Climate adaptation plans for Green Star

Each time I get a new Green Star project I look at the climate adaptation credit and think about doing it myself.  How hard could it be?  The Green Star submission guideline has a good instructions on what’s required and all the reference documents are pretty accessible.  I’ve even read a few that other people have prepared.

How hard can it be to run a workshop, grab some climate change scenarios, make some recommendations and write a report?

But then I get realistic about how many hours there are in the day and decide that I should just get someone else to do it.  Can you help me?

Wrong! on the Internet!

This morning I read an article in The Conversation that included the word “Green Star”  (including the quotes!)  It’s badly written AND wrong and I made a comment that I realised would be worth keeping here:

Conflating what’s happening in the commercial and residential sustainability space is a big mistake and is also wrong about the purpose and scope of the tools it’s working so hard to discredit. This article doesn’t meet the standard I expect from this news source.

Yes, residential sustainability tools (NatHERS, Accurate) review only the predicted energy consumption of houses and have no post occupancy auditing/review required. Yes, this needs to be addressed.

However, this article is wrong when it comes to commercial buildings. Commercial buildings using Green Star and the Living Building Challenge (LBC), do include auditing of the building after it’s been occupied to ensure that the building does what it says on the tin and do include requirements for transport and “liveability” – things like daylight, plants material selections etc.

Listing a set of sustainability tools and including NABERS in the list also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the tools and their purpose. The Green Star and LBC tools are used throughout the development of a new commercial building, while NABERS was originally developed to measure and benchmark the energy consumption of existing buildings (not new ones) and is now a collection of tools specifically focused on the performance of existing buildings.

As a sustainability consultant, I use these tools to simplify the choices around sustainability and help my clients answer the question, “what do i need to do to have a sustainable building”? Without them there are too many options and difficult decisions to be made. It’s very easy to say “you’re not being sustainable” or “this is green washing” but much harder to say, “here’s what you should do to be sustainable”, particularly in a world where sustainability is not about finding perfection but really just choosing the least-worst option from a range of possibilities.

When you switch between discussing residential and commercial buildings you suggest an equivalence which isn’t there and lose the message about the tools that do need change to improve the sustainability of our built environment. This article will confuse people and give them the excuse to do nothing – is that what you intended?

Good to see that someone else has also spoken up.

Today’s Green Star lesson – construction waste

On Friday I received a frantic call from the head contractor, “the site is buried in waste and we can’t find a waste collection service that can comply with the Green Star requirements”.

The new Green Star tools (Interiors PILOT, Interiors V1 and Design and As-Built) have introduced a new wrinkle on the way we’ve been addressing construction waste for the past 12 years.  Now, the waste contractors need to , “hold third-party verification of compliance with the Green Star Construction and Demolition Waste Operational and Reporting Criteria, as issued by a Suitably Qualified Auditor“. 
Mohammad says that he had spent 3 days calling Melbourne waste contractors trying to find someone and none of them have the required 3rd party verification, or any idea of what’s required.  So I put in a call to the GBCA and here’s the skinny;

Waste contractor’s don’t need to have completed the process required to get the 3rd party verification.  They need to provide a statement that says how much of the criteria they have implemented and the expected timeline for implementation.  Here’s the GBCA statement.

I need to submit a CIR to allow my project to use this method of compliance and then we’re good to go.

On Friday I found a waste contractor who was familiar with the old Green Star reporting requirements and this morning I explained this modification to them.  They’re happy and surprised that the other project they’re working on that has the same problem hasn’t taken this approach.  So I thought I’d share.

The waste contractor is still looking for an auditing company who is taking this on, so your suggestions are welcome.

Contractor Education – for dummies?

We’ve got approval to use the Contractor Education innovation credit for the Kathmandu project and I’m working on it this morning.

To get the credit we need to;

  1. Deliver training on the core concepts of global warming, climate change and the health impacts of minimum building practices.
  2. And a bunch of other good stuff.

I’m intrigued with the first item.  There’s an assumption that the people working on the project have no idea what global warming and climate change is, and yet this morning the Climate Institute released a report saying that 70% of Australians believe that climate change is occurring and 48% believe that humans are at least partially responsible.

I’ve been unhappy with the climate change talk beginning for a while now, it means that we start with the bad news that everyone already knows, which is both boring and depressing.  How do you keep an audience interested and engaged when you do that?  I’m certainly not going to use my own words – this is a message that lots of people have already worked on.

Have a couple of videos, I like the tetris one, but I prefer the Australian accent;

Woot! That’s my project!

Kathmandu have finally announced to the world that they’ve signed up for Green Star and now I can tell you (with bonus fizzes of sparklers and fireworks) that I’m their ESD consultant.

It’s pretty exciting and has been for about 6 months as we did all the negotiating and client meetings getting them comfortable with the process and costs :).  Now we’re in the doing phase and I have my head deep in the submission guideline and setting up spreadsheets and project plans. Also learning heaps about retail projects.

I’m working on the project with Elsie + Betty and one of the nicest things has been arranging to spend one day a week working at an empty desk in their office.  When I’m here (mostly Tuesdays) we can talk about the project anytime, and I can be reminded of what it’s like to work in an office.  I love how productive I am sitting at a desk, and then I’m pleased to work at home again.

If you’re also working on the Green Star Interiors Pilot tool I’d be keen to share experiences and suggestions – contact me!


Public Transport and starfish

I’m a GreenStar Assessor.  I’m also a public transport geek and there’s nothing I find more frustrating than submissions that miss out on points because the GSAP can’t use public transport as efficiently as I can, unless it’s projects that don’t use the Building User Guide to encourage people to catch public transport and ride bikes.  Often it’s both, and then I start ranting, see below.

I think at this point I should also say that I’m a true believer.  Transport is one of the most significant greenhouse gas impacts people have and I believe that people who are working in the sustainability field are in it to save the world.  For me, if you don’t use public transport regularly, and you’re not riding a bike, you’re not really trying hard enough.  (Yes, I know, I appear much more forgiving in real life, but really, I’m judging you.)

Last week I went to South Morang for a site visit.  I have a theory that if you take a bike and a train you can get to most places in Melbourne within 20min longer than the same car journey will take, but you can read on the train so it’s worth it.  According to google maps, my South Morang visit would have taken about 35 minutes.  By train and bike it took about 50min and my theory holds.

Anyway, here’s how to get the maximum available points out of the commuting public transport credit for a building:

  1. Look up the building location using a map that shows all the nearby bus routes, tram routes and train stations.  In Melbourne the best of these is the Melways.
  2. Make a note of every transport option within a 1km radius of the site and look up their timetables.
  3. Discard the ones that have a travel frequency greater than 30min.
  4. Read through the timetables to identify every destination within a 15min travel time, particularly looking for shopping centres and train stations.
  5. Look up those destinations in your mapto identify buses, trams and trains that connect to your primary travel routes.
  6. Follow the instructions in the GBCA Transport Calculator Guide

So now you fully understand the public transport available nearby, COMMUNICATE IT TO THE BUILDING OCCUPANTS!!!  It’s great to get points for the location of the building, but what’s the point if everyone drives there?  Ideally, every building users guide includes a map showing the location of each bus, tram stop and train station, with notes about their final destination and what services that primary mode connects to.  This information should be included even when the project doesn’t get any points for the commuting credit – maybe people can combine a bike with a train that’s 3km away, and you could be the one who made the difference and got that car off the road.  That’s how I save the world, one starfish at a time.