Clive Palmer: Is this the man who won the election tomorrow?

Is this the man who won the election tomorrow?

20 August 2010 – It’s way too late to convince anyone to vote for Labor because it has promised $1 billion in tax write offs to fund sustainable property outcomes plus a few other bits and pieces. And because the Libs have promised to scrap even the modest Green Building Fund.

But imagine for an instant that on Monday morning Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott calls a “citizen’s assembly” from the sustainable property industry and says, “Look guys, we’re sorry we were playing dead during the election campaign on all the climate issues; we just didn’t want to startle the rabbits in the headlights.

“And hey, we really do care about the environment and we know that the property industry is the one part of the entire economy where we can fast track some real change without attracting the attention of you-know-who. By the way, have you ever had Clive Palmer staring at you with those double barrel eyes of his?

“So tell us, you representative sample of doers and thinkers, what should we do to make this wonderful place a better place?”

We put this question – hoping it does not remain hypothetical – to Lend Lease Group Head of Sustainability Maria Atkinson, Melbourne City Council’s Cathy Oke, The Green Building Council chief executive  Romilly Madew, Thinc Projects and KnowChange organiser Elena Bondareva, and Morphosis director Simon Carter. Read the story.

But regardless of the outcome, come Monday the property industry  will breathe a sigh of relief and pick up on the momentum suspended by the election hoopla.

And that momentum is massive. Major tenants want high Green Star and Nabers ratings. And the owners are working feverishly to come up with brilliant new ways to transform their stock.

The new Commercial Building Disclosure website shows just how much work is still ahead and perhaps why some industry leaders were so worried about mandatory disclosure.

The website’s list of rated buildings, which we published in full last issue, reveals the industry’s major buildings stripped bare of their green power supplements, which are used to bump up their star rating. The only measure allowed is pure – or dirty – energy use.

And the results are enough to worry the leasing agents: only a handful of five star buildings are available in the major CBDs.

Lights aint lights

A issue that’s come almost out of the blue – for The Fifth Estate anyway – is how significant lighting is.

Lynne Blundell has done another of her wonderful investigative pieces on the issue to reveal a minefield of traps for the consumer – retail and commercial alike. For instance, are LEDs the next big thing?

LEDS have changed a lot in the last two to three years, she reports. The light output has gone up but then so has the quantity of metal at the back to draw out the heat, leading to disposal issues at end of life. And linear and compact fluorescent lighting is much more efficient than incandescent globes but it also has contaminants such as mercury to deal with. So is the energy savings from one dimension sustainable from a whole lifecycle point of view?

There are big issues here, typical of this fast moving and complex industry we are all coming to grips. Read the story here.

Lend Lease
When Lend Lease’s then chief executive Greg Clarke unveiled the company’s new headquarters at 30 The Bond in Sydney in 2004, which changed the face of Australia’s property industry for ever, one of the assembled media representatives asked him how much extra the building had cost. He almost blanched. And declined to answer. Clearly it was heaps and it was a huge gamble for a new type of building for which there was no model, no neat financial payback curve and no guarantee that even the technology would work.

But also clear was that to the brave go the spoils. Yes, the building had or maybe even still has issues. So what? A brave new thing in business is often a loss leader. Lend Lease cemented its reputation as a company with true leadership credentials in the environmental field and these may have cushioned the company somewhat during some of its tougher times.

CH2 in Melbourne likewise set out to be an exemplar of green buildings, taking an even greater leap into unknown green territory.

Again the risk was high that its most innovating and experimental elements could go wrong – and they did. So what? Today it continues to be a star on the world’s green building circuit and has set new benchmarks and has taught the industry heaps, all thanks to a brave government organisation, in this case the Melbourne City Council using public funds the way they should be used, for the public good.

It’s clear that large corporations with an eye on their long term viability and value can perform the same role. Certainly Lend Lease with 30 The Bond fits that mold.

And with Lend Lease new solar venture, headed by Chris Carolan, and the high profile appointments made in Maria Atkinson’s global sustainability unit with Ché Wall and Joe Van Bellleghem, it looks like the giant of property is once again about to stalk out in front.

Speaking to TFE on the announcement of his new job, Wall pointed firmly to the private sector as the energiser for change.

In the face of public policy failure on a carbon tax, or any meaningful policy, other, perhaps than the new green building tax break promised by Labor, it’s the private sector once again that must seize the day and make its own case for a better built environment, Wall said.

Onwards!

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au