by  Simon Wild, managing director Asia Pacific, Cundall

– 6 May 2010 – Over the past six months our company has been running Cool Walls [interactive workshop] across Australia,  to help business owners, designers and developers think beyond the business as usual; to connect into and create an integration of personal vision with business direction.

Across Australia, the common theme to emerge so far is that business as usual over the next five years will be determined by increased electricity cost, coupled with mandatory disclosure which will in turn drive a mass regeneration of our existing building stock. The view from the industry is the next five years will not be driven by legislation but will be driven by the market. Nothing new here!

If industry continues to be the driver – and research has shown Australian property owners have led the world over the last decade – we cannot sit back and accept that the next five years will be defined by rising electricity costs and mandatory disclosure.

The defining elements of the last five years have been innovative and bold approaches such as the development of NABERS and Green Star, as well as Government minimum tenancy requirements which created massive change in the green building movement. The result has been mass involvement and education from designers to manufacturers.

What does the industry want to happen to avoid the next five years being driven by an increase in electricity cost?

The top five concerns to emerge in the cool walls include: investment in large scale renewables, a zero waste society by 2020, localised food production, a ban on toxic materials and mandated performance for all buildings, new and old.

In the 20 or so Cool Walls that we have run to date, there are five defining elements that are at the top of the list. The top five include: investment in large scale renewables, a zero waste society by 2020, localised food production, a ban on toxic materials and mandated performance for all buildings, new and old.

This represents a significant shift in the mindset of the industry – there is now a recognition that creating a more positive impact on our environment goes beyond design and planning, beyond zero carbon buildings and into the realm of the greater system of which buildings are only one part of the solution.

The challenge ahead is how do we make this happen as an industry? At the end of the Cool Walls, Cundall will be running scenario workshops to create a positive vision of what our industry can do to see these defining elements play out. The alternative – business as usual!

With 20 Cool Walls under our belt in Australia, and with great interest and anticipation, I recently travelled to Hong Kong and Shanghai to run our Cundall Cool Walls with developers and architects in the Asia Pacific region.

The region has changed a lot since I first started working on projects in China in 2005. The idea of sustainability in the property industry has moved way beyond landscaping percentages and into energy efficiency, waste water treatment and more recently into the adoption of LEED as a common tool. Over the last year we have seen a doubling in the number of LEED certified projects in China.

In China there is greater expectation of the Government to drive change and so the business as usual case for the next five years was viewed as being driven by a mandated disclosure of energy performance, followed by mandated performance of new and existing buildings. This in turn would lead to a large scale regeneration of existing stock, mainly buildings more that are less than ten years old.

The “business as usual” case is very similar between the two countries, the drivers are different but the outcome will be the same – regeneration of the existing building stock.

In Australia, the desired shift will come from a more system driven approach – a focus on renewable energy, waste, material use and localised food and manufacturing.

In the aspiration voting, the wants are somewhat different – in the Asia Pacific region they are driven by design to a greater degree. It could be deduced that in terms of practitioners within the property industry, China is where Australia was about five years ago – very design focused. The top five “aspiration” votes in China over the next five years were sustainable urban planning, building environments for people, design adaptation and accounting for externalities.

In summary, the drivers for “business as usual” are very different between Australia and China. The former will be driven by increasing electricity costs and the later by Government. However the outcome is predicted to be the same – a mass regeneration of existing stock.

The desire for change, the shift from business as usual is again quite different between the two countries. The shift from “business as usual” in China is desired to be driven by design – sustainable urban planning with a focus on design adaptation and building environments for people. In Australia, the desired shift will come from a more system driven approach – a focus on renewable energy, waste, material use and localised food and manufacturing.

Cundall will be running more Cool Walls across the globe over the next six months. Next stop the Middle East and the UK!