On conserving energy like it’s a good thing; green stars; snapping up the stars, and gold stars.
If there’s a slowdown in green and cut backs in some parts of the property industry, it’s not in the energy efficiency sector of the market.
See our report on Greensense a Perth based company barely four years old and already up to 15 staff, with another five on the way.
And if you’ve been keeping track of our pages you will know that’s not an unusual trajectory.
In Melbourne a much larger company that told us this week it’s got so much energy retrofit work it dares not say anything positive about itself right now in case it attracts more work (because it would be a crime to say no). A big project will be announced soon.
Also interesting is this company’s move into the industrial space.
And by that we’re talking manufacturing of foods and other products, water, waste and, yes, the dreaded mining industry.
It’s GE’s industrial internet thought bubble from last year taking root in the minds and thoughts of floating last year without use of the word green, but adding up to exactly the same outcomes: energy savings, resource efficiency, sustainability. It’s the business case. And carbon equals dollars one way or another.
Sydney Town Hall
Good news and bad news from Sydney Town Hall this week. In the bad news was that the City of Sydney and Cogent Energy, owned by Origin, had called off their agreement to build a trigen precinct energy plant at Green Square, but hopefully not forever.
The mayor, chief executive Monica Barone and assorted experts explained why the economics, the regulatory barriers and the NABERS rating system all mitigated against a viable trigen system.
Read our story.
However, the City is still installing a plant and the various pipe infrastructure needed for future trigen. Perhaps fuelled by bio-gas when the city’s renewable energy master plan, also released this week, takes effect.
Included in that plan by the way is a wonderful idea that Australia could – federal and state governments willing – switch its energy mining and export industry from coal to sunshine. Now isn’t that a nice note to look forward to?
The good news was on energy efficiency but this time for apartments, which make up 30 per cent of the city’s building stock.
At the recent launch – also by Clover Moore – of the Smart Blocks program, which is designed to assist owners apartment buildings to go greener, Allan Hoy, building manager of Hyde Park Towers, said his building had switched to LED lights at a cost of $23,713 and payback of only 19 months.
The reduction in power bills will go from about $184,000 a year to an estimated $117,000 a year, a target that was well on track, he said.
What’s been suffering to some extent is the new green building market, at least in sentiment, if not in the actual numbers of Green Star certified buildings.
Partly it’s the spillover from the GFC which has taken five years to reach Australia – but by hook or by crook we were determined to be hit just as badly as everyone else (except we haven’t by a long shot).
According to Peter Verwer, chief executive of the Property Council of Australia, construction activity is down by 30 per cent from the peak, and that’s a big hit. So it’s no surprise there is some scaling back of some activity.
What people have been saying is they want to build to Green Star standards. Green Star works. It’s won the war. Yes the battle scarred property soldiers are limping along and trying to cut some costs so they can show the stock market they’re as tough as anybody else but the game to go green is not reversing any time soon.
When in doubt, always look at the big picture.
Yes it’s true some parts of the market say they will build green or retrofit green but they’d rather keep the costs of certification in their pockets. But as the GBCA has said on several occasions, it’s listening and it’s changing its processes to become more streamlined, and making it cheaper and easier for companies to prove they are green.
A former IT manager for the GBCA, Craig Stump, is also chipping in with a new cloud-based program, Certify, which will make documentation tracking easier not just for Green Star but for any environmental rating. And he says the big companies he’s shown it to already are very enthusiastic. Another positive sign.
In the US the same battle – to certify or not to certify – has been waged but with perhaps more sinister motives. In that country there are alternative pseudo-certifications for buildings using words such as performance and so forth in the title, so that the use of PVC and other chemicals of concern can be used without being declared, as the USGBC wants.
You could tell this was a huge issue at the Green Build conference in November last year in San Francisco: an emotionally charged chief of the USGBC Rick Fedreizzi challenged the industry to not only go green but to prove it.
It’s the proof that differentiates the market spin.
Crowd source your neighbourhood amenity
To really warm the cockles on a cool winter (enjoy, there might not be too many left), Atlantic Cities had a lovely story on Thursday about crowdfunding real estate as a way of protecting the neighbourhood from nasty rampant developers (not the nice ones).
The idea is to sell “small shares of local real estate to people who live near it”. The potential is to alter the “currently toxic politics of urban real estate development”.
Now where have we heard that one before?
“A huge network of small-time, commercial real-estate shareholders could provide a much-needed counterweight to the plague of NIMBYs strangling America’s cities.
“This is a key point. Crowdfunded real estate isn’t an important idea because it may enable the lady next door to make it big like a real-estate developer. It’s an important idea because it changes the trajectory of neighbourhoods. The crowdfunding mechanism changes what gets built.
Investors don’t get any control over how a property is managed or leased in exchange for their investment.
“What it does mean, as an investor, is that you have to place your faith in both the project itself and the people who will be managing it.
It could be $200 you’re willing to “kick in to a communal bucket to ensure the vacant building down the street doesn’t just become another bank branch”.
“And if that property does well with time – with the kind of patience that many big investors lack – then maybe the people who profit from it will actually live in the neighbourhood.
“The point isn’t to find the sweetest property to park your money, anywhere you can. It’s to leverage your money to influence where you live. If where you live ultimately makes you a bit of money, too, all the better.”
Read the whole story.
Job stars and gold stars
How sweet for Amanda Steele who was out of a job for about 10 minutes after Stockland decided to downscale its sustainability team, before being snapped up by CBRE.
And in another nice job story, Bill Dowling who previously ran Environmental IQ has been in Penang in Malaysia these past two years after taking a job to help reduce poverty for farmers.
The website aas.cgiar.org tells the whole story, he said.
And yes, climate change is a real worry in his part of the world. Work on resilience is increasingly top of mind.