On world implosions (Not), budgets and smart sexy journeys through life

6 July 2012  – Comment: Well the world didn’t implode when they switched on the Large Hadron Collider to look for the God particle and it didn’t implode when they found it.

The universe as we know it also looked pretty steady after we switched on the carbon price mechanism in Australia.

In fact for some people it was looking decidedly better.

A small drop in the interest rates was all it took to ease the angst of the fragile national ego that’s been on some kind of sympathy bender with Europe and the US, completely unaware, it seems, that it’s inhabiting the most amazing of lucky countries.

Suddenly there’s a halt in the erosion of house prices, an uptick in housing construction and even a surge in landfill buying (retail spending).

All of this, of course, may not be so sustainable and some totally unsustainable, but we’re told that how much sustainability we “do” somehow depends on how much money we’ve got to spend on it, like it’s an optional extra, such as mag wheels.

It would be good if those master logicians could explain how the economy can keep functioning if you can’t breathe the air or drink the water.

Of course for many people in sustainability the political nasties are all just white noise. They might glance up occasionally and notice some gathering clouds but then it’s head down and back to the business case for green, lean and not so mean.

$200 million from Mac Bank and Westpac
People such as developer, sustainability consultant and former ISIS executive Geoff Gourley, for instance, who has ploughed a significant chunk of his own money to buy a share of the newly established NuGreen, which wants to focus on the retrofit market.

This is no smallfry venture. The group has shored up a $200 million loan facility from no other than Macquarie Bank and Westpac.

And it expects to turn over $10-20 million in its first year, doubling that in 2012-13.

Gourley says the retrofit market Australia-wide is worth $1 billion to $2 billion and points to big projects under way.

How many planets is your building?
Another person focused on the work rather than the noise is Caroline Noller, a former manager of corporate social responsibility for GPT, who has developed a rating tool that measures impact on the planet, as well as relative performance.

Ratings provided by her Footprint Company, which she has established with business partner developer Darren Vaux who she met on the site of Park Lane hotel development, (now Sheraton on The Park) is a budget-based mechanism. One planet means you are consuming your share of resources, sustainably. Two planets, not.

No fuss, no argument (and no pats on the back for doing better than your neighbour). Just like Jerry Yudelson said: “nature doesn’t do benchmarks”.

Budgets? Bring them on
The Fifth Estate is a big fan of budgets. You can’t argue with them. They’re non-negotiable (you either have one or you don’t), they’re non political, and they’re sustainable. By definition.

Why don’t we have budgets for energy? Like we did for water?

Another area where budgets are emerging is in workplaces, by way of less desks and less floorspace for the same number of people.

Groovy new workspace design concepts such as activity-based working recently canvassed by both Colliers International and Jones Lang LaSalle, used by Macquarie Bank, CBA and others, and covered in detail in our extended project case study of the GPT fitout at the MLC Centre in Sydney.

The latest to embark on this ABW, we hear, will be the NSW State Property Authority, but it’s not clear if this is a strategy that will be deployed to the rest of state government departments. Yet.

What happens, as our source describes it, is that a manager glances down the office and notices that there is a consistent proportion of desks vacant.

If you eliminate fixed desks, go paperless and have good technology you can work anywhere and sell this as a great new stride in productivity and a solution that’s reasonable, sensible and sustainable.

And yes, the State Property Authority is aiming to eliminate paper. That will be interesting to watch with all that welded on commitment to hard copy plans and property documents.

Trigen looks even better
Here’s another good budgeting idea, canvassed by Alan Davis of WSP Built Ecology.

In his article published this issue in Spinifex, Davis runs through ways to cut costs and beat the carbon price.

If you can get a tri-generation kit onto your site, or even a local thermal or chilling station, there are some generous financial incentives available that just might equate to low or no cost of procurement and installation.

The trigeneration story gets better, says Davis.

“Tri-generation technology on a precinct scale appears to present a more commercially-viable solution than the shift from coal fired to natural gas fired generation through utilisation of combined cycle gas turbine technology.

“The figures are $20 a tonne CO2-e for CCGT technology versus $0/tonne CO2-e for co- or tri-generation technology.”

Smarter, leaner, cheaper – that’s what greener is all about. Budgets again.

Add in smaller.

The Europeans, baby
See the great article by Robin Mellon of the Green Building Council who talks about the sexy in small, European style.

See: Sexy … as in small: the European angle on cities

You only have to think about the difference between lugging around huge luggage on your travel, compared with an overnight bag that lets you skip and hop with vigour. It’s the same story with an SUV that you need to fuel and jam into parking spots, or a huge house that you need to heat and cool.

Remember what the rich say in the luxury travel magazines: never take anything you can’t carry in one hand.


There will be more coming from the  Built Environment Meets Parliament summit soon….just gotta push our way through the daily deluge of news in this amazingly busy industry we’re all in.