Edge joins the Green Star Expert Reference Panels

At Edge we’re enthusiastic members of the Green Building Council of Australia and do what we can to contribute to their efforts to progress the sustainability agenda across the property sector. To that end, we were delighted to find out that three of our team have been chosen as members of the new Expert Reference Panels that will be helping to shape the future direction of Green Star.

The Q&A below with Jonas, Nicole and Joana provides a taster as to why they chose to get involved, and what they hope to offer through their work on the panels.

Nicole Thompson – Human Rights Panel

What skills and expertise will you be bringing to the ERP?

I joined Edge with a specific remit to help us grow our work on modern slavery, having written my master’s thesis on the readiness of the construction industry for the Australian Modern Slavery Act. As an organisation, we have done a lot of work on supply chain sustainability, covering both environmental and social risk, and we’re currently members of the Responsible Construction Leadership Group’s working group for modern slavery.

Why are human rights important in relation to buildings?

The property sector has an enormous impact on human rights, with opportunities and risks found from construction through to building operation and demolition. This can include both supply chain issues related to the procurement of products and materials, and more immediate and visible impacts related to the labour used on construction sites, or in cleaning and security. With property and construction companies spending billions every year on products and services, there is huge opportunity for the sector to show leadership and make significant inroads into tackling the issue. And with the Australian Modern Slavery Act due to be introduced early next year, the issue is more important than ever.

How would you like to see the human rights agenda evolve within Green Star over the coming years?

Green Star’s focus has traditionally been on environmental sustainability, but in recent years there has also been an increasing focus on the social impacts of buildings. Via Green Star and its wider work across the sector, the GBCA can play a big role in raising awareness and building the capacity of the sector to address human rights issues and support the industry in the face of the impending legislation. There could be an opportunity to review the current array of credits and how they support human rights, and consider whether there is scope to develop new ways to incentivise action. This could include, for example, greater consideration of social impacts in the materials categories.

Joana Almeida – Ecology and Biodiversity Panel

What skills and expertise will you be bringing to the ERP?

We’ve recently completed a project for Hort Innovation Australia which helped demonstrate the link between green infrastructure and the triple bottom line benefits that it can create, as well as the opportunities and barriers that exist in the sector. That knowledge adds to work we’ve done across other projects to ensure that we’re well placed to help the GBCA develop its approach to driving green infrastructure and creating ecological value in building projects.

Why are ecology and biodiversity important in relation to buildings?

As populations increase, cities grow and human encroach ever further into the natural world. The consequences of that are a loss of biodiversity, disruption of natural protection mechanisms (e.g. against flood, extreme heat, etc.), and ultimately loss of quality of life for those living in urban environments. A concerted effort to build green infrastructure into developments can help to reverse those processes and create huge value for the natural world, while helping us to create better places for us all to live and work. Governments and industry are starting to recognise these opportunities, but that needs to be accelerated and driven in an evidence-based way.

How would you like to see the ecology and biodiversity agenda to evolve within Green Star over the coming years?

We would like to see Green Star to increasingly consider landscape-level sustainability. This involves an increased focus on what is required to create broad-based ecological value, way beyond just adding a token green wall into new developments! To do this is likely to require incentives – perhaps driven by Green Star – to embed green infrastructure into the planning and design of the built environment. Based on our work for Hort Innovation Australia, we see potential to address gaps in the current array of ecology-related credits through better coordination and potentially the introduction of new innovation challenges that reward emerging best practice.

Jonas Bengtsson – Life Cycle Assessment Panel

What skills and expertise will you be bringing to the ERP?

At Edge, we consider ourselves to be amongst Australia’s leading LCA practitioners. We’re actively involved in developing LCA methodologies and innovative projects across multiple sectors. We’ve been a long-term contributor to Green Star via the Technical Advisory Group, and I am actively involved in the Australian LCA Society (as president) and the Australasian EPD Program.

Why is LCA important in relation to buildings?

We are seeing a rapid drive towards net zero buildings, but the focus of that activity has been on their operation. As such, there is still a significant opportunity to address the impacts of buildings through their supply chains, construction and end of life. LCA is a vital tool to help practitioners understand where the big wins lie, and what the trade-offs might be. In recent years we’ve seen a notable increase from practitioners looking to use LCA as a design tool, and that momentum looks set to build.

How would you like to see the LCA agenda evolve within Green Star over the coming years?

LCA has already increased its role in Green Star as a result of the changes in v1.2. We’d expect that to continue given the role that LCA can play in helping to optimise buildings’ environmental performance over the entire life cycle and across multiple different impact areas. We also look forward to an ever-greater use of LCA at an early stage of development to help inform design decisions. As mentioned previously, that change is already happening, but there are still plenty of projects where LCA in more of a “tick box” way, to gain points.


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