Architects move against gongs for bling, NABERS goes 6 star and green is Go, of course

24 August – Who says architects are quiet types?

You don’t normally expect architects to create a seething cauldron of controversy but in recent times they’ve leapt right into the fray.

First it was with a major restructure of the NSW office of the Australian Institute of Architects which had some members up in arms. Until the leadership and management closed ranks.

Next, has been the astounding decision to drop the separate category for sustainable buildings.

The award may or may not still be given in other categories – this much remains unclear – but at a meeting last year at Tusculum, the institute’s NSW bunker, some fairly heavyweight names decided it was time for sustainability to stand on its own two or four feet and compete on all the criteria that normally wins the gongs.

The Fifth Estate sadly could not make this year’s NSW presentation evening. That was a mistake. By all accounts there was anguish, shock and hurt when NSW jury chair Genevieve Lilley told it like she and her colleagues saw it.

Tone Wheeler who has made a huge name for himself as a pioneering sustainable architect, way ahead of the curve, stood solidly alongside. As did Ken Maher. Both were at the deciding meeting in December and with them were five other design heavyweights including Tristram Carfrae of Arup and Peter Stutchbury.

One of the audience members at the awards night Debra Williams contacted The Fifth Estate very upset and said other architects she spoke to felt the same: it was too early to presume sustainability was understood across the industry.

“All I can think is that they certainly have a long way to go,” she said. “Especially judging from this year’s crop of award winners including examples with multi-storied glass curtain walls facing west and north and others that have done this as well but can get away with it because they have a 5 star green star energy rating.

“ I only noted one reference to re-cycling water as part of the new building description (nothing ever mentioned about waste re-cycling.)”

As for a “sustainability policy” produced by the institute, Williams says she never knew of its existence.

Tone Wheeler who was a member of the group that made the decision and, among other institute roles, a former chair of its sustainability committee, says ridding the institute of a separate category for sustainability is designed to make all buildings entered respond to sustainability criteria.

The separate award, which in NSW is named for famed environmental activist Milo Dunphy, was always meant to be a transitional measure.

Wheeler is adamant it’s time the profession became greener all around.

But what is the answer?

The Fifth Estate needs to hear from you, the experts –  the people in the industry who see face to face where the system is failing greater sustainability and where it’s winning.

We hear, off the record, how highly awarded green buildings fail on some technology or design issue. But is that fair? Can we get it right first up just because we say a building is green?

Wheeler says a building needs to be successful on every level – including beauty, which he says is shorthand for enduring qualities of good design and the indefinable thing that ‘lifts the spirit’.” Presumably as a society we want to hang on to buildings like that when we see them instead of refurbishing or rebuilding.

We have a mentality says Wheeler where we ditch the bathroom in a home on average every 21 years and the kitchen 19 years.  (It’s worse in the commercial world where five years is the average lifespan of many facilities).

Not in the old homes and hotels and restaurants of Europe. The same marble benchtop there is expected to last 400 years. And take a look at the latest interiors magazines, the ones where the owner decides on a minimal intervention and simply puts up with the low doorway or the bathroom in an odd place and configuration and simply repairs what’s there. There’s a real charm about such places that overcomes the “convenience” of modern design thinking and what can seem like the “cookie cutter makeover.”

There has to be a better way to go but right now we are at the exploration/revolution stage and there will be many “U” turns and strange bends to take before we think the road is even half right.

Send us your thoughts. This is a really important issue that urgently needs exploring.

NABERS goes 6 stars
Lynne Blundell has come roaring back after a break with another great story on the controversy that seems to never go away: NABERS.

It should have been a clean and neat celebration that NABERS Energy is now going to 6 stars, something that seemed unachievable when the rating tool started and the industry average was 2.5 stars.

On the cards next is 7 stars and zero carbon…well, that’s where the rest of the advanced green building world is moving to, according to launch hosts Lisa Corbyn and Matthew Clark.

So it has to be one of life’s enduring mysteries, why some parts of the property industry, and a diminishing part, seem to dislike NABERS and keep it under fire.

Not enough consultation, said the Property Council’s Peter Verwer. Apparently 23 submissions from the industry including the PCA was not sufficient. Not fair enough in its methodology and transparency of the algorithms, says the PCA.

All received in submissions and being addressed, said Matthew Clark.

Maybe it’s like some primal belief that if you keep something under pressure it will perform better.

And yet in private conversations from building owners and consultants there is generally approval of the tool. Sure it has its faults, but then this is an emerging industry and everything is under constant review.

Green Star has set the pace with its current major consultation and review.

Both sets of tools have problems that relate to the nature of what’s being attempted. It’s all new, never been attempted before and there’s no road map.

What might be driving some disquiet is that some buildings will now feel like they are slipping behind as the scale expands and this will have an impact on values, especially now that the capital markets are starting to “get it” that highly rated buildings are generally worth more.

Sadly that’s the tough reality of the market. But it’s also what makes it so competitive and an amazing green achiever.

Get with the (green) program
The volatility and sensational financial news just keeps pouring out. Now we hear of job cuts in the thousands and possibly another 100,000 in the wings.

But look at the sustainable property industry. Where would you rather be?

Davis Langdon’s latest sentiment survey placed this wonderful budding industry at the centre of the positive sentiment. In fact probably the only positive action in property expected in the next six  to 12 months.

It’s part idealistic sentiment (what, to survive?) and part the fear of being left behind, says the report. https://thefifthestate.com.au/archives/26856

Here’s why people are feeling upbeat about sustainable property in a sea of gloom:

  • the ingenious environmental upgrade agreements (hopefully) nearing a bedded down model, see how Napier & Blakeley are shaping up for a share of the spoils  https://thefifthestate.com.au/archives/26805
  • mandatory disclosure forcing bucketloads of upgrade work, so that there is a shortage of NABERS energy assessors
  • A new sixth star for NABERS Energy, which will ratchet up the competition again
  • A carbon price meaning that everyone will think longer/harder about energy savings
  • Proof that greener, rated green buildings are worth more (Search our site with “Nils Kok” and IPD)
  • an impending a $1 billion tax breaks for green buildings programs promised by the government (let’s hope they deliver)
  • industry evolution/trends towards healthier/greener buildings, just as we moved from fibro sheds to elegant towers
  • the shakedown globally meaning that value is front and centre and rubbish buildings, food, clothes, homewares, houses, Hummer lifestyles are out (see the wonderful research from CommSec on smaller housing,  intergenerational sharing, and preferences from the young ones on simpler housing close to where the action is)

If you are still in doubt about where the future lies, read this small sample of what the smart money is thinking (and beware the inevitable scams that will follow)

From Investors Hub, https://investorshub.advfn.com/boards/read_msg.aspx?message_id=66161735#

Dear Traders,

An unprecedented economic crisis is coming and $10 TRILLION is going to change hands.

It’s NOT what you think but it will create one of the most lucrative investment opportunities since the Industrial Revolution; and it will not matter what happens to the Dow Jones Industrial Average or the Spot Price of Gold. Grid Cloud Solutions Inc. (GRDC) offers savvy investor exposure to the only sure fire sector destined to win, come Hell or high water.

The unfortunate truth is that we are hopelessly addicted to oil. And the readily available supply of that oil is coming into serious question… regardless of the current Spot Price.

  • The chief executive of of Total SA, one of the world’s largest oil companies, recently confessed that the world can’t increase oil output beyond current levels.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that output from the world’s existing oil fields is dropping about 4.5 per cent per year and by up to 18 per cent per year at some of the biggest oil fields
  • The New York Times reports that many of the world’s top oil exporters may have to begin importing oil and natural gas within a decade to keep up with rising energy demands inside their borders.

Whether or not you believe that “peak oil” is a geologic reality, the economic reality is that this year alone we will buy $700 billion worth of oil from countries that don’t like us very much.

That’s four times the annual cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and roughly equal to the amount that was picked out of taxpayers’ pockets in order to “bail out” Wall Street. Projected out over the next 10 years our tab for foreign oil will come to a staggering $10 TRILLION!

  • That’s a gut-wrenching amount of money to just throw away, especially when our economy is in such turmoil. And from the looks of it, things are only going to get worse
  • In 1970, we imported 24 per cent of our oil. Today it’s nearly 70 per cent and growing.
  • And although we represent a mere 4 per cent of the world’s population, we use nearly 25 per cent of its oil.

The good news is that there now is a solution that is both feasible and profitable…

So get ready to make HUGE GAINS with GRDC, this is one undervalued green penny play and hidden gem you don’t won’t to miss or get left out on. GRDC strategically invests its capital with the same forward thinking, shareholder friendly way that turned Berkshire Hathaway into a legendary company and Warren Buffett into the world’s richest man.

GRDC offers