Ben O’Callaghan

21 January 2011 –21 January 2011 –As the damage from the Queensland floods becomes clearer calls are emerging for rebuilding and repairs to be more sustainable and resilient and at least one sustainability consultancy is offering subsidised design services to assist.

Cundall state manager Queensland Ben O’Callaghan this week said a rethink was needed on how new construction could proceed.

“It’s obvious that we need to start building in more resilience,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

“It’s now critical that we design to cater for the environment and it’s disappointing that some people aren’t starting to learn the lesson of past extreme weather because there will be more of it as climate change increases.

“To those affected in Brisbane we are certainly happy to subsidise our services, whether they be residential or commercial.”

Mr O’Callaghan said he would like to see building codes require more sustainable design.

“The government is still in emergency response mode, but it should come out to promote green buildings more significantly in parallel.”

In Brisbane it was possible to build in flood prone areas and survive damage with correct hydrological design , Mr O’Callaghan said.

“There are some examples of sound hydraulic solutions where basements below ground level were not flooded.”
The downside was that only a small proportion of the market could afford such solutions and clearly no amount of hydrological equipment would have helped those in some vulnerable areas. In these cases, he said, “We need to revise our planning regulations and codes.”

Mr O’Callaghan’s background as a lecturer at Bond University where wrote the core course in sustainable development for students and as a designer at the highly sustainable The Ecovillage at Currumbin’ in the Gold Coast hinterland, has convinced him of the value of sustainable design.

He said that in the 30 June 2005 floods, the Ecovillage escaped any impact, while others suffered.

“The Ecovillage used swale drainage instead of curb guttering and merely enlarged the natural waterways to cater for flash floods,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

“Other estates in the area didn’t fare so well.”

What type of housing style would be best was not so “black and white” Mr O’Callaghan said, in response to recent controversy of on the relative merits of the traditional Queenslander style homes on stilts versus those built on a concrete slab.

“The Queenslander is a good option is some areas subject to water but I would not say that houses won’t gain for other reasons from putting a slab on the ground because of its inherent thermal performance.

Cundall hopes to assist in the reconstruction through its memberships of the Urban Development Institute of Australia and the Property Council of Australia.

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