Net Zero and a Sense of URGENCY

Australian Housing Data

As a part of SDG Aligns work I am an external member of the Committee for Sustainable Development with the Building Designers Association of Australia (BDAA). I have had the pleasure of working with the most passionate bunch of building designers on the development of a suite of policies and actions on Sustainable Design.

The lead-up to the COP26 summit in Glasgow and the review of the energy efficiency components of the NCC have seen the committees efforts focus on Climate Action and Net Zero first. The COP26 agenda and the IPCC report highlight the need for an increased sense of urgency in this discussion. The BDAA climate committee is on board with this in a big way! Given the chance the committee members would have the targets to be met five years ago.

Sustainable Design

Design in terms of Sustainable Development is a multifaceted and complex topic covering social, economic and environmental considerations

Measure to manage

How are we measuring? Where are we now? and How are we progressing? These were the questions in the debate the other day in the committee. Definitions ranged from Kj to KWh/m2/year to strait out CO2 emitted. We also need to settle on how to balance building efficiency with energy consumption. It may not be the best approach to just put more solar up or buy more offsets without improving the efficiency of the house.

I was pointed to the CSIRO Housing Information Portal and spent quite a bit of time going down a data rabbit hole, so much fun for a bit of a data nerd. The results are not great. The portal information is based on NatHERS start rating and data (the closest we have for a national dataset on energy efficiency). it isn’t perfect as it currently only covers thermal performance (soon to include fixed appliance consumption and generation) but as a benchmark of where we are at today it can paint a picture.

Where are we now and how are we tracking?

From the Australian Housing Data CSIRO portal I found the graph below that displays Nathers ratings across Australia. Based on our current minimum standard of 6 star rated building (average is sitting at 6.2) we have some way to go.

This graph tells us that only about 25% of new houses are planned to exceed 6.5 stars. Also based on the trend line it will be somewhere close to 2050 before we get to 50% exceeding that score.

Australian Housing Data

So does that mean we are on track for 2050?

No we”re not. We will need to collaborate in the built environment cycle and step up the pace of commitment. Let me elaborate on that.

  • The current minimum standard for new houses is 6 stars, soon to move to 7, but is 7 the right number? Consensus amongst the committee, and most of the people I have spoke to about this is that it seems to be that it is a bit low, maybe 8 or 9 stars would be closer to where we need to be.
  • We also can’t wait or plan to stumble over the line at the last possible second. To have any meaningful chance of slowing the rate of climate change on minimising the impacts we need to get to a Net Zero Point VERY QUICKLY! This will need a significant change in tactic, increased urgency and coordinated effort.

What seems certain is that the BDAA will not wait for government to mandate this, they are ready to TAKE ACTION far in excess of government minimum expectations. For the BDAA, leading the way is one of the reasons they have committed to the declaration for sustainable development.

As an external member of BDAA’s committee for sustainable development I’m excited to say that the passion I have witnessed and the leadership demonstrated by the BDAA and many other players in the Built Environment I still maintain some hope that we can achieve the change needed in the time available. But we must all pull together and quickly! Maybe not five years ago, but with some effort a lot sooner the 2030!

Three peak industry bodies in the built environment sign declaration of commitment to sustainable development

BDAA - SDG Align Signed declaration

Press release

Hobart – Sydney, November 2nd, 2021 The built environment is not only the largest employer in Australia, but is also responsible for 75% of all carbon emissions. Three leading peak industry bodies, Consulting Surveyors National, Building Designers Association of Australia and Strata Community Association have joined forces with social impact specialists SDG Align to sign the Declaration of Commitment to Sustainable Development. SDG Align’s strategy design process and Ready Reckoner prototype won the Australian Good Design Awards in the social impact category.

The industry leads the response to consumer demand

Consumers are demanding action on climate change, and voting with their wallets seeking out sustainable products and green buildings. 

Businesses, whether driven by profit or altruism or both, are motivated to meet this demand and do their bit but they are unsure how. In fact, many of the 632,000 businesses operating in the built environment (nearly 30% of all Australian business) do not have sustainable development on their business horizon.  

Industry associations play a leading role in supporting and educating their members on issues of global importance. Achieving a sustainable future by 2050 is one of these issues. The industry currently has low levels of data on sustainable development to benchmark performance and businesses have poor access to resources and support. 

