Green Building: How to Make Sure Your Projects and Practices are Fully Compliant

Green building. It’s a buzzword bandied about in the construction industry. But what does it mean? And why is it important?

By John Christian – March 28, 2024
green building compliance

We take a closer look at this growing trend, its pros and cons, and its role in the fight to better protect our environment. We also explore the rules and regulations in place for builders, and how you can ensure compliance.

Key Takeaways

  • Green building prioritises sustainability and minimises environmental impact throughout the construction process.
  • It offers benefits like efficiency and reduced costs, but faces challenges such as higher initial expenses and the risk of greenwashing.
  • Builders must ensure legal compliance by adhering to regulations like the National Construction Code and Queensland Development Code, staying informed about legislation, prioritising eco-friendly materials, and adopting energy-efficient designs.

What is green building?

Definitions of ‘green building’ can differ. But the general concept is based on creating structures that focus on sustainability and are better for the environment than the status quo. This sustainability focus encompasses the entire process, from planning and design through to construction and the future uses of the building. 

Green building considers factors such as energy use, water efficiency and the choice of building materials. It takes a two-pronged approach. First, it aims to produce effective buildings that people want to live/work/play in. Second, it looks to ways to minimise the negative impacts of the building industry.

Green Building Council Australia defines green building:

  • has design, construction and operational practices that significantly reduce or eliminate its negative impact on the environment and its occupants. 
  • promotes efficiency – it can reduce construction and ongoing performance costs significantly.  
  • uses resources effectively and creates healthier environments for people to live and work in.

Advantages of Green Building 

There are a lot of advantages to green building. Green building:

  • Is better for the environment
  • Is a more efficient use of resources
  • Creates a healthier internal environment for the building’s inhabitants
  • Delivers better natural ventilation, insulation and cooling
  • Mitigates the effects of extreme weather
  • Has less impact on the site
  • Cuts energy and running costs of the building, such as electricity and water
  • Reduces emissions
  • Has a potential higher sales value
  • Uses low-carbon materials such as green concrete and engineered timber that could lead to greater export opportunities 
  • Generates more jobs
  • Attracts investment

In today’s world it’s also better for the bottom line because it’s a valuable marketing tool!

Disadvantages of Green Building 

Of course, there are a few cons to consider as well. Green building:

  • Can be more expensive at time of construction/purchase 
  • Requires more thought and consideration during the design and construction phases
  • Can lead to a risk of greenwashing by developers/investors

Why does green building matter?

According to the Queensland Department of Energy and Climate, the building sector contributes 14% of Queensland’s carbon emissions. Minimising these emissions through more sustainable practices will have a significant impact.

The construction of new buildings can also have a wide array of impacts, from habitat destruction to water and air pollution, increased emissions and more. Green building aims to diminish these negative impacts on our environment.

Rules, regulations and standards

There are lots of different construction laws that may affect you as a builder. 

National Construction Code

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) is responsible for the National Construction Code (NCC)). It does this on behalf of the federal government and all states and territories. 

The NCC sets the minimum requirements to ensure sustainability (and other measures) of buildings. It was updated in 2022 to include better provisions around thermal performance and energy usage in residential buildings.

Further updates will be made on 1 May 2024 and implemented in Queensland through the Queensland Development Code.

Queensland Development Code

From 1 May, 2024, Queensland will adopt new residential energy efficiency standards

According to Queensland’s Department of Energy and Climate, ‘the Modern Homes residential energy efficiency standards will be implemented through amendment of the existing Queensland Development Code 4.1 – Sustainable Buildings’.

This will encompass regulations to enhance the energy efficiency of the building’s shell, in addition to encouraging the use of energy-efficient domestic appliances and equipment by introducing a ‘Whole of Home energy budget’ for new homes and apartments. 

Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme

The Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) assesses the energy performance of new houses and apartments. It aims to support the construction industry to meet the energy-efficiency requirements set out in the NCC. This has been increased from 6 stars to 7 stars out of 10.

NatHERS is managed by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water on behalf of all states and territories. Around 90% of new home designs are now being evaluated using NatHERS. It considers the entire home, including the building shell, solar panels and batteries. 

Green Star

Green Star is a globally recognised Australian system for sustainability rating and certification, establishing benchmarks for buildings and spaces that are healthy, resilient, and positive. It’s not mandatory, but an increasing number of projects and companies are seeking certification. Green Star was founded by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) in 2003.


QDesign is another tool that isn’t mandatory but sets the standard for sustainable construction across Queensland. QDesign is managed by the Office of the Queensland Government Architect.

The QDesign Manual outlines the priority design principles for Queensland, which lists ‘Be Climate Responsive’ in the #1 position. The manual states that the design of buildings ‘should work positively with the local climate to create places that are resource efficient and deliver climate resilient, comfortable and cost-effective living’.

What are the legal considerations for green building compliance?

Builders need to ensure their projects and practices comply with the legal obligations for sustainable building. Failing to comply with legislation puts your company at risk.

You can mitigate your risk by:

  • Staying up to date on all relevant legislation
  • Conducting regular checks of current practices
  • Ensuring all contractors and sub-contractors across the project are up to date on relevant legislation, for example your electricians and plumbers
  • Minimising the risk of construction disputes by ensuring all contractors, sub-contractors and clients are on board with your green building practices 
  • Prioritising eco-friendly materials
  • Reducing wastage where possible
  • Recycling necessary materials where possible
  • Engaging in energy-efficient building design, such as building orientation, natural ventilation and insulation
  • Striving to go beyond your legal obligations to meet the standards set by parties such as the Green Building Council of Australia and QDesign
  • Consulting expert construction lawyers to diminish your legal risks

How a construction lawyer can help

As experts in construction law, Victor Legal can share advice to keep your practices in line with current green building legislation. We know what you need to do – and what you don’t – to minimise your risk. Get in touch today.

Article by John Christian, Principal Lawyer, Founder and Director of Victor Legal

John has extensive experience in complex civil and commercial dispute resolution and litigation matters, specialising in:

Building and construction disputes
Complex litigation
Contract drafting and review
Dispute Resolution
Commercial Law
Corporate insolvency
Securities and caveats
Debt collection
Contract disputes
Commercial and risk mitigation advice

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