Tag Archives: green events

The State of Greenness in Melbourne, Australia: Part 4

February 22nd to Feb 26th, 2010

Green Cities and Universities Report: Part 4

by Garry Baverstock AM, Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University, Western Australia

Who Turned the Lights on
On a humorous note, or ironical one dependent on one’s sensibilities, I noticed that the large retrofit project for the Building Commission/ Plumbing Industry Commission at 733 Bourke St, had all the lights turned on. As a predominately day use building it was covered with an exhaustive number of high bay fittings and despite their being an amazingly successful natural light level in the spaces, the lights were still used and there was no dimming mechanism to save energy. The obvious question was what is the point of having a 6 star building and you leave all the lights on?

Over many years this has been my criticism of many efforts in relation to sustainable development. The use culture is all-important and the stakeholders must be committed. Otherwise, we will be achieving very little and just adding cost and complexity to building projects. It was a little embarrassing when I ask the question of why the lights were all switched on, but at least I exercised the decorum to address the question to the CEO privately. I know the use of day lighting and dimming technology had the potential to save Bunnings’ warehouses about 50% of their lighting bills across Australia. Their lighting bills were a significant component of their energy costs. This was the result of our Murdoch University/RISE investigation over 18 n months, so I did know the impact of a 6 star building leaving all the lights on. The rating would be meaningless. I guess this will be rectified in due course.

This docklands project was in fact very well done. There would be no issues at all in leaving the lights completely off most days and having an operable dimming control that would probably save 50% energy on the general lighting even on dull days in Melbourne. So there was some action needed to turn this 6 star-opportunity into a reality. In my opinion there were far too many fittings needed for a building of this type and hours of use. If parts of the building were to be used at night, then instituting a task lighting strategy would have been a far more energy efficient option. But, it is encouraging seeing emerging examples of buildings designed to encompass potential energy and water efficiency.

However from the tour of other buildings in the Docklands precinct, I concluded that many architects and engineers have some way to go in designing effective summer shade mechanism externally. Fad and fashion are still overly dictating the final results. I am hoping that aesthetics and function will one day rejoin as a design philosophy. When generation X and Y realize they are actually inheriting this earth and need to step up to the plate to deal with measured outcomes, then Green Building as a movement will move onwards to where they need to be.

Fashion vs. the Sun
Fashions come and go but the solar radiation issues remain. I was surprised to see so many highly rated buildings exposing huge areas of unshaded glass on the eastern side of buildings. One may get away with this in Melbourne for most of the year, but occupants still fry in hot weather. In no way would a building be considered energy efficient in Perth with such exposure. I am also concerned that fad and fashion to mechanical solutions are also adding costs unnecessarily to many of these buildings when low cost innovative alternative are available. The lack of use of solar air collectors for winter heating was also little disappointing. These solutions have been around for decades. There needs to be more innovation applied and this is where the linkage of innovators with more focused university research could deliver better and more cost effective solutions as green buildings and their assessment methods evolve.

When Fact Overrides Opinion
The science is now telling us that a run away green house effect could be the outcome of the human race not addressing climate change effectively over the next 40 years. Culture change is going to be needed and will be a large component of achieving success when really, failure is not an option.

My perception in talking industry people, consultants as well as university administrators there is growing progress in the East of Australia but a laggard attitude in Western Australia. I find this particularly frustrating after 40 years of developing expertise and pushing the cause. Murdoch University has been punching way above its weight with environmental education and research for such a long time. A fresh resurgence is now needed as all universities are in a fashion stepping up to the plate. However to be effective and efficient with the resources currently being made available by the Federal government a new era of collaboration needs to occur. This will only happen if external professionals and key industries get involved to make university education and research relevant to the cause. This is why I spend so much time attempting this approach.

The next 5 years are going to be very interesting indeed. Let’s hope that proper benchmarking of progress is possible and real advances, not perceived advances are made. But what Australia does not need is a series of “sheltered workshop” type research centres studying esoteric aspects. We need integration and collaboration with leaders from the professions and industry to achieve meaningful and useful results.

My perception from the Melbourne excursion is that there is a lot more work needed to nail the truths and realities down. As Al Gore has recently said, “we are all entitled to our opinions, but we have no rights to our own facts!”

