Australian innovation leading the green building revolution

Within the industry, interest in ESD measures such as Green Star, eco equivalency and beyond continues to grow as architects and engineers compete for evermore creative ways of combining contemporary architecture with sustainable technologies. One such technology which finds itself at the forefront is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the key focus of a recent discussion paper released by the Green Building Council Australia.

Although carbon accounting has been around for a while, the results are often less accurate, as they are based on input/output data which doesn’t take into account the performance or relative costs of individual buildings. The more advanced and comprehensive LCA technologies coming onto the market have taken carbon accounting much further and are now pushing the envelope for greater transparency in an industry which has so far been shielded from such scrutiny.

In a recent study published by The International Journal of Climate Change on ‘Measuring Carbon for Urban Development Planning’, a team of PhD students and lecturers at Curtin and Murdoch Universities in WA examined 34 global tools and established two Australian innovations as clear leaders in the field.

Led by long time sustainability expert and lecturer Peter Newman, the researchers found that one of the two Aussie front runners eTool LCA offered exciting capabilities to measure infrastructure, development and remote community housing and were internationally the most well equipped options to help designers and planners get to grips with the carbon impacts of urban development. Using tools such as eTool LCA in mainstream building design will no doubt help to reduce the built environment’s global emissions to well below their current 35% and offer consistent, replicable data to promote low carbon design as the norm.

The study concluded that rather than relying on guesswork and generalisations of true sustainability, these tools offer project specific information and hard data that can enable huge reductions in CO2 emissions and really develop the way we design and build.

Alex Bruce, one of the founding engineers of eTool believes that LCA will revolutionise green building, saying, “many ‘green building’ schemes are prescriptive, relying on less qualitative data and focusing too closely on specific building elements. LCA broadens boundaries instead by taking a whole of building approach and providing a quantitative and performance based method to inform design. By quantifying and comparing various design options we can improve the way we build and genuinely lower our environmental impact.”

With an estimated two in three people predicted to be living in urban environments by 2040, many in the industry are already looking for innovative technologies such as LCA to start the adaption process for a sustainable future. As the best tools on the world market are based right here in Australia, we are certainly well equipped to outshine and outperform in the most sustainable way possible.

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