In 2010,  let’s get greener
By Tina Perinotto

Greg Paramor, one of the property industry’s golden men, has gone a distinct shade of green. His new Palm Beach house in Sydney’s northern beaches will be off the energy grid and be self sufficient in water. And it will have no air-conditioning.

For Paramor, it’s about putting his money where his mouth is. For him, sustainable property is about saving and making money. It’s also about the logic of the property industry cleaning up its act.

As a former head of Mirvac, founder of James Fielding, Paladin and Growth Equities Mutual, Paramor’s thoughts and actions epitomise the leadership that has led to property companies vying with each other on sustainability ahead of most, if not all, other industries.

In his new venture with Adrian Harrington, who was with him at Mirvac and James Fielding, and Johnathan Sweeney, formerly of The Trust Company, Paramor will pursue the greening of older properties and sustainable new development in funds designed for private and institutional investors

And he’s not even convinced about the climate change science. Even without climate change, he says, we need to lessen energy use in properties and start to conserve our resources. See the story here.

Bushfire rebuilds

The flip side of this upbeat note is the reality that the bushfire victims in Victoria face as they rebuild their homes. There are tough decisions to be made –  a lot of soul-searching as to how this can happen, if it should happen, and what sort of standards are now acceptable in fire-prone areas, as Lynne Blundell finds in her investigation.

Doing a wonderful job has been Archicentre, the building advisory arm of the Australian Institute of Architects whose members have pulled out all the stops to come up with housing designs for the future.

Politics

Those of us who hope for a “white Christmas” and universal bonhomie will be a group much shrunken in number and confidence this year. The ticking clock on climate change and the reality check of the Copenhagen conference will see to that. As we send out our final newsletter for the year we’ve seen our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, accused by China of lying about this country’s intentions on climate change: actions not matching the rhetoric; election promises soon crumbling under the weight of coal lobbyists and their highly paid advisers.

Good. Rudd needs to get serious about climate change. He needs to steer the Australian people through the biggest challenge in their history. The new Opposition line-up that is fighting most of the current proposals make it clear that he can now longer afford to be haphazard about climate change, or think he can wing it on a diplomatic nod and a wink.

Al Gore might prove to be right when he told Australians earlier in the year that the real agreements will come after Copenhagen. But regardless of the international politics and the dithering at the national level as the Opposition starts to oppose every climate action anyone can think of, there is no doubt that the property industry and its associated businesses and professionals will push on regardless with the job of retrofitting our cities for sustainability and climate change.

Here’s our list of the likely hot spots in property sustainability for 2010:

  • Mandatory disclosure of energy for commercial buildings of more than 2000 square metres when they are bought and sold.
    New rating tools making their mark when you build or refurbish buildings – shopping centres, residential precincts, data centres, hospitals, schools.
  • A recovering commercial property market, which means there will be more money and focus on sustainability measures.The Federal Government stepping in with demands for rational, long-term planning for thestates, tied to carrots and sticks.
  • More accommodation of innovative features, such as battery charging stations for electric cars, in new developments.
  • A change in direction for some big developers who say the regulations on development –  even at the local council level — are making projects unsustainable.
  • A rethink on how to do developments more cheaply, such as pre-fabricated high-rise apartments, as Nonda Katsalidis is doing in Melbourne.
  • Another rupture in the NSW Government (if the Sydney Morning Herald, and its campaigns, has its way) in large part sheeted home to planning issues of wrong-headed development approvals and abysmal failure of infrastructure, especially transport.
  • A start on Sydney’s last vast development site at Barangaroo. Will John Tabbart, head of the delivery authority, hold his nerve and deliver a sustainable outcome?
  • Another climate crunch as the drought bites and a forecast hottest year on record.
    A rethink on McMansions, now that Australia has beaten the world in dwelling size, and as architects start to wonder how to subdivide their massive spaces as multiple dwellings.
  • The start of serious preparation for climate change adaptation to protect critical infrastructure such as roads and sewerage systems.
  • China starts to make an impact on its greening agenda, in the process ramping up the competition for everyone.

Through most of these challenges, it will be the property industry that will mass at the front of the pack, notepad and calculator at the ready – just as it was first to “get” the message on climate change.

A positive note from Copenhagen
Rupert Posner, the Australian director of the Climate Group, sent good news from the COP-15 meeting this week. Local councils and regional governments rode like the cavalry into the conference to make agreements of their own, cutting through the impasse of top-level politics in the knowledge that it’s what happens at the city level that can change the world.
“While national governments argued about what they would do and who would do what,the Climate Group brought together the leaders of state and regional governments that have decided to lead on the issue,” he said in bulletin, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 December.

“My day started with 60 premiers, governers and ministers meeting around one large table. A unanimously agreed statement not only called for a deal in Copenhagen to recognise that up to 80 per cent of mitigation and adaptation actions are implemented at the sub-national level, but also outlined the collective agreement to plant at least 1 billion trees by 2015.

“After this closed session of political leaders, we went public. The UN administrator and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark kicked things off, making it clear that the UN recognised that state and regional governments had an important role to play in stopping climate change and that this should be recognised in the final agreement in Copenhagen.

“Over the past months this point has fallen in and out of the text. Hopefully, come Friday, it won’t be missing. The more inclusive the approach we take to tackling climate change, the better chance we have in succeeding.

“We then had a royal touch. Prince Albert II of Monaco and the CEO of the company Better Place, Shai Agassi, announced a working group that will put more electric vehicles on our roads. Better Place has committed to purchasing 100,000 of the vehicles next year and they could be common on Australian streets in just a couple of years.”

The gift of inspiration

Our occasional contributor Simon Carter of Morphosis sent these gifts of inspiration to TFE and his personal contacts for Christmas, among them:

  • Better Place initiating a project for an electric vehicle infrastructure in Canberra – and China gearing up to dominate the world’s electric vehicle market
  • Desertec starting design work on a $700 billion solar grid to power 15 per cent of Europe, and GE making US$17 billion a year from its Ecomagination business.
  • CarbonSystems Australia thriving as more companies implement structured carbon management strategies.
  • Walmart driving performance down their supply chains and implementing new energy efficiency standards for all its Chinese suppliers.
  • Curitiba for its sustainable plan from the 1970s that created one of the most prosperous cities in Latin America today.

  • Brazil announcing it will reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 per cent by 2020.
  • The Hunger Project continuing to take tens of millions of people out of poverty, sustainably and cheaply!
  • The State of the World Forum innovating new models of governance and operation for the world.

The team at The Fifth Estate wishes all our readers the very best for Christmas and the New Year.

We will update the website during the holidays with breaking news and our favourite postings from the year just gone. We will be back with a newsletter at the end of January.

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au