assessing performance based on two building references. On the contrary, Green Star scheme predicts performance based on onlyone building reference and considering less diverse environmental criteria to be included in the evaluation; consequently, any modifications can have a significanteffect on the outcome of the energy score.
  • Green Star falls behind in the category of Green House Gas (GHG) emission and pollution category. Therefore, Green Star rating is inefficient in measuring and controlling Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and pollution levels in the building stock.
  • Currently, the materials category under Green Star is based on specific environmental criteria that encourage the use of recycled and re-used objects. However, Green Star is deficient in not requiring a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to measure the environmental performance of such materials. LCA evaluation is currently included by BREEAM in the category of construction materials but not yet by LEED.

An overall result derived from the benchmark analysis between LEED, BREEAM and Green Star tool rating systems is that Green Star’s attributes are more design-oriented; rather than being a rating tool to be applied for actual performance on sustainable building operations.Green Star grants the highest scores to building developers that accomplish zero net emissions according to on-site energy calculations. Although energy use in buildings is quite important; environmental impacts beyond energy must be considered by Green Star in order to minimize the carbon footprint in buildings.

Results on Test B

Following case studies in Australian buildings projects that have obtained accreditation in LEED, BREEAM and Green Star ratings.

  • Pixel is an example on how a perfect score in Green Star may not be reflected in BREEAM and LEED. Pixel is an infrastructure that was built in Melbourne with the ambitious goal to score every point in the green rating systems. In Green Star this building score a perfect 105, but under BREEAM has only scored a 99.4% out of 110% and in LEED 103 out of 110 points.
  • VS1 achieved a higher score in Green Star than in the other two rating schemes. LEED rating system has been particularly hard on VS1 mainly because of the difficulty to get score in the construction materials category and because LEED also regards highly the use of renewable green energy.
  • The 55 St Andrews Place achieved a higher score under BREEAM than in the other two rating schemes. This result is mainly explained because BREEAM rating scheme rewards improving existing building infrastructure more than LEED and Green Star and because it gives more points for energy improvement.
  • The Cundall Sydney office achieved a higher score under LEED rating system. However in this particular case the building score is granted in an entirely different manner, mainly due to the nature of the building project (i.e. fit out)

The results on Test B for the Assumption 1 are not quite conclusive. This is because the case studies vary in the nature of the property project (i.e. new construction, refurbished, fit –out) without doubt the nature of the project plays a significant role in the score granted by the LEED, BREEAM and Green Star rating systems. Therefore, domestic and industrial construction development face different methodologies for green accreditation and this creates further difficulties for comparison purposes around international rating tools.

Future Trends

The Future work to be developed consists in a group of initiatives that will help to expand the body of knowledge towards different goals such as:

  • To obtain a greater range of case studies where LEED, BREEAM and Green Star are applied in an international context, especially in South Africa and New Zealand. This would generate a larger amount of useful information to have a better understanding on the different scores and underpinning rationality of the major rating schemes that are undertaken in property projects in a scenario where Green Star doesn’t have the upper hand just because the analysis is done in Australia.
  • To study the significance (e.g. through a cost-benefit analysis) of developing a global rating scheme that is straightforward in terms of environmental measurement and international comparison purposes. This single rating tool could be directly implemented and supervised through the World Green Building Council.
  • To make an analysis on the future trends of LEED and BREEM schemes, in order to gain higher knowledge on how this rating tools are evolving and are likely to be enhanced in a near future. This information should be taken into account by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) in order to understand the transition process and fundamentals that are influencing LEED and BREEM environmental assessment for a securing a more sustainable building stock.

Tentative Timeline

To see a detailed list on components tasks and specific duration see Graphic 5: Tentative Timeline Components and Tasks.In a descriptive manner, the project is divided along three components:

Benchmark Rating Schemes

Which will expand further the differences in rating tool schemes (i.e. Green Star, LEED, BREEAM) and also will focus in case studies around Australia. Furthermore, the benchmark component will also analyseother international rating tools systems.

Tentative Timeline Components and Tasks
Graphic 5: Tentative Timeline Components and Tasks

Future Trends

This will analyse the future trends of LEED and BREEAM rating tools and will also focus in case studies outside of Australia, especially in South Africa and New Zealand. Furthermore, the future trends component will also consider additional rating tools systems.

Enhancing Green Star

This will analyse weaknesses and, also,potential opportunities forGreen Star rating tool. In terms of Green Star ratingweaknesses, further study will be done in the assessment of Green Star in terms of building performance, especially considering measures that include LCA, energy efficiency and reduction on GHG emissions. In addition, a restructuration in Green Star categories and weightings will be done to include Biomimetic as

The tentative time line is described in the following,Graphic 6: Gantt Chart andGraphic 7: Critical Pathway Network (CPN); which allow a broader perception on the sequence and levels of dependence between multiple tasks that are required along the execution of the project. In this regard, the critical pathway is represented by the shaded areas, which means that any variations on time (e.g. delay) in any of these tasks will have an impact on the total duration of the project.

Gantt Chart
Graphic 6: Gantt Chart
Critical Pathway Network
Graphic 7: Critical Pathway Network

Conclusions

  • The green building accreditation given to a project by a single rating scheme (e.g. Green Star) doesn’t reflect with accuracy the sustainability grade (e.g. six stars) of a building. This is proven by the fact that the score granted by LEED, BREEAM and Green Star rating systems could vary significantly under the same building.
  • The results based on the case studies show that green accreditation levels under LEED, BREEAM and Green Star will vary according to the nature of the property project (i.e. new construction, refurbished, fit –out).
  • More transparency between rating tools will benefit the development of sustainable infrastructure. Since this will increase property value and market competition, and consequently, generate a more pro-active building industry towards the achievement of sustainable accreditation.
  • The development of a global rating scheme that is straightforward in terms of environmental measurement and international comparison purposes will, undoubtedly, deliver multiple benefits to the infrastructure industry. However, the main trade-off in doing this is that customized rating schemes are more successful in measuring environmental performance according to the particular needs of a determined country, state or territory.
  • The economy outlook is an important factor to take into account when it comes to establishing environmental rating policies for the building industry. More specifically, an economic crisis will discourage the infrastructure development market to go through green building accreditation that demands stricter environmental standards.

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