Energy Efficiency

The Basics

Despite more awareness about green building, there is still a lot of confusion about exactly what green building is. For most experts, there are five main characteristics that define it:

  • Having an environmentally friendly site selection or "footprint." Some of the factors involved are orientation of the house to maximize natural sunlight for heat and light, as well as shade for cooling. As a result, the home's furnace and air conditioning don't have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable house. Another goal is making a minimal impact on the area in which the house is built. Forget clear-cutting the entire lot; take down only the trees and bushes that would interfere with construction. The remaining trees can help cool the house in the summer and act as a windbreak in the winter. And locating the home near shopping and other services will keep the amount of driving down — a win for the entire environment.
  • Using energy efficient designs and materials while building a "tighter" home to prevent HVAC loss. The use of sunlight and shade for heating and cooling is as old as mankind, but there are designs and materials specifically designed to keep the house nearly air-tight. With less outside air infiltrating the home, the indoor climate is much easier to control. LED lights use a fraction of regular incandescent bulbs, while Energy Star appliances are certified to meet strict guidelines about how much electricity they require to operate.

    Because higher insulation standards and Energy-Star-compliant appliances have evolved over the last few decades, energy efficiency is often the first place builders start when going green.

  • Reducing a home's water consumption through low-flow fixtures. It's true that the earliest low-flow plumbing fixtures caused problems for some homeowners, but today's versions are as good — if not better — than the old water hogs. One technology is the incorporation of air into the process; the result is a low-flow shower that feels just as strong as the one using much more water.
  • Promoting a healthy indoor air environment. Yes, air-tight houses are critical to energy efficiency, but an unwelcome result is indoor air quality that is five times more polluted than the air outdoors. Green builders often use some kind of fresh-air ventilation to exhaust the stale indoor air to the outside, bring in fresh air and conserve energy.
  • Emphasizing material conservation and waste reduction while using sustainable products in design and construction. Engineers in the building-materials business have designed all kinds of products to save timber by using optimal value engineered (OVE) joists and beams that require minimal trimming and boring for mechanical runs. Green builders can go as far as recycling job-site waste and using it for mulch in the newly planted yard.


The Green Building Council of Australia(GBCA) has developed a green building standard known as Green Star, with the first Green Star rating in Australia awarded to 8 Brindabella Circuit at Canberra Airport in 2004.[1][2]

EER: Energy Efficiency Rating launched in 1996 and in Australia is a system ranging from 0-10 stars and mandatory for buildings in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) region

The Green Star environmental rating tools for buildings benchmark the potential of buildings based on nine environmental impact categories: Management; Indoor Environment Quality; Energy; Transport; Water; Materials; Land Use & Ecology; Emissions and Innovation.

NABERS or the National Australian Built Environment Rating System, is a government initiative to measure and compare the environmental performance of Australian buildings. The NABERS ratings for office buildings include: Energy; Water; Waste and Indoor environment.

A rating for transport is also in development. Together, these ratings can provide a comprehensive picture of the sustainability performance of office buildings and tenancies. Ratings are also available for homes and hotels. Retail and hospital ratings will be launched later this year.

*Green Star is a voluntary environmental rating system for buildings in Australia. It was launched in 2003 by the Green Building Council of Australia.

The system considers a broad range of practices for reducing the environmental impact of buildings and to showcase innovation in sustainable building practices, while also considering occupant health and productivity and cost savings.

Nine categories are assessed with the Green Star tools:[1]

Indoor environment quality
Land Use & Ecology

The Green Building Council of Australia was established in 2002 with the mission to "develop a sustainable property industry in Australia and drive the adoption of green building practices".

As at June 2009, the GBCA had more than 770 member companies made up of developers, local, state and federal governments, owners, professional services firms, investors, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors, facility and asset managers, universities, professional societies, utilities and contractors.

The GBCA operates Australia’s only national voluntary comprehensive environmental rating system for buildings, Green Star, and has certified more than 150 buildings.

The GBCA Board is made up of industry leaders and senior government representatives who are widely recognised for their contributions towards furthering the green building industry in Australia. The GBCA's Chief Executive is Romilly Madew.


Green Star


The Green Building Council of Australia launched the Green Star environmental rating system for buildings in 2003.

Green Star environmental rating tools support the property and construction industry to reduce the environmental impact of buildings, improve occupant health and productivity and achieve real cost savings, while showcasing innovation in sustainable building practices.

Green Star benchmarks the potential of existing buildings based on nine environmental impact categories: Management; Indoor Environment Quality; Energy; Transport; Water; Materials; Land Use & Ecology; Emissions and Innovation.

An assessment panel awards points to the project based on each category and the Green Star rating is determined by comparing the overall score with the rating scale:

Score Rating Category
45-59 Four Star Best Practice
60-74 Five Star Australian Excellence
75+ Six Star World Leader


Projects cannot achieve ratings of 1, 2 or 3 Stars at certification, as these ratings represent minimum, average and good practice, whereas Green Star aims to recognise and reward best practice and above.[1]

Green Star rating tools are currently available or in development for a variety of sectors, including commercial offices (design, construction and interior fit outs), retail centres, schools and universities, multi-unit residential dwellings, industrial facilities and public buildings.


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