Australia champions green real estate

Results of the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark underscore Australia and New Zealand's leadership in sustainability

The Australia and New Zealand real estate market has been dubbed the greenest in the world by the latest Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB).

The 2014 GRESB report, which analysed data from 637 listed property companies and private equity real estate funds covering 56,000 buildings, found that Australia/New Zealand is the leading region.

Global sustainability leaders

Australia and New Zealand were also the strongest performers in terms of regional green leaders, with 70% of the total participants in the highest quadrant, compared with 35% in Europe and 32% in North America and Asia.

Established in 2009, GRESB assesses the sustainability performance of the real estate sector, with reports becoming standard practice for much of the global property sector.

“The report underscores our regional leadership in sustainability, and serves as a reminder of why Australia is one of the best real estate markets in which to invest,” says the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA) chief executive, Romilly Madew.

“Australia’s real estate sector is demonstrating that it has a long-term commitment to sustainability that stretches far beyond this financial year or this electoral cycle,” adds Ms Madew.

According to the GBCA, which is the Australian arm of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), Australia was one of the first countries in the world to establish a green star ratings system.

The results come amid reported concerns around how government changes to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme could negatively impact Australia's commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

Further collaboration

Other national efforts to improve sustainability in the property sector have garnered global support, with the WorldGBC recently partnering with a leading Australian low carbon research centre.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the WorldGBC to take a global step towards defining ‘low’ to ‘no’ carbon cities in our world, as part of the centre’s ‘Closing the Loop’ project.

The three-year CRCLCL project – also supported by industry partners Brookfield Multiplex, HASSELL and AECOM – is expected to help global industries create built environments to positively impact people’s health, well-being and productivity while improving environmental performance.

“Collaborating with the WorldGBC provides our project team with a unique opportunity to tap into the global leadership and significant knowledge that already exists throughout the world,” says CRCLCL CEO, Scientia Professor Deo Prasad AO.

The WorldGBC will support the CRCLCL by designating staff to help coordinate the project, opening an ongoing dialogue, identifying overlaps and areas for future collaboration. This will provide information for reports, materials and promoting collateral within the global building community.

Notable green players

The GRESB report named Australian industry leaders, ISPT and Lend Lease, as ‘global sector leaders’, while Norman Disney & Young (NDY) has been named as the only Australian finalist in the World GBC’s inaugural Asia Pacific Regional Network Leadership Awards in Green Building.

Meanwhile, the City of Sydney has unveiled Australia’s first green roof and walls policy as part of the city’s larger Sustainable Sydney 2030 program to reduce Sydney’s carbon emissions by 70% by 2030.

The policy stipulates that vegetation must cover at least 30% of available rooftop space to qualify, and aims to help guide developers on their greening applications in the built environment, while inspiring other Australian cities to follow suit.

Sydney currently has 58 green roofs and 28 green walls, most of which are publicly accessible, with a further 50 approved green roofs in the pipeline.