The Australia 2020 Summit
has galvanised calls for action on a number of important issues and long-term challenges critical for Australia’s future.
The CRC for Construction Innovation
undertook a similar process in the development of its Construction 2020 initiative
, which established a vision for the future of Australia’s construction and property industry. Construction 2020 involved a series of workshops held in every capital city of Australia that sought the views of hundreds of industry leaders and members on their vision of the future.
Environmentally sustainable construction was a key goal listed by stakeholders for the year 2020 and it was pleasing to see this message strongly reinforced by the 2020 summit delegates last month. The summit called for a whole-of-government approach to sustainability and a proposal for all new buildings constructed beyond 2020 to be carbon neutral.
Another key vision from the CRC’s Construction 2020 initiative was the goal of a harmonised regulatory financial and procurement framework. Similarly, the Australia 2020 Summit’s Future of the Australian Economy stream focused on the need for regulatory reform to improve productivity, remove barriers to competitiveness and reduce the cost of doing business for companies in Australia. This was a message also reinforced by the Prime Minister.
It is pleasing to see that key outcomes identified by our Construction 2020 vision have been reinforced by the Australia 2020 Summit process.
Our research activities have actively tackled both the issue of a sustainable built environment and mapped out issues relating to the need for regulatory reform to improve the productivity of the construction industry in Australia.
AUSTRALIA 2020 SUMMIT TOP IDEA:
With regard to regulation, the speed of regulatory reform should be increased, including to create seamless national markets in key areas, improve productivity and remove barriers to competitiveness, and to reduce the cost of doing business.
Costs associated with government regulations include direct costs, normally in the form of taxes, insurances, duties and fees. Indirect costs are the costs of complying with these regulations.
However, in a fragmented federal system of government, such as that which operates in Australia, costs can also be incurred through adaptation costs, that is, the costs occurred when firms attempt to work across jurisdictions. These costs involve:
- adapting documentation for different spheres of government
- variations in outcomes occurring between spheres of government and sometimes within the same government agency
- delays and red tape preventing realisation of business opportunities.
Adaptation costs have been estimated by the Building Product Innovation Council (2003) as being up to $600 million per annum for building product manufacturers alone.
Productivity gains from increased harmonisation of the regulatory system have been estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The CIBE project has undertaken a comparative analysis of the context and content of regulations and policies affecting the construction industry in Australia.
The project team conducted six themed case-studies to explore the regulatory relationships between jurisdictions, and identify barriers for coherent policy-making and productivity gains. The six themed case study areas were:
1. Training and skill development
2. Occupational health and safety
3. eBusiness including 3D CAD and eTendering
5. Environmental sustainability (particularly focussed onenergy and water)
6. Builders licensing, particularly mutual recognition between states and Australia and New Zealand.
In addition, Construction Innovation has been active in establishing best practice guidelines in a range of areas.
Our projects reviewing security and legal issues in eTendering
, for example, offer the potential for industry to standardise formats in tender documents and contracts to facilitate consideration of infrastructure proposals and promote best practice procurement to expedite decision-making.
Similarly, our projects in construction site safety, in particular, the Guide to Best Practice for Safer Construction
suggests a framework for improving safety performance on construction projects. The Guide addresses all stages of the construction process: planning, design, construction and post-construction. Another project, the Construction Site Safety Culture project, suggests a framework for a consistent national standard to improve OHS competency for key safety positions.
Sustainable Built Environment
AUSTRALIA 2020 SUMMIT TOP IDEA:
We could transform the ecological footprint of the built environment by taking the lead on national planning, building and product standards to minimise waste and reduce water and energy consumption in our homes and in our neighbourhoods. Early action could include support for energy efficiency measures in low-income households and consider housing affordability implications. A particular initiative in this point could be to require carbon neutrality for all new buildings constructed beyond 2020.
Construction Innovation has proposed the establishment of a new Cooperative Research Centre to provide research leadership for industry based on productivity and sustainability – the Sustainable Built Environment Cooperative Research Centre.
This new CRC will leverage off the groundwork established by our current CRC to further the development and delivery of environmentally sustainable building and infrastructure in Australia.
Specifically, the new CRC will develop exemplar projects in sustainability, such as a carbon neutral tunnel, that will showcase environmentally sustainable design and construction processes for all of industry.
Sustainability has been a key theme of research and implementation in our current CRC. For example, we advocated for the establishment of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and our Chair, John McCarthy, was ASBEC’s founding Chair.
We also developed a framework to inform current and future policy of the Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) on energy, water, indoor air quality and materials. Our research
undertook a comprehensive scoping study on the incorporation of sustainability into the future Building Code of Australia and the outcomes of this project continue to inform ABCB policy. An example of this is the recent study on sustainability tools and the inter-governmental agreement signed in June 2006.
Our research has also developed a world-first tool – LCADesign
. LCADesign (Life Cycle Analysis Design) is a software tool that allows architects and designers of commercial buildings to rapidly, quantitatively and objectively assess the likely environmental impact of construction and building material options at the design stage. An ‘eco-profile’ of a building to be constructed or refurbished can be made in real time from 3D Building Information Models as the building design evolves.
LCADesign automatically assesses a design by integrating 3D object-oriented models with a life cycle inventory database which aggregates data on common building products used in commercial buildings with 12 categories of data on emissions (for example, green house gases and carcinogens) and key environmental indicators (energy and water use). The tool automatically calculates an overall eco-efficiency score for the building design and individual scores for discrete building elements. The designer can identify environmental impact ‘hot spots’ in the design e.g. the building facade, and modify the design to lessen the eco-efficiency score.
LCADesign offers the ability to analyse and manage eco-efficiency elements of building design in a way that was not previously available. It allows industry to make informed sustainability assessments in a cost effective manner throughout the entire design process. With LCADesign, designers can not only measure the impact of GHG emissions and water use but also estimate the environmental implications of raw material extraction, manufacturing, packaging, transporting, fabricating, finishing, maintaining and eventually disposing of building materials used in construction such as metals, timber and masonry. In a Melbourne trial the technology was used to choose new wool carpet that neutralised the 35 year old buildings carbon footprint.
LCA Design was launched at BuildSmart in December 2007 with a range of software versions available specifically designed to meet the needs of users operating in Australia, The Netherlands, Germany and California. This tool can map outputs to rating systems including GreenStar, LEED in the USA and BREEAM in the UK.
In addition, Construction Innovation
– in partnership with the Australian Greenhouse Office and ASBEC – recently launched Your Building
Australia’s national online resource with comprehensive and detailed information about sustainable commercial buildings, including information for all those involved across the building life cycle – investors, owners and occupiers to developers, builders, designers and facility managers. At the end of March 2008, the Your Building website has received more than 70,000 visits.
Construction Innovation and its industry, government and research partners have achieved much to promote sustainability and regulatory reform to enhance industry productivity over the past seven years.
We are well placed to continue this process with the Sustainable Built Environment CRC in 2009 and beyond.