Businesses that already have or are looking to achieve Green Star ratings will face tougher requirements from September following updates to the accreditation scheme by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

After a lengthy industry consultation period, the GBCA has released new versions of the Green Star – Design & As Built and Green Star – Interiors rating tools which promise to drive the uptake of low-carbon buildings, incentivise new industries and challenge the market leaders to innovate.

Key changes to Green Star include:

  • minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions for 5 and 6 Star Green Star buildings
  • measures to build industry capacity in air-tightness testing
  • a new materials pathway to incentivise the use of sustainably-sourced structural timber and
  • new requirements to enhance the health and wellbeing of construction workers.

Minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions

A project with 5 Star Green Star certification is now required to achieve three Green Star points in the ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ credit, and be 25 per cent more efficient than a benchmark building. A 6 Star Green Star building must achieve a minimum of six points and demonstrate efficiency of almost 40 per cent above the benchmark.

“Our analysis has found that 95 per cent of Green Star-certified projects meet these criteria, so it’s not a big change at the moment. However, it sends a signal to the market that we are prioritising carbon. We expect to strengthen these requirements further over time,” GBCA’s Head of Market Transformation, Jorge Chapa, said.

Air-tightness testing

Changes to the ‘Commissioning and Tuning’ credit have been made to accelerate the uptake of air-tightness testing. A new ‘Air Permeability Performance Testing’ requirement is now part of a core component of the credit, contributing to the achievement of two points.

Structural timber

A new ‘prescriptive pathway’ for the use of structural timber aims to incentivise the material’s use. While the initial intention was to recognise engineered timber, such as Cross-Laminated Timber and glulam, after seeking industry feedback the scope of the credit was expanded to include all sustainably-sourced structural timber.

Enhancing the workplaces of construction workers

The ‘Construction Environmental Management’ credit has been renamed ‘Responsible Construction Practices’, with a new point available for project teams that can demonstrate high quality staff support through health and wellbeing programs.

“Research has found the mental health of employees on construction sites does not meet that of other industries. This change to Green Star is about recognising that a building is not truly sustainable if it doesn’t look after the workers who constructed it,” Mr Chapa said.

Other small changes being made to Green Star include new innovation challenges on carbon neutrality that will be introduced in the coming weeks, while others are being rolled into existing credits; and loop holes are being removed that enable double counting.

Registrations under the legacy versions of the rating tools will be accepted until 30 September, after which time all projects will be registered under Green Star – Design & As Built v1.2 and Green Star – Interiors v1.2. Project teams working with legacy tools will be able to upgrade their Green Star submission on a credit-by-credit basis.