What’s getting in the way of building green cities?

Critics say the National Construction Code isn’t updated frequently enough to keep up with sustainable innovation in Australia’s commercial building industry…
Last week we learnt that global organisations are committing to ‘net zero’ targets for the construction industry, which means they’re getting serious about drastically lowering carbon emissions.
Any cynics need only look towards Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, to see that it really is possible for Australian buildings to meet this goal – especially in light of recent developments.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has launched a ‘net zero’ building certification and training program, which will help more people in the construction industry follow suit.
But is this enough?
It seems there’s only so much the GBCA can do, if Australia’s regulatory environment lags behind when it comes to enforcing sustainable measures.
Does Australia’s legal framework adequately support attempts to boost environmentally friendly building practices?
Critics argue the National Construction Code doesn’t set strong standards in this area, which is problematic, given that everyone in the building sector follows the requirements and minimum baselines laid out in the code (as developed by federal, state and territory governments).
Tony Arnel, Global Director of Sustainability at Norman Disney & Young told Sourceable that sustainable requirements are upgraded too infrequently and too tentatively (the last one occurred in 2012).
He predicts the commercial sector will need to wait until 2019 to witness the next substantial update to energy efficiency standards – leaving Australia lagging behind worldwide efforts to address climate change.
“That effectively means a decade of inactivity – and a massive lost opportunity,” Mr Arnel said.
He welcomes improvement in other areas though. The Federal government will this week make changes to the Commercial Building Disclosure program (CPD), by requiring more sellers and lessors of office space to obtain an up-to-date Building Energy Efficiency Certificate.
The current mandatory disclosure threshold is 2000 square metres, but it will drop to 1000 square metres from July 1. The goal is to give owners another incentive to improve their properties with cost-effective energy measures that appeal to buyers and tenants.
Some of the sharpest minds will no doubt discuss developments like this at next month’s Safe Cities Conference in Brisbane – which provides the perfect platform for academics, industry professionals and government officials to discuss sustainability, urban design, infrastructure and more.
The conference begins on the 10th of July at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.