Nike, goddess of victory: she just did it

The Nike principle
By Tina Perinotto

25 March 2011 – We don’t think you can fail to read Lynne Blundell’s piece on Greenhouse by Joost and some of the great thinkers around Arup’s New Agenda program and not be excited and positive about the potential to do things better and even wildly differently.

With great imagination honed in the art world, Greenhouse creator Joost Bakker used magnesium oxide sheets containing carbon for his building, no glue, recyclable screws, straw bales and recycled irrigation pipes for chairs. Construction took just seven days.

Everywhere you step in this sustainable property industry you meet intelligent and highly motivated young (and not so young) people who are thirsty for this type of thinking.

They joins groups, meet privately and then back they go to their giant property corporates and consulting employers, who, before long, realise that if they allow this new blood to flourish they will also seize the commercial advantage.

On Thursday night, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) awarded a major prize to Natalie Myatt to enable a research project that will attempt to measure the commercial benefit of social sustainability. Now that’s another barrier that may soon be breached.

$1 billion in tax breaks… we should be deliriously happy
Read our Tax Package, on the other hand, and you risk looking into the eyes of mayhem, and good intentions gone wrong.

Leon Gettler has spoken to industry heavyweights about their reasons as to why this potentially great boon for the industry needs a massive overhaul in its approach.

In another major piece, property tax specialist Nicola Woodward, director of Apex Property Consulting, explains in simple prose some of the complex matters that underpin her concerns with the tax breaks.

It seems something is going massively wrong in the communication channels between the property industry and the Federal Government.

Think about it: the Government believes the property industry is important enough to give it $1 billion smackeroos in tax deductions to green our buildings. Yet the industry says stop, you’ve got it all wrong.

Why is the right message not getting through? Whose responsibility is it to explain to the bureaucrats what’s needed and how?

Perhaps it’s to do with the structure of the industry and the way the various sectors are – or are not – represented in Canberra.

In fairness, this is a highly complex industry. It’s not brain surgery, but it has squillions of interactive bits that impact on each other and without the counsel of wise heads, a well-meaning intervention can go wildly astray.

For instance, it can be much more expensive than many people think to make a big energy difference in old, energy-guzzling B and C-grade buildings that make up about 80 per cent of the market.

And the owners of these buildings are those investors least likely to be able to afford them, or even afford the consultants who could help them win them a green building fund grant.

While a one star or one-anda-half star improvement can be achieved by harvesting the “low-hanging fruit” and improving management practices [see our reports on the Low Energy High Rise Project], getting the minimum two star uptick required in the tax package can be more expensive.

According to PC Thomas of Team Catalyst, in a 10,000 square metre building you probably need a new chiller or building control system, each worth around $350,000 to $360,000, plus a building tune-up worth up to $180,000. Lighting also needs to be upgraded, he says.

For small owners, that’s a big whack to capitalise.

Lights off
Come Saturday night, lights will switch off around the world for Earth Hour.

Let’s hope this Aussie phenomenon doesn’t end up like Christmas: an excuse for a bit of a knees-up and cosy self-congratulation.

Come Saturday night the lights will also probably dim for the NSW Labour party.

What happens next will also be just like opening the big box under the Christmas tree: it’s big, wonderfully wrapped (I mean how innocuous and avuncular can a political leader – Barry O’Farrell – get?), but is there anything you actually want inside?

This is the sad state of governance and leadership in Australia’s biggest state. It’s turning out to be like Italy: completely mired in political fiasco, but somehow the wheels keep turning.

Now there’s an idea: let’s make pollies irrelevant. That’s what one insightful young woman in the property industry recently said in response to the constant demands from the property industry round tables for governments to coordinate policies for better cities, the built environment, etc, etc.

She said: “If you all know what to do, and how to do it, why don’t you just do it? After all, you are exactly the people who would do it and now that you are all talking to each other, you can.”

Don’t you love it? The Nike principle.

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