Australians are champions of sport and sustainability, and with Brisbane clinching the 2032 Olympics, “we can break new records for sustainable property,” says Green Building Council of Australia CEO Davina Rooney.
“Olympics leave legacies that echo for generations,” Rooney says.
“As we know from our experience with the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Games can also shape values before a brick is laid, or a sod is turned.”
Bris2032’s successful bid, backed by 72 of the 80 delegates of the International Olympic Committee last week, will usher in a “golden age” for the state said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Citing Brisbane’s alignment with the Olympics agenda, IOC president Thomas Bach hailed Bris2032 as a “very sustainable project” and one “with a great legacy”.
Property Council Queensland executive director, Jen Williams, agrees. Bris2032 will “turbocharge an ambitious social, economic and environmental agenda for our state,” she says.
“Expo 88 demonstrated the placemaking and tourism legacies that can be achieved when the region is placed on the global stage. With an 11-year runway to the Games, the property industry can ensure Bris2032 is primed for success,” Williams adds.
Sustainability: A secret weapon
Sustainability is one of three pillars of the IOC’s agenda, and host cities must demonstrate how they will deliver sustainability across a range of areas, including infrastructure and natural sites, sourcing and resource management, mobility, workforce and climate.
The GBCA’s Rooney says the Bris2032 team’s ambition to achieve strong sustainability credentials from the outset was clear. The GBCA was “delighted” to support Brisbane’s bid by mapping Australia’s Green Star rating system – which has now certified 3,000-plus projects – with the IOC’s commitments to boost the business case.
“The fact that Green Star was embedded into Brisbane’s bid, with a promise that all new vertical infrastructure and significant upgrades will target 6 Star Green Star, is a tremendous boost for south east Queensland’s built environment. This commitment alone is worthy of stadium-sized standing ovation,” Rooney notes.
The bid makes explicit a commitment to deliver a “climate positive Games” – one aligned with the Queensland Government’s net zero target – and “a transferrable model for future hosts”. The supply chain impacts alone will be significant. A sustainable sourcing policy, for example, promises to boost energy efficiency, embodied emissions, recycled content and responsible timber sourcing.
“Big sporting projects can be exemplars of government procurement – building industry capacity while offering a very public symbol to the community,” Rooney adds.
Sydney’s Green Games site still shines
Australia’s earliest sustainability successes sprung from the Sydney Olympics in 2000, dubbed the “Green Games”. Sydney was a “laboratory for green design and construction”, Rooney notes, with world-firsts for solar arrays, water recycling and waste management.
For example, the athletes’ village at Newington was the world’s largest solar powered suburb in September 2000, with 12 solar arrays powering 2,000 homes. A dual water supply system – one for potable water and one for toilets and irrigation – was simply unseen at that scale in Australia. Years later, when Sydney was struggling with drought, the residents of Newington could still wash their cars.
Another area of innovation was in waste management. A massive 90 per cent of hard waste was recycled within the Sydney Olympic Park site, with timber off-cuts used in landscaping and concrete and brick used for road underlays.
To win contracts, suppliers had to think differently about sustainability. One paint company worked with CSIRO to develop a range of low off-gassing paints that are now on the shelves of every hardware store.
What sounds like business-as-usual today was truly ground-breaking before the Sydney Olympics, Rooney says. But the biggest achievement of the Games, she suggests, was that “builders, designers and developers had positive proof that they could deliver sustainability at scale”. Or as one journalist wrote at the time, the Olympics showed that “a bunch of hard-nosed, bottom-line-orientated property developers found a way to be green and still make a buck”.
Champions of sport and sustainability
After the Sydney 2000 Games were over, Australia’s property industry had a big challenge, Rooney says. “How would we measure best practice and separate green from greenwash? That was the big question – and the answer was to establish the GBCA in 2002 and Green Star in 2003.”
Expensive and neglected stadia are unwanted symbols of Olympics past, but Sydney Olympic Park tells a different story. Last year the park was rewarded with a 6 Star Green Star Communities rating “in acknowledgement of the foundation laid two decades ago and the hard work since then finding ways to do even better,” Rooney says.
Of course, Australia’s sustainable sporting infrastructure story does start and end in Sydney. The 4 Star Green Star-rated athletes’ village, one of several Green Star-rated projects developed for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, was home to 6,000 athletes in 2018. Afterwards it was transformed into the Smith Collective and is now a build-to-rent apartment precinct. Several community sports facilities have achieved Green Star ratings, like the La Trobe Sports Stadium in Melbourne and Scarborough Beach Pool in Perth.
But Olympics venues are undoubtedly the “jewel in the crown of social infrastructure”. Yet, Rooney says the GBCA has built a strong case for everything from schools and hospitals to libraries and law courts.
“The hard numbers are all there to support better decisions – 20 per cent saving in energy efficiency and a 4.3 per cent premium in asset value. We can expand our industry’s sustainability skills and amplify the Games’ impact by committing to Green Star on all new projects.”
Australians love their sport. McCrindle researchers have found four in five Australians see sport as a big part of our way of life. Australians also love winning, Rooney adds. “We are champions of both sport and sustainable buildings – and we can bring both together to break records and build a more sustainable future.”.
Williams is just as excited. “The property industry is ready for a golden decade of opportunity.” With an operating budget of $4.5 billion, the Games will “allow government to bring forward major infrastructure projects and finalise the SEQ City Deal to improve the connectivity, liveability and quality of life for many Queenslanders”.
“Now the hard work begins,” Williams concludes.
The Property Council has established an Olympics Roundtable with 10 thought leaders who will meet regularly to explore opportunities for the property industry. For more information, contact Property Council Queensland executive director, Jen Williams.