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Australia green building rules revised in favour of PVC

The body encouraging development of more environmentally friendly buildings in Australia has revised its previously negative view on PVC materials.
The Sydney-based Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) said its new system for rating the plastic should be in force by April following a review that ended in February and considered advances made by the PVC sector.

GBCA operates the national, voluntary green star system that provides a sustainability rating of up to six stars for buildings based on credits achieved for meeting specific performance criteria. Green Star executive director Robin Mellon said the new PVC-rating credit modifies a previous approach that largely discouraged its use.

He said the old credit effectively encouraged using alternatives to PVC-based floor coverings, pipes and other products, such as electrical cable conduits. In some cases it had led to alternative design approaches to avoid PVC, such as running cables in recesses built into walls instead of through conduits. But Mellon said the revised credit would promote use of PVC products, providing they met best-practice sustainability criteria.

"We look at the environmental impacts associated with a building and how they can be minimized or negated," he said.

"In the case of PVC, that includes resin manufacture; [greenhouse gas] emissions generated in the manufacturing process, in use of a product and at its end of life, and whether it can be recycled."

He said the new credit will set green star criteria that PVC product manufacturers and suppliers will need to meet. The previous credit was based on historical attitudes to PVC as an environmentally unfriendly material. But the GBCA review by an expert panel found the old attitudes did not consider PVC industry achievements, particularly in Australia and Europe, to reduce environmental and human health risks formerly associated with the plastic.

Mellon said the new credit would act as a further driver for change. "We recognized the old credit wasn't creating change. It wasn't being a positive driver in the [PVC] market," he said. The Melbourne-based Vinyl Council of Australia's CEO Sophi MacMillan welcomed the outcome of the review.

"We support the GBCA's approach to encourage, support and provide incentives for best practice performance in the built environment," she said.

"There is now an opportunity for our industry to demonstrate it can continue its momentum for more sustainable product outcomes to meet the future needs of the building and construction industry."

For further information contact: Neva Law, Vinyl Council of Australia, directly on 03 9368 4857 or 0405 772 700.