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The State of Greenness in Melbourne, Australia: Part 3

February 22nd to Feb 26th, 2010

Green Cities and Universities Report: Part 3

by Garry Baverstock AM, Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University, Western Australia

Low Cost/ High Impact Solutions
I was impressed with the ANU program; led by Beth Mitchell, that engaged students in the implementation to same water wastage, waste minimization and reduction of energy use in the campus. This low-tech, low cost, economically viable approach will achieve more off the bottom line than the university going on the rampage developing a whole raft of green buildings around Australia, while demolishing old assets and not adapting them. The total ecological approach really has been a great strength of Murdoch University over many years, due mainly to economic necessity. It is strength, especially when current capital injections by the Federal government slow down. There is not a lot of money in green low-tech initiatives for the administration or the university economy as a whole. However such initiatives can a huge impact on our students and their integration into a real world and real jobs. One just has to look at the career of ABC celebrity Josh Byrne, an ETC product and how his career has blossom as a direct result of his hands on education at Murdoch. When “life after stimulus packages” occurs in Australia and the realities facing our economy crystallize out, there may impact on university managerial thinking in relation to infrastructure/building assets and the balance of expenditure on course development and practical research programs.

One of the key aspects of the conference that was mainly attended by administrators was the lack of cohesion between many administrators and academics. I was asked a question along those lines at my presentation. I basically pointed out that there was a large communication problem from my experience. The administrators should be more engaging with the academics that often have huge teaching, marking, tutoring and their own administrative burdens. The responsibility surely falls on the shoulders of the administrators, as they are the managers. A good manager not only manages the macro issues, but also sees it through somehow in a day-to-day situation. God is in the detail as they say. There must be a spirit of teamwork created and a sound level of trust between the two camps. The administrators must be capable of being good coaches and build respect from their academics. Often academics are on the brink of burn out due to the nature of their work and this must be a large concern for a good manager. While each party stayed in their own bunkers nobody was winning. Healthy linkage between camps is imperative as is the linkage to outside businesses and professionals. This is another important ingredient for the viability or sustainability of universities. I recount the Thomas Edison example given earlier. Universities need to tap in and help such people who through enterprise and genius can transform the world dramatically often with a single breakthrough. The reality is that they do not wait for universities to come up with the solutions, but could include them in the process if University administrators are prudent and creative enough to see it and use their time wisely to establish prudent linkages with such people.

Green Building Council Impacts
The Green Building Council of Australia tour as part of the Green Cities conference program was very well organized and presented. I went on the Dockland tour and it is obvious that the GBCA is making a difference with building developers and architects. I fully support this independent approach. It is healthy and cannot be hijacked by governments or any particular industry. My biggest fear is that eventually governments will attempt to control this as Greenstar approach as it is brought into the compliance system.

This will not be healthy and will impose a huge financial burden on the building industry if operated and policed by the bureaucracy. Eventually it will lead to corruption of the process and innovation as industry lobby groups through the political process hijack the agenda to advantage their vested interest. Professionals in the industry must keep a watchful eye on this danger to the system and support the organization and get involved to keep it a balanced ownership of all stakeholders and keep the focus on the public interest.

Having said all that, there is no improvement that will need to be made in serving the public interest first and the development industry in accordance with that mandate, we need to bench mark all greenhouse targets and quoting of emissions performances with a base line performance with 1990 energy and water use figures. This base line should be the averaged performance per square metre/annum for that year. If the performance percentages quoted as part of the GreenStar rating is related to a comparison with the worst practice for that building type then we are going to be sailing blind in assessing our progress in abating Climate Change. I will need to check this out more closely sometime with the technical people at the GBCA to clarify the basis for benchmarking the greenhouse emissions and energy savings figures quoted as part of the ratings.

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The State of Greenness in Melbourne, Australia: Part 2

February 22nd to Feb 26th, 2010

Green Cities and Universities Report: Part 2

by Garry Baverstock AM, Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University, Western Australia

Green Universities Conference
The main thrust of the Green universities program, apart from the show and tell presentations about built examples and renovations of university buildings, was the a concentration of how university campuses were going to adapt to Climate Change, increasing air temperatures and humidity, and water shortages, as well as the economic imposts in dealing with these changes. My Murdoch University/RISE presentation was different to most, because it focused on what we were doing educationally, not on what we should be doing. Administrators dominated the attendance list and for that reason I felt that mitigation and understanding Climate Change impacts in the long term, was not given the balanced treatment it deserved. All too often it was all about development and new buildings, to my mind was unfortunate because the main issue for the next 40 years is adaptive re-use of buildings. Big money, big investment means more consumption and uncontrolled growth and more adverse impacts on Climate Change.

Adapting a Way Where Failure is not an Option
Professor Geoff Scott University of West Sydney (UWS) was particularly fired up over the success of his university, in sourcing $40 million for a program of research into the elements of achieving a sustainable future for Australia and how UWS and others, as part of his network, could produce meaningful results. His enthusiasm was impressive and given his success in securing such large funding, he had a very good reason to be proud of himself and his colleagues. His emphasis on a collegiate approach between academics and managers made sense and his strategic advice to the audience was inspiring. However it occurred to me that Thomas Edison didn’t go to university, nor did he need a well functioning committee to invest and commercialize the light globe. The ability of leaders at universities to tap into good ideas, link into networks and secure the funding is the province of a well functioning university. But to suggest that sustainability progress will emanate from universities was lacking credibility because technological and economical advancements have never often occurred that way in the past. I doubt whether it will in the future either.

