Carbon Neutral Pathways for Building Portfolios

Lawrence Yu, Environmental Sustainable Design (ESD) Group Manager at JHA Consulting Engineers

The World is rapidly transitioning from being carbon intensive to a net zero carbon emissions future.

Have you been hearing about carbon neutral buildings in the news and are wondering what it means? Are you contemplating why you should want to achieve it and how to actually do it?

We have made it simple with our 5 Step Guide to your Carbon Neutral Journey.

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Carbon Neutral Buildings

A carbon neutral building releases zero carbon emissions. Achieving carbon neutral certification is a great way to demonstrate your commitment to the environment and future generations. Indeed, for any building to be truly sustainable, it must, at a minimum, be carbon neutral.

There are many options for decarbonising a building through energy efficiency and carbon offsets. Choosing the right pathway to achieving a carbon neutral portfolio can be a major competitive advantage in the commercial market.

The industry is starting to demand it and those who don’t embrace this may be left behind.

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NABERS and Green Star are established sustainability benchmarks that help buildings demonstrate how green they are, conveyed through star ratings.

These benchmarks can help assist with determining if your building is or can become carbon neutral.

Being carbon neutral can increase customer loyalty, attract valuable employees, increase morale among personnel as well as creating goodwill and a good reputation among stakeholders.

It can help create brand differentiation in a competitive marketplace.

Commercial building tenants influence about 50% of the energy use, therefore directly influence the carbon use in their buildings.

Step 1 – Rate Your Portfolio

There are two recognised accounting pathways:

NABERS Energy or Green Star Performance.

The NABERS pathway is suitable if you are focused mainly on energy. Consider the Green Star pathway if you are more interested in holistic considerations of sustainability for your portfolio.

Step 2 – Your Strategic Choices to Improve Performance

Buildings must achieve a minimum of 4 Star or greater NABERS Energy rating (without Green Power); or 4 Star or greater Green Star – Performance rating.

If you don’t meet the minimum requirements, you can still obtain carbon neutral certification if you commit to achieving the minimum requirements within three years.

Step 3 – Offset Remaining Emissions

SHOULD I AIM FOR A 6 STAR?
The higher star rating you achieve, the less carbon offsets you will need to purchase. It can be more cost effective for you to consider energy efficiency options first.

Step 4 – Bring Building Users Along

Building owners can further reduce the carbon footprints of their building by bringing tenants on the journey.

Step 5 – Going Beyond Carbon Neutral?

Going beyond can include carbon positive strategies, regenerative design strategies, sustainable human factors strategies, precinct based strategies, in depth consideration of the contribution of embodied carbon/embodied energy, and combinations of all of these.

The Future
Carbon neutrality is the right direction but it is not the destination. It is a stepping stone towards restorative and regenerative design!

Disclaimer: JHA are design consultants with a passion for design and sustainability. We represent our opinions and draw knowledge from within ourselves and from within the industry. We thank the documents and people that have inspired us in preparing this and hope that it is found useful. It should not be considered an authority document on the subject and we direct readers to the full framework for carbon neutrality which can be found here: http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/government/carbon-neutral/ncos/buildings.