1 March 2012 – On standing tall for sustainability, crowd sourcing and feisty mayors

There are weeks when sustainability feels like the centre of the universe. Well it kind of is, really. A fulcrum around which all other worthwhile economic, social, ethical, scientific and humanitarian enterprises spin. Not biased at all, are we?

The further out you go, well, it gets scary there on the edge of the known universe, where the crazy people hang out.

On Wednesday the centre of gravity shifts to the Convention Centre at Darling Harbour.Green Cities 2013 – Time to fix the GPS

It will be a chance to fix the GPS on the next decade, if not longer, because that’s how you drive a vehicle right? With the eyes fixed on the horizon, not where the front fender is.

Each year at these major gatherings we can recalibrate the GPS, work out what goals and targets need setting and fine-tuning. This year the organisers have asked for maximum input from the audience, to make the speakers and panel guests “uncomfortable”.  Not to be mean, but to challenge, and to make them quite certain we want improvement each year from these leaders and captains of the planet (our spin).

Let’s take this challenge seriously.

Think up the questions that break the rules and go beyond the politically correct language sanctioned and approved by the public relations outfits. Let’s hone right in on what the true agendas and intentions are of the companies that drive the future. And take advantage of the skills and knowhow of these leaders and captains of the planet. Ask how we can help shift things faster.

What’s their view on recent, nasty back-peddling on climate and sustainability on the political agenda? What’s the impact on business?

How far do leading companies intend to push sustainability? And will the strategy be covert, under the driver of cost-savings and efficiencies, or will it stand proud and tall?

Will the industry chiefs personally speak up in public and defend rational debate?

At our political salon last year with Christine Milne, Mike Rann and a small cohort of industry leaders, we heard that the CEOs of the listed companies may want to support sustainability, but their boards are loathe to hear them say much at all in public. Why?

Will the silly Alice in Wonderlanders having their party down the rabbit hole convince business everything is just fine and we don’t need to do anything about carbon? Remember this line from denial-apologist Bjorn Lomborg at a recent Green Cities? (By the way, why was Lomborg not seriously challenged – if not metaphorically mauled ­– by the furious people in the audience, brushing away the smoke coming out of their ears?)

How to not let it happen again? Hear rubbish, call it.

At the CEO’s circle session, which The Fifth Estate will moderate, there is a golden opportunity with three of the industry’s leading companies putting their chiefs under the spotlight: Daniel Grollo from Grocon, Dan Labbad from Lend Lease and John Flecker from Mutliplex.

But don’t expect too many nasty firecrackers from Grollo, Labbad and Flecker.

These guys are the next, younger, generation … they “get” the climate change story and they “get” the value and sense and logic in sustainability.

Will this new guard (the start of the generational change that might save us?) be strong in the line of fire? Will they help shift the tolerance level of their boards to raise the volume on climate and sustainability?

If they’re transparent and sustainable, will they put pressure on the superannuation funds that pretend they are sustainable but still invest in coal mines?

What are we all going to do about the tenants who don’t give a damn?

Even the commercial agents are getting frustrated. See Lynne Blundell’s upcoming investigation on this story.

And what about the minefield of the resi market? The volume housing market where Neanderthal builders and developers are still scraping their knuckles on the ground?

How far will our brave young leaders venture into this high-risk enemy territory?

Will they tackle the rearguard action of the residential development lobby groups?

See the wonderful analysis from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment ASBEC tackles sustainability for the resi market in its roadmap for change.

Paul Schlaphoff on making your own opportunities

In our regular pulse-of-the-industry chats we recently caught up with Paul Schlaphoff of NuGreen Solutions, whose company has installed a solar energy system atop South Melbourne Market in a program that, at least in part, will use crowd-sourced funding.

According to Schlaphoff, the local City of Port Philip wanted a major solar array but lacked the total funds to match its ambitions, so the plan is to raise money from the community, which will then get to share in the proceeds of the green energy.

Schlaphoff was quite chuffed with the deal and said he had not seen anything similar in the past.

“It’s the first that I know of, I’ve not heard of something like this,” he says. “It’s a very good concept. It’s also something that puts money back into the community.

“It will power not just the (South Melbourne) market, but it will become a little business.

“Effectively, the market will have another 1000 panels [to boost capacity to 250 kiloWatts, from the current level of 34 kW] and they can sell that off, and those who have bought into the co-operative can benefit for the next five to six years.”

A feasibility study for the financial structure of stage two is expected by mid-year.

Schlaphoff says it’s exactly that kind of thinking that will drive the sustainability energy and retrofit market.

Opportunities exist – if you make them, he says. The company is working with logistics operators such as Toll Holdings, a pilot project with Hyatt Hotels and a large apartment on the Gold Coast – all of which he says could open up a huge flood of work.

“What’s the biggest market on the Gold Coast? We can offer a retrofit on the lighting that they don’t have to change for seven years and can offer 60 per cent energy cost savings.”

In the test project, on Cavill Avenue, the job involves 2500 light fittings.

Another three audits could produce more work.

“These are the guys that had the solutions sold to them; they know what they are getting,” Schlaphoff says.

