Green Star Is Dead, Long Live Carbon Neutral

Green Is Dead, Long Live Carbon Neutral

This post discusses if Green Star is holding us back.

What is Green Star?

Green Star is a comprehensive, national, voluntary environmental rating system that evaluates the environmental design and construction of buildings and communities.

The Green Star rating tools assess building or community projects against a number of categories. These categories allow for a determination to made on the environmental impact of a project’s site selection, design, construction,  maintenance etc. The nine categories included within the various Green Star – Design and Green Star – As Built rating tools are:

  • Management
  • Indoor Environment Quality
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Land Use & Ecology
  • Emissions
  • Innovation

 

So completing Green Star, will get us a number of points. More points mean a better star rating.

Green Star has been fantastic for our industry and is to be commended. But it’s now reached a point where it’s just another tick box in the delivery of a new building. This however is not my concern.

Is Green Star Holding Us Back?

My concern, in the context of real global warming issues, is that Green Star is providing a false sense of security to our industry. I’m saving the planet, ‘My Buildings got 5 stars’.

Green Star has got us started and got the industry up to speed with understanding environmental issues. If we stick with Green Star, we are doomed.

As a minor point, there a few initiatives in Green Star, in a warming planet, that are counter intuitive and will need to be changed.

In Green Stars defence they are onto this subject. See link: http://www.gbca.org.au/resources/fact-sheets/the-2020-challenge-carbon-neutral-buildings/

Carbon Neutral

Cutting to the chase, we should be building carbon neutral buildings. Full stop. It’s doable and is being done.

Often, a slight of hand occurs, in that a building may not be 100% carbon neutral on day one, but has a calculated carbon payback period.

How’s it done?

Every item of the build (including site works during construction) has its carbon content calculated. The total carbon is then off set with the use of recycled materials etc.

Finally the energy used to run the building is sourced from low carbon sources. This low carbon fuel as compared to gas or coal fired electricity provides a carbon credit, which is used to pay off the carbon debt of the building.

 

Low Carbon Fuels

Low carbon fuels are readily available and include:

  • Solar – electricity
  • Solar – Heat for hot water
  • Wind – for electricity
  • Liquid Bio fuels, from end of process sources
  • Geo-thermal

Lost Opportunity

The new Casino, in Sydney, is a lost opportunity. A building of this scale and usage would have significant waste which can be used to provide the buildings power supplies including:

  • Cooking oils and fats used in liquid bio fuel Tri generation system
  • Food scraps and the like used to make methane to power gas fired Tri Generation Systems.

I’d like to see new major buildings or building complexes have a carbon neutral requirement as part of any DA.

Issues

A significant commitment is required from all involved in the design of carbon neutral buildings. There will be a cost impost for this.

Use of new technology has its issues. I’m aware of a few projects utilising solid waste to create syngas, which has not gone well. This said I have personally been involved with many successful liquid bio fuel projects.

Further Reading

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_carbon_building

http://www.hydrocarbons21.com/articles/natural_refrigeration_helps_retailers_achieve_carbon_neutrality_and_save_millions

Author: Jorgen Knox

Date: 17/08/2014

Contact: e: jorgenk@knoxadv.com.au, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI