Healthier, greener social infrastructure can reduce emissions and boost the Australian and NZ economies, finds report

by Brianna Crandall — August 30, 2021 — A recent paper by the Australian and New Zealand Green Building Councils is urging governments to accelerate the transition to a climate-resilient and net zero emission future by unlocking the benefits of sustainable, resilient social infrastructure.

Geelong Library & Heritage Centre, VIC, City of Greater Geelong 5 star Green Star - Public Building Design v1

Geelong Library & Heritage Centre, VIC, City of Greater Geelong 5 star Green Star – Public Building Design v1

The report, Green Star in Focus: The Case for Sustainable Social Infrastructure, highlights the need for better decision-making to manage climate impacts for the buildings and spaces that support our way of life, and calls on governments to lead the way through their purchasing power.

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Davina Rooney, chief executive officer of Green Building Council of Australia, stated:

Australia is increasingly exposed to shocks created by natural hazards and has already incurred significant costs from damage to our infrastructure and our communities. Governments can show leadership by taking action to build more sustainable, resilient infrastructure, that helps us to mitigate the risks of climate change, [adapt] and [future proof] our cities.

The report shares that a survey conducted in 2020 shows 80 percent of Australians believe climate action is necessary. Rooney maintains that sustainable social infrastructure can meet these expectations and provide a financially responsible solution to the emissions challenge.

Rooney continued:

Sustainable infrastructure can give our communities the healthy, efficient and sustainable places they are asking for. Green Star-certified buildings use 66 percent less electricity than other Australian buildings, and when applied to infrastructure, these savings could be reinvested back into communities.

NZGBC Chief Executive Andrew Eagles says the built environment plays a key role in boosting New Zealand’s economy and wants the sector to play a similar role in a greener, healthier, zero-carbon Aotearoa.

Eagles remarked:

Buildings and construction make up 20 percent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint. This means that without slashing the carbon pollution from construction and infrastructure, we’re going to miss our international obligations on climate change.

“Our government has a key obligation. They’re spending billions of dollars right now on infrastructure. But if there is no clear direction from our politicians that climate change must be taken into account when building these projects, it’s going to cause pollution to soar, and saddle the country with unhealthy, inefficient schools, hospitals and other public buildings.

Green Star in Focus: The Case for Sustainable Social Infrastructure is available on the GBCA website.