The federal government has launched the National Carbon Offset Standards for buildings and precincts following close collaboration with industry professionals, the Australian Government and the Green Building Council of Australia and industry.

The standards – which were written to be in line with the principles set out in WorldGBC’s Advancing Net Zero project — enable building owners to calculate the emissions from their properties, reduce them as much as possible, and then purchase carbon offsets or carbon credits equivalent to any remaining emissions to achieve net zero carbon (or carbon neutrality).

GBCA’s Jorge Chapa said years of discussion and debate about what constitutes a carbon neutral building or precinct have now been settled.

“We have clear definitions of carbon neutral buildings and precincts in operation, and voluntary standards which can help owners to demonstrate their assets meet these definitions.”

After the NCOS was officially launched on Monday by Minister for Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, it was made clear that building owners can use GBCA’s Green Star – Performance certification or the NABERS Energy rating process as pathways to demonstrate compliance.

GBCA was one of the first Green Building Councils to commit to introducing a net zero carbon building certification following the COP21 climate change conference in Paris in 2015, and is participating in the Advancing Net Zero project.

Chapa said large tenants, such as banks, as well as real estate investment trusts, will be the first to embrace the standards.

“Large tenants already working towards carbon neutral operations across their entire businesses will be looking for buildings that align with their commitment. We now have the standards to demonstrate this,” he said.

To become carbon neutral, building owners must calculate their emissions, reduce these emissions as much as possible, and then purchase carbon offsets or carbon credits equivalent to the remaining emissions.

Carbon neutral certification will not require another layer of paperwork. Building owners can use the robust Green Star – Performance or NABERS Energy rating process to demonstrate compliance.

“With no agreed definition, the cost to demonstrate carbon neutrality was once prohibitive for all but the most committed companies. Now, we’ve made it simple for asset owners to demonstrate carbon neutrality through a cost-effective and streamlined process,” Chapa said.

The industry can now get to work on delivering carbon neutrality. The big question is: Which company will be the first to achieve a carbon neutral portfolio?”

The standards support the goal of a global project by the World Green Building Council, of which the Green Building Council of Australia is a member, to ensure all buildings are net zero carbon by 2050.

GBCA is one of 14 Green Building Councils participating in Advancing Net Zero, and is the fourth GBC to launch a net zero carbon building standard following France, Canada and Brazil.

A strategic partnership of Monash University, the Victorian Government, Engineers Australia and industry has delivered the world’s first Modular Code of Construction Handbook for industry best practice.

According to the Green Building Council of Australia, building construction uses nearly one third of the world’s resources and around 40 per cent of global energy, while emitting 40 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Factory automation and innovation in modular construction can significantly reduce these impacts while improving safety and quality control, however the construction sector has been slow to adopt these processes and there is little guidance available for their inclusion in a regulated way.

The Victorian Modular Code of Construction Handbook is the first comprehensive publication of its type in the world to address this issue in a holistic way.

The use of more efficient off-site manufacturing techniques in construction has the potential to improve economic and social outcomes through more efficient use of our limited resources and the ability to deliver more affordable, well-designed and durable construction. Well-regulated modular construction will be a key contributor to the realisation of this potential.

Treasurer Tim Pallas, who launched the code at a “prefabAUS” Conference, said the project represented the ability of the industry to collaborate and innovate to deliver world class outcomes.

“Victoria’s building and construction industry is a significant driver of our economic growth and also one of our state’s largest employers,” Pallas said.

“We recognise that the construction industry is rapidly changing and that prefab construction can play an important role in delivering affordable housing, and that new technologies – if used correctly – can transform the industry, and further boost the Victorian economy”.

Monash University director of industry engagement in the Faculty of Engineering, and past chairman of Engineers Australia, Victoria Madeleine McManus OAM said the success of the code’s development was in the collaborative work driven by the University.

“This collaboration brought together stakeholders across government, industry and academia with a common focus of raising the bar for the Modular Construction Industry and delivering an international outcome for significant impact,” McManus said.

A Modular Construction Codes Board (MCCB) was established by Professor James Murray-Parkes working with Dr Yu Bai from Monash University.

The Handbook is a collaborative project that has been led by Monash and prepared with support from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, within the State Government of Victoria, Australia and a range of industrial and university partners.

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