THE Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) last week released a new rating tool, Green Star – Communities, calling it one of the world's first independent, transparent, national schemes to assess and certify the sustainability of community-level development projects.
GBCA said it hopes the tool will provide federal government with a vehicle for delivering and measuring policy outcomes, state governments with guidance for planning, approval and benchmarking of significant projects and local governments with a framework for greater sustainable development outcomes and collaboration with industry.
According to GBCA, the tool will also facilitate more efficient development processes and ultimately help developers get their products out to market quicker. It also aims to provide financiers with a framework for sustainable investment and consumers with the ability to make informed decisions.
"For many years, a Green Star rating has been a symbol of environmental sustainability. From towering skyscrapers to low-rise schools, Green Star has driven a market shift towards integrated, holistic design and construction," said Romilly Madew, Chief Executive GBCA, in a media release.
"However, buildings are just one part of the sustainability equation. Broader sustainability issues around our communities and cities are just as significant, such as the design of our public spaces, the affordability of housing, engagement processes with our stakeholders, climate adaptation and community resilience.
"At Green Cities 2009 I led a discussion on how we could evolve from greening our buildings to greening entire communities. The feedback from industry was definitive: a rating tool to help transform and better plan our communities was the answer. This rating tool, industry said, should encompass the full spectrum of sustainability issues - economic, social and environmental," said Ms Madew.
Green Star – Communities was welcomed the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), who said it would encourage the delivery of neighbourhoods, precincts and communities that prioritise environmental sustainability.
PIA President Dyan Currie said the new independent national rating is an innovative idea that will encourage better planned communities.
"This rating will become cherished by community developments in the future as it's awarded to projects that tick the environmental sustainability boxes," Ms Currie said.
"To receive this rating, community planning and design projects will have to meet certain criteria in water and energy saving and reduction in the dependence on motor vehicles. It's a great incentive for the industry".
Following the release of the tool, GBCA is now seeking expressions of interest for potential pilot projects. More information is available from the Green Star - Communities website at <http://www.greenstarcommunities.org.au/>.