Sustainable urban development has been a hot topic with this week’s release of the Green Building Council Australia’s Green Star – Communities rating tool, which offers to revolutionise urban planning across the country.
In the construction industry, however, the idea of sustainable urban planning is not new and this latest rating tool is in fact a response to the growing need – and demand – for sustainable communities, suburbs and cities in Australia.
Industry leaders from Australia and around the world recently gathered at the Sustainable Urban Development Conference 2012, hosted by the Property Council of Australia, to share innovations, provide education and garner tools in order to tackle the next green frontier: urban development.
The clear and concise message repeated by each of the speakers – leaders in their own sectors – is that the industry cannot underestimate the detrimental effects of excess carbon emissions to both the natural environment and to pocketbooks.
Setting the tone for the day, Australian Climate Commission commissioner Will Steffen said many Australians, both in and outside of the buiding industry, tend to underestimate or overlook climate change as it is a ‘non visible issue’. Steffen argues that because Australians cannot overtly see the effects of climate change, as they can with the almost decade-long drought, a sluggish response to the concern was initially expected.
He adds, however, that ‘climate change is no longer a question’ and adds that the industry now has to contend with the prognosis that a state of warming will cause a complete infrastructure meltdown, the flooding of waterside cities such as Port Adelaide and Brisbane, and extensive environmental damage.
Similarly, keynote speaker Peggy Lui, the chairperson and co-founder of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE) explained that China’s climate change action is so strong because the country’s carbon excess issues are visible.
However, the focus of the communication and education forum was not intended to be negative, being placed instead on what the industry is currently doing to develop a sustainable built environment and how new guidelines and regulations will achieve in reducing the industry’s carbon output.
Braving the stage only weeks after the Tax Cuts for Green Buildings program was dropped, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Mark Dreyfus outlined the importance of the carbon tax in its role as a facilitator for carbon reduction and green building incentive, expressing a need for imminent green action with regard to not only the environmental gains to be made, but the economic ones as well.
“If we fail to act now, we fail to grasp business opportunities,” says Dreyfus.
These business opportunities are certainly not being lost on our industry leaders. Companies such as Grocon, Arup, The GTP Group, Origin Energy and parliamentary leaders including Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone all shared their plans, present and future for developing cities that run sustainably in every sense of the word.
Not only do Australians have a holistic rating system that will offer recognition and support to the building industry’s green ventures, they also have solutions to environmental issues already mapped out. Green building is at the forefront of the industry, with urban planning strategies taking the sector to the next level of sustainable living.