With landmark climate change developments in the headlines, directing an industry-wide focus on carbon neutrality is an ongoing objective.
This is achieved by understanding the process. Being carbon neutral means balancing carbon emissions with carbon absorption in carbon sinks (a carbon sink is a system that absorbs more carbon than it emits).
Many of us might also be familiar with terms such as geothermal energy, embedded energy, neutral build, and various other sustainability terms. But, what’s in a name?
Creating a carbon-neutral community takes many measures and these are relative to the development site, project vision and ongoing advocacy and use of renewable energies to construct and operate these developments.
Climate Active leads the way
Gaining recognition as a carbon neutral-certified organisation under the Climate Active program is a great start.
This takes into account the impact of an organisation’s activities, such as flights, consumables and utilities, and supports them through an independently audited process to ensure that developers are minimising their carbon footprint in an effective, recordable way.
The Climate Active program then verifiably offsets the remaining carbon.
Sustainability-oriented developers endorse innovative climate-change practices as standard in their aspirations to become a carbon-neutral operation.
Here are some other steps developers can take to assist in their creation of carbon-neutral communities:
The 2030 plan
A core component of the program’s 2030 plan depends on restoring resources, incorporating energy, carbon, water, waste, biodiversity, materials and the supply chain. These actions include moving to 100 per cent Green Power for corporate offices and significantly reducing carbon emissions. This takes into account operating costs and lifestyle practices, including electricity, waste, travel and employee awareness.
6-Star Green Star corporate offices and communities
Reducing emissions in staff initiatives through efficiency upgrades and renewable energy are targets for 6-Star Green Star interior ratings.
Creating carbon-neutral energy for residential developments is the catalyst for certification as a carbon-neutral organisation under the Federal Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard scheme.
Utilising geothermal energy
Building ‘Passivhaus’-certified homes, which rely upon geothermal energy, are reported to reduce heating and cooling bills by up to 90 per cent. To be stamped with passive-house certification, a property needs to comply with the five Passivhaus foundational principles:
- Appropriate insulation
- No uncontrolled air leakage
- Mechanical heat-recovery ventilation
- Windows that insulate and seal
- No thermal bridges.
Embedded or embodied energy is the sum total of energy required to produce a product or service. Such is the case with residences in select urban neighbourhoods throughout Australia and New Zealand. These homes are specifically designed to be healthier and more comfortable to live in, using solar energy generated on-site and with energy-saving features, green roofs, shading devices and new tree plantings throughout the communities. A car-share service might also be included.
Neutral build homes are typically introduced as an opt-in scheme for purchasers at community developments. Essentially, neutral-build principles offset the carbon produced in building new homes.
This often attracts only a small fee, which could then be split between internationally approved projects that sequester or mitigate carbon emissions.
Most onboard developers also use as many responsibly sourced materials as possible in construction and fit-out — to further reduce their carbon footprint.
Sustainable finance and global benchmark status
Sustainable financial frameworks enable the growth of green loans, bonds and financial models that are anchored to key sustainability metrics within an organisation.
Participation in global initiatives such as the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark also aligns companies with global sustainability trends, which allow them to proactively identify and implement best business practices.