But it’s tough going. The Hyatt job took more than a year for commencement on site.

You need to allow a long “sales cycle”, he says. And you need some strong motivational skills to get busy executives to stop concentrating on their day jobs for long enough to embrace the new ventures, which might seem risky.

“You need to motivate people to take on a project. With the Hyatt, we’re going through all the building services – the mechanical and lighting efficiency. ”

But it took a long time to get the green light. “We started in November but we first spoke to them in February 2011.”

There are plenty of companies who are big energy consumers and fall under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting framework.

“The companies we’re dealing with, luckily, have to report on a monthly basis on the efficiency targets they’ve set themselves. They have massive carbon footprints and need to compensate for this.”

One such company is Toll Logistics, with which NuGreen has one contract and with which it is pitching for another batch of eight projects.

But overall Toll has 75 properties that could do with an efficiency makeover.

“But it doesn’t matter what size businesses are, we can demonstrate cost savings. We get traction by doing pilot projects. We show them through data logging and show them how much they can save.

“What we are finding is that the traction and the awareness of the technology is gaining acceptance. ”

Schlaphoff is a quantity surveyor who, after 20 years in the game, decided to move out of the construction business into sustainability.

The background helped him come up with another idea in energy savings, to partner with builders tendering on projects.

By concentrating on the light fittings, and offering longer lasting LED lighting, he can help shave bid prices, sometimes by $1 million or $2 million.

Essentially this relies on the service agreement offered by the builder, and the certainty that this energy efficient lighting can help contain maintenance costs over longer periods of time.

“We can offer a lighting solution that will be 50 per cent more efficient than the specified fittings, with a seven to 10 year warranty or defects liability period, which means zero cost on maintenance over this period and the option to pay for this over a period of 5 years.”

The company can also provide a fully amortised solution to the lighting.

“Essentially this allows for the capital cost of the project (lighting and sensor technology) to be removed from the project cost and then amortised or paid for over the life of the project.”

Ivan Rijavec in new crowd-sourcing development idea

We just love people who push the boundaries. And not many people do that more than architects. In Melbourne one of our favourite boundary riders/pushers is Ivan Rijavec, who co-directed the controversial Now and When exhibition for the Venice Biennale.

Rijavec hates “beige”, the colour of choice of residential agents through history. And given that it’s the agents who seem to make all the decisions on “what sells and what

leases” (can you believe this?), then, well, beige rules. But Rijavec has a theory that we – the consumer – secretly hate beige as much as he does, along with “M” words such as majority, medium and mediocrity.

Another thought occurred – and that’s where it gets dangerous, these collisions between separate thoughts and ideas. Rijavec could see that off-the-plan sales, once scary, risky things that financiers came up with in order to underpin a development project during a crisis a recession or two ago, were taking away all of the risk, thanks to the buyer, and giving nothing back.

Why not use that power to underpin a project to grab a bit more decision-making power in what kind of building you were likely to live in?

“What you have now is a crowd underpinning the risk and getting nothing for it,” Rijavec says.

What about people who want a big vegetable-growing roof garden, who prefer to have no car parking on site, or who want pets?

“I was staggered to find that there are 33 million pets in Australia  – 36 per cent of households have dogs and 23 per cent have cats – and if you are trying to move into the city, particularly with one person households, people like their pet friends. But it’s very hard to get a body corporate that is sympathetic.”

Rijavec also called on the baby-boomer trait of dinner table conversations between friends dreaming of a way to age gracefully, among like-minded people.

Why not bring the concepts together, source right-minded designers and developers and buyers and see what happens?

The result is the Citiniche project and website and already, Rijavec told The Fifth Estate, there is some strong interest. Especially from the gay community, which he thinks could well kick off the first project in a site identified in Peel Street, Collingwood.

Trigen hits the dailies

It’s great to see sustainability debates break out into newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph.

In recent days, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has written a rebuttal of criticism of her major plans for trigen in the city.

“Much like her brother, Tony Abbott, who’s admitted you shouldn’t believe much of what he says, Cr [Christine] Forster’s opinion piece in yesterday’s paper shows she can’t be trusted to stick to the facts,” Moore said.

“The city is not spending and won’t spend $5 billion on trigeneration. If our current research proves that the project is achievable, we’ll commit $50 million to stage one in Green Square. Most of the network costs will be financed by the private sector.

“The city is not taking on the role of an energy provider. We are working towards an agreement with Cogent Energy to design, build and operate trigen networks.”

The debate certainly only gets wider and, hopefully, deeper. Cundall had a forum on trigen this week at its Milsons Point, Sydney, offices, which generated enough demand to plan a follow-up forum.

NASA is keeping watch

Here’s another snippet worth noting: NASA in the US is investigating Los Angeles as a climate laboratory to pin down its carbon footprint.

The Megacities Carbon Project also involves the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Keck Institute for Space Studies, and the California Air Resources Board, reports The Atlantic Cities.

Read more: https://www.theatlanticcities.com/technology/2013/02/how-nasa-scientists-are-turning-l-one-big-climate-change-lab/4824/