Green Star Communities – coming soon to a neighbourhood near you?

After reading BFF’s earlier post on the 20 minute city concept, Brad Crowley got in touch with us from the New Zealand Green Building Council. Brad is Senior Manager, Buildings and Communities at NZGBC. He is passionate about their Green Star Communities programme and was keen to share this with the BFF community.

Post-lockdown there was a rush of planning, proposals and projects as developers and local bodies pitched for shovel-ready funding. Among them were a few ambitious ideas aiming to seize the opportunity to transform our communities. One of these was the idea of making Hamilton a 20-minute city. It’s something I’ve experienced first-hand living in Portland, Oregon where this idea is already in action thanks to advocacy and progressive urban design principles, and it’s been successful in many other cities around the world.

The idea is to encourage active and accessible transport, urban density, community facilities, and a way of life where people can feel connected with their own neighbourhoods and others who live in them.

Intersection Repair Initiative, Portland, Oregon. 

Fostering strong communities and creating liveable spaces is key to a low-carbon, healthy society, and something our team at the New Zealand Green Building Council are passionate about. That is why we’ve adopted a way of helping city planners, developers and communities from our mates over at the Green Building Council in Australia.

Shortly before Christmas last year we were thrilled to award Panuku Development Auckland not just one, but two 5 Green Star Communities ratings for its Henderson and Takapuna projects. The first of their kind in New Zealand, these projects set the bar and pave (de-pave?) the way for more great sustainable urban planning and delivery. As is central to Hamilton’s 20-minute city proposal, Green Star Communities looks to a future where community design focuses on connectivity. Not just in terms of getting around but in terms of social inclusivity, access to jobs, community facilities, healthcare and education, as well as connection to nature and the environment.

Artist’s impression of the Henderson Opanuku Precinct project.

With over 50 communities already rated in Australia, Green Star Communities assesses projects against a holistic set of social, environmental and economic criteria including:

Governance  Communities projects have a strong governance framework in place by setting benchmarks that encourage developers to operate transparently.

Liveability Ensuring development projects are diverse, affordable, safe, inclusive and improve the wellbeing of those that live, work and play within them.

Economic Prosperity Ensuring developments facilitate business diversity, education, skills development and productivity

Environment Projects should be less resource intensive and prioritise practices that reduce a community’s impact on the land, water and the atmosphere.

Innovation Promoting holistic sustainable solutions in the built environment, and encourage projects in investing resources into valuable outcomes.

Artist’s impression of the proposed Northcote development. Isthmus Group

There’s a lot that goes into planning and creating entire neighbourhoods. That’s why a Green Star Communities rating considers a raft of different things, from liveability, local employment, access to fresh food, opportunities to meet other people, exercise and spending time outside. It considers not just the planning but also public consultation, design and construction. It helps neighbourhoods not only reduce their impact on our environment, but also create healthy, happy places for people to thrive. 

One of the many benefits of Green Star Communities is that it was created alongside industry, government authorities and experts, and ratings are certified by an independent third party.  Importantly, it helps mainstream sustainable design and construction, and provides a common language and set of benchmarks for our sector to build on.

A key part of Green Star Communities is that once certified, projects must re-certify every five years to demonstrate commitments made at the planning and design stages are delivered.

As with Green Star ratings for buildings and fitouts, 4 Stars is considered best practice, 5 Stars shows national excellence, and a 6 Star rating is world-leading.

To already have Panuku delivering two 5 Star projects shows what can be achieved, and that with the right planning and approach we create major projects that deliver lower carbon, safe, healthy spaces prepared for a changing climate.

Already NZGBC is working alongside others wanting to ensure their new large-scale developments are healthy, happy communities. This is incredibly exciting and couldn’t be more timely. With the increasingly urgent need to tackle our emissions, with our cities already grappling with the challenges associated with climate change, growth, and the health our people, we’ve got a long way to go and not long to act. Our communities are and should be at the heart of our efforts. We need to ensure they’re the best possible spaces for New Zealanders to play their part.  

Keen to find out more? Check out the NZGBC Green Star Communities page for more information.

The next Green Star Communities course is being held online on 27 October 2020.  Please contact Brad Crowley at if you are interested or if you have any questions about Green Star Communities. 

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