I understood what he was getting at. It is important to be wary of over zealous “white knights” in universities who seem to know more than most but have never done anything substantial in the real world under realistic economic conditions.

But, he and others pointed out the importance of adaptive management of all aspects from the big picture of population growth to downscale aspects of developing building and infrastructure and courses relevant for the 21st century.

The development of green buildings at the University of Sydney illustrated that there has been a huge influx of Federal funds into many campuses for the development of building and the sustainable strings attached. Given the fact that Australians consume materials at a rate that would need four planets, as pointed out by one of the speakers, to supply the rest of the world should every individual follow in our footsteps is sobering and questions the over use of the word ”sustainable”. Sustainable for whom, one could logically ask?

The conference presentations and papers were varied and definitely made the journey worthwhile. The case studies and impressive initiatives such as the Mirvac school of Development at Bond University, as delivered by Robert Stable, couldn’t help light a bright pathway to a sustainable built environment. I saw huge potential for Murdoch if handled in a prudent way and at the right scale. But on the other hand I saw much of the discussion centred round the adaptation to climate change rather than an attitude to conquer it. The Risk management discussion from AECOM’s Michael Nolan was particularly useful as it drew the audience back to the realities of Climate Change for the next 50 years and beyond and the different scenarios if abatement and mitigation actions were not taken. For me this the prime concern that universities should be using as a platform for their actions. Ultimately, it is definitely not about building as many state of the art “green” buildings as fast as possible.

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The State of Greenness in Melbourne, Australia: Part 1

February 22nd to Feb 26th, 2010

Green Cities and Universities Report: Part 1

by Garry Baverstock AM, Adjunct Professor, Murdoch University, Western Australia

[cf]MelbourneVideo[/cf] Co-Founder & Director Garry Baverstock reports on his visit to Melbourne, Australia where he attended the Green Universities Conference 2010 & the Green Building Council’s “Green Cities” Program.solar-e.com logo

Melbourne Tries to Practice what it Preaches
As a city encompassing sustainable living patterns, Melbourne seems to practice what it preaches. Like all cities in the modern world it still has a long way to go before it could be considered as contributing soundly to world progress. The avoidance of further damage to our natural world is what counts, and ultimately our own existence on planet earth. Though in watching and listening people present their views on the subject, I could help feel that “sustainability” has a new corrupted meaning for many people. They obviously believe that keeping business as usual is their interpretation of the word. This is of course a hijacked connotation of the original meaning of the term, emanating from the WCED UN decree in 1987. Very few of the presenters tied their actions to short, medium or long-term targets of performance, but more later.

Green Events in February
Late February saw a number of events spring up in the city that focused attention to sustainability issues as it applies to all Australians. The Green Building Council held a major event, the Green Cities Conference, Exhibition, Masters Classes at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and tours to recently completed “GreenStar” rated buildings around the city. The Green Universities Conference was held concurrently at the Rendezvous Hotel in central Melbourne. As one of the guest speakers my mission was to present a case study of the new 50kW PV array on the library roof, as well give a run down of Murdoch University’s long history of Environmental studies and research, and the many facets that the university is currently involved with in the field of Renewable Energy and sustainability of the built and natural environments. It was obvious that Murdoch University is a small player in the over all action of securing “funding” for sustainability investment and course development. But it is obvious that we are very good at delivering educated and trained people for “green” jobs.

During the last week of February Melbourne was all a buzz about sustainability. There was a large expo in Federation Square that featured the all-important impacts on the natural world and human health. Land care programs, water resources Forestry and personal exercise and diet information featured strongly in the exhibits. There were some extremely relevant messages being presented about lifestyles and positive attitudes to their natural environment. As I walked around I wondered if the numerous obese, unfit, smoking crew that made up a large proportion of the visitors wandering through the stalls actually got the message when applied to them.

Surely, the next important step in addressing climate change properly will be that of the fostering of a solid public consciousness and what cultural changes are going to be mandatory. About that time, I looked up and across to the AFL’s headquarters nearby to Federation Square, the famous MCG Aussie football and cricket ground. I flashed back to the third quarter in a 1960s address at a nail biting Grand Final and couldn’t help imagining the voice of John Kennedy, the legendary football coach of the premiership winning team Hawthorn, screaming out “Don’t think, Do!” Culture change has some distance to go before walking the talk is a common way of looking at life. Evolution is the key. Revolution is definitely not on most government’s or industry agendas as evident in the ambivalent action emanating from Copenhagen.

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