Australia: Measuring Sustainability In Major Infrastructure

Last Updated: 18 December 2008
Article by Nick Thomas

Key Point

  • Stakeholders involved in construction and infrastructure projects have some powerful incentives to apply environmental sustainability in their projects.

It's difficult to recall a time when infrastructure investment was such a hot topic.

The needs of a burgeoning population, calls for economic efficiency through better infrastructure, an impending energy crisis and now a forecast need for major economic stimulus, all point us toward infrastructure investment.

At the same time, there is an increasing awareness of the need for development to become more sustainable. This is driven not only by the threat of climate change, but also by a desire to reduce our environmental footprint and thereby make our societies healthier in the short and long term.

It's perfect timing for the development of a green rating scheme for infrastructure, which measures and rewards more sustainable design for infrastructure projects.

The need and benefits

Governments are taking sustainability seriously, and this is starting to show not only in a range of laws which promote sustainability, but also in current and emerging public infrastructure projects.

Research suggests that sustainable development also reduces long-term costs (especially with the advent of carbon trading), extends asset lives, enhances stakeholder reputation, improves attractiveness for investors, and can even reduce liability risks.

In recent years, a number of market leaders have been exploring ways in which infrastructure developments can improve environmental performance in their design, construction and operation. It is difficult, however, to encourage innovation or set standards for sustainable infrastructure without a benchmarking tool, such as a green rating scheme.

Many of us are familiar with green rating schemes for commercial buildings. The two most commonly used schemes in Australia are:

  • the Green Star scheme (established and administered by the Green Building Council of Australia) which focuses on the design and construction of a building, and addresses a wide range of sustainability characteristics; and
  • the NABERS scheme (established and administered by State Governments) which focuses on the operational energy and water efficiency of a building.

An infrastructure rating scheme is needed to recognise sustainability and provide assurance to the community and stakeholders of sustainability claims made by the infrastructure industry. Measuring sustainability is also an important element in reporting corporate social responsibility performance.

AGIC - developing the green infrastructure scheme

A national industry association, the Australian Green Infrastructure Council (AGIC), has recently been formed to establish a green rating scheme for infrastructure.

On 27 October 2008, Clayton Utz hosted a seminar, "'Building Green': Sustainability in major infrastructure" providing an opportunity for industry players to hear from Doug Harland in one of his first official engagements since his appointment as CEO of the Australian Green Infrastructure Council. The other panel speakers were Sarah Marshall, the National Environmental and Sustainability Manager at Abigroup, Steve Fermio, the Director of Planning & Environment at the Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation (TIDC) and Nick Thomas, a partner in our Environment and Planning team. The seminar was chaired by Owen Hayford from our Construction & Major Projects Group.

Clayton Utz' interest in green infrastructure derives from our roles in the infrastructure field and in sustainable development. Nick Thomas has been assisting AGIC for over a year, through one of AGIC's working groups.

What will the scheme apply to?

The rating scheme is still in an early development stage. It is anticipated that the scope of AGIC's rating scheme will apply to the following infrastructure types:

  • roads and tunnels
  • railways and bridges
  • airports
  • ports and marinas
  • cycle and pedestrian pathways; and
  • distribution grids.

It will also apply with limited scope to:

  • telecommunication infrastructure
  • water and wastewater collection and supply, distribution and treatment infrastructure; and
  • civil engineering headworks of industrial plants (the AGIC rating scheme will measure the capacity of the site to host the plant while excluding the operational efficiency of the plant itself)

It has been suggested that AGIC may at some time in the future include mining headworks.

The AGIC scheme will not include:

  • buildings;
  • residential dwellings and developments;
  • industrial processes; or
  • infrastructure commonly referred to as social infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and prisons.

The existing green building rating schemes already apply, or may soon apply, to these classes of developments.

Proposed assessment criteria

It is intended that assessment of infrastructure projects will consider their procurement, design, construction, operation and decommissioning. The assessment will be based upon measurements in a number of sustainability categories covering environmental, social and economic elements, with each category weighted and containing a series of scored questions and performance criteria that enable an overall score (and award level) to be determined.

During the initial development of the scheme AGIC considered 15 possible categories. Following a process of review and consolidation the proposed sustainability categories have been reduced to the following seven categories (subcategories are also being developed):

  • project management and governance
  • economic performance
  • using resources
  • emissions, pollution and waste
  • biodiversity
  • people and place; and
  • workforce.

AGIC's success will ultimately depend on industry supporting and contributing to the scheme. AGIC is hoping to pilot its rating scheme in mid-2009.

What does this mean for you?

Stakeholders involved in construction and infrastructure projects have some powerful incentives to consider the extent to which they incorporate ecologically sustainable development (ESD) in their projects, in addition to taking advantage of the benefits of green development which we mentioned at the start of this article.

There is increasing commercial pressure on developments and projects to account for sustainability principles. Governments have expressed a preference for more sustainable developments, and some agencies have indicated that ESD performance will be relevant in assessing tenders.

In addition, the courts have indicated that there will come a time when the principles of ESD will become such an important factor for government decision-making that failure to consider them in approving a project could put the planning approval for that project in jeopardy (Minister for Planning v Walker [2008] NSWCA 224).

This provides a powerful incentive to apply ESD in infrastructure projects.

The development of a green infrastructure rating tool presents an opportunity for uniform assessment of infrastructure projects on sustainability criteria, and a clear marketing and tender advantage for those who score well on the proposed rating scheme.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.