As a signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and following the Conference goals of COP26 in Glasgow, the Australian Government must step up to implement the SDGs and the 2030 agenda. 

For many in the built environment, the conversation around sustainability is limited to climate change. The SDGs, however, provide a far more nuanced and encompassing notion of sustainability that equally highlights social and economic imperatives, the triple bottom line.  

Now it’s up to businesses, industry and Government to work together with urgency to meet the wicked challenges of climate change.

Uniting to lead the sustainable development journey 

David Morgan, Founder & MD, SDG Align “We are delighted to be working with these pioneering and committed associations – they are well placed in the industry to have a really catalytic effect on the opportunities and challenges that exist in sustainable development”

Michelle Blicavs, CEO, Association of Consulting Surveyors: 

“Businesses across Australia play an important role for a sustainable future and Consulting Surveyors are committed to playing their part.  The Association of Consulting Surveyors National (CSN) represents the private businesses operating land surveying firms.   There is a surveying firm in every major centre and town around the country actively creating and building communities that ensure our country thrives. Sustainable business practices at the early stages of land development means Surveyors can lead the way for Sustainable Development into the future.”

Chris Knierim, CEO Building Designers Association of Australia

“We envisage a major opportunity for interested designers to step into the critical role of sustainable development experts, becoming trusted advisors on broader topics like net-zero construction, thermal performance, water management, circular design, approvals and green and comfortable living. That’s why, by signing the declaration for a sustainable future, the BDAA is working towards developing deeper involvement of the building design sector in the construction, management, service and renewal phases of the built environment cycle to ensure our visions become reality without compromise.”

Alisha Fisher, CEO Strata Community Association 

“SCA is proud to make our commitment to action for a sustainable future.  We believe it is important that our members embrace a sustainable future and that they play a critical role in propagating these practices to the communities they manage.  Strata managers are custodians of the built environment and are centrally placed to contribute to the social, economic, and environmental impacts within the built environment. Our holistic view of all the pieces of the puzzle gives us the opportunity, and responsibility, to raise our profile and start to take a leading role in bringing the industry together on the journey.”

Taking action with the sustainable development Ready Reckoner 

The three associations will work with SDG Align to help their members benchmark their businesses operations from a sustainable development perspective, learn from each other and build capacity through short courses and diagnostic tools.   

By recognising that most businesses are already making a positive contribution and highlighting areas for improvement, the Ready Reckoner makes immediate practical recommendations to further engage businesses to increase their collaborative impact on economy, society and environment for all of us working and living in the Australian built environment. 

About Building Designers Association of Australia (BDAA)

A champion for building designers.
The Building Designers Association of Australia (BDAA) is the single national association that represents, advocates for, promotes and connects building designers throughout Australia.

The BDAA has been cited as a consultant and direct influence on nationwide building reform, with association leaders advising national councils in a constant quest to preserve and enhance the Australian built environment.

More information: 

About Consulting Surveyors National (CSN)

CSN’ purpose is to promote the profession of surveying, representing and supporting the interest of surveying consultancies through relevant training and connection to build business acumen.

The Association of Consulting Surveyors National was established in June 2011 with a goal to bring surveying consultancies together from across Australia with a focus on national advocacy. Our research into the skills shortage for the profession has been widely received and used by the industry to advocate for increased importance of the profession for land development across Australia.

We now have 300 member firms with a goal to have 400 surveying firms by June 2023 from across Australia.

More information: 

About Strata Community Association (SCA)

​​Strata Community Association (SCA) is the peak industry body for Body Corporate and Community Title Management (also referred to as Strata Management, Strata Title or Owners Corporations Management) in Australia and New Zealand.

 Our 5,000 individual and corporate members include strata/body corporate managers, support staff, owners’ representatives and suppliers of products and services to the industry. SCA proudly fulfils the dual roles of a professional institute and consumer advocate.

 We believe in taking action with urgency in order to raise public awareness about some of the most pressing issues facing today’s society. Please join us by supporting our efforts to make a measurable difference for the community.

More information: 

About SDG Align 

SDG Align is a social impact startup from Hobart, Tasmania. Its European (Dutch) and Australian founders have deep experience and expertise in change management, business, technology, training and the United Nations SDGs. Our mission is to improve sustainable development outcomes by those working in the built environment.   

Check out our tools for Sustainable development.