Australia's Chief Scientist

Buildings go green for sustainability

From September 20-24, the World Green Building Council will be promoting sustainable architecture and design in order to raise awareness of green buildings and their benefits for society.

Green buildings incorporate many different innovations ranging from having a ‘living roof’ covered in plants to absorb rainwater and provide insulation, to cutting edge solar panels, which provide green energy on-site.

Whether it’s incorporating recycled materials or maximising the use of natural light, the aim of these designs is always to reduce the environmental impact and to make the building as a whole sustainable, taking into account both its construction and the impact of day to day operations.

Current scientific data shows that the observed increase in global temperatures since the industrial age is due primarily to greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere by human activities. Recent reports have also indicated that around 30 per cent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are created by buildings*.

Former Chief Scientist for Australia, Professor Penny Sackett is particularly interested in the crucial role sustainable buildings can play in adapting to the certainties of climate change
“Switching to sustainable building practices in both new buildings and in the redesign of existing buildings can play a huge role in managing climate change,” Professor Sackett said.

“Although it may be a great challenge to retrofit existing cities to make them low carbon, livable and sustainable societies, we must not let the opportunity pass for developing new standards and taking action today.”

To help progress the work of the World Green Building Society, Professor Sackett said her office had already begun considering a proposal for a ‘Science and Cities’ conference in Australia to bring together scientists, city planners, engineers and local policy makers.

“I’m interested in starting a discussion about how science in Australia can contribute to sustainable cities for the benefit of our environment, our people and our future generations,” Professor Sackett said.

In Australia, the Green Building Council has introduced a Green Star Rating system to categorise buildings based on their environmental impact.  You can find out more about the green buildings near you through their Project Directory.

As part of creating sustainable cities, green building innovations can be applied at all levels, from big new developments like Doltone House on Darling Island Wharf in Sydney to individual homes like Australia’s first zero-emissions house that was launched this year in Melbourne.

For information on events happening during World Green Building Week, including, check out the World Green Building Council website.

* United Nations Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative, 2009. Buildings and Cities.

The image for this story is a photo of the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.