Gunter Pauli

5 April 2012 – When Gunter Pauli fronts up to the audience it is like a sudden burst of (renewable) energy and excitement has gushed into the room.

At a forum organised by Arup and AFR Boss at Arup’s Sydney office on Wednesday, Pauli, a Belgium-based economist, says our efforts need to be directed to a highly efficient, competitive, entrepreneurial “blue economy” that reduces carbon, waste and pollution and creates new flourishing enterprises and jobs.

And if you aren’t also ethical and fair, “then you’d better stay out of business”, he says.

Pauli, who lived for nearly two decades in Japan, resides in Columbia and is also a professor of architecture at the The University of Turin, or “La Università degli Studi di Torino”, is full of confronting, challenging ideas,

This is a man on a mission. If a building he is involved with is not going to be a carbon sink, he’s not interested. “I am determined and focused,” he says.

Pauli shows a slide of a man in a sun-drenched forest. “What’s the most abundant source of energy you can see here,” he asks?

It’s a trick question; it’s not the sun, it’s gravity. And it’s completely unexploited. Because for decades we’ve hammered about solar energy, he says.

No pipe is allowed to be built into a house under his watch without including a nano turbine which can generate half of the electricity the house needs using the energy of the water coursing through the pipe.

And we should be using 12 volt DC power, not AC, Pauli says. That was an argument between Tesla and Edison 100 years ago; we should move on.

“You can do magic with DC,” he says, adding that Europe’s high-speed trains run on DC.

At a  project to build 750,000 low cost houses that Pauli has been commissioned to build in South Africa, in degraded, carbon-depleted farmland left by Apartheid, the energy backbone will be 12 volt DC power.

The homes won’t have their own refrigerators:  instead there will be  a distributed cooling system, because for food security that’s one thing you do need. Each house, however, will also have a basement where the temperature will be 4 degrees all year round and use no energy.

Gunter Pauli’s own bamboo house with wide overhang

Pauli has built much grander structures. From bamboo. It’s termite-proof, structurally powerful and doesn’t need bracing, and is not so much earthquake-resistant as earthquake-proof because it can “dance with the earth” when the earth moves.

Put some large overhangs on the building, partly to assist lift off in the dance (a joke… we think), but also (seriously) to screen the bamboo from the sun, and it will last 100 years guaranteed (five years if you don’t screen it).

If the building Pauli is involved with doesn’t become a carbon sink, he’s not interested. “I’m very determined and focused,” he says.

If the authorities don’t like his building services, “let them sue me,” he says.

There’s more. The economist kicks in here, alongside a savvy real estate spotter. In Sweden, 400kilometres north of Stockholm, Pauli ignited a small land boom when he built a school that recycled its fresh air content every 30 minutes, allowing fresh oxygen into the room, energising brain cells and resulting in healthier children with better academic results.

Because it was a public school, parents jostled to move into the area, pushing up real estate prices.

Pauli also had some thoughts on the acid present in many office buildings because of the chemicals used to clean air-conditioning filters, and the acid in Sydney water because of its chlorination.

“It means you drink acid and breathe acid and wonder why you get diabetes and cancer,” he says.

li’s presentation.

Stephen Lennon addresses the forum

Other speakers at the forum on how to achieve a sustainable economy included Arup’s Tim Williams aAdd “sobering” to descriptions of Paund Steve Lennon. Moderator was Boss editor Narelle Hooper.

Dr Williams is an advisor on housing and urban issues to the UK government and now the Australian Government’s new committee on social housing and the Committee for Sydney. At Arup he focused on place-making and public policy.

Mr Lennon is a strategy consultant and communications expert versed in systems thinking. He is also a former managing director of the global creative agency, Imagination in Australia, and has held senior roles with leading communications companies such as Computer Sciences Corporation, Logica and SMS Management & Technology.