Building adaptive reuse plays a critical role in emissions reduction and supports global climate protection. Thus, the designing of future buildings with embedded adaptive reuse potential is a useful criterion for sustainability. This paper describes the development of a new rating tool known as adaptSTAR, which offers holistic and unified design criteria suitable for assessing the adaptive reuse potential of future buildings. The findings show that criteria can be identified and weighted according to physical, economic, functional, technological, social, legal and political categories to calculate an adaptive reuse star rating. In addition, this paper reports on the first stage of the research methodology used in the initial development of the rating tool and concludes with some preliminary observations from 12 selected successful case studies in New South Wales (NSW) and Melbourne, Australia. The use of adaptSTAR in designing future buildings will lead and help promote low carbon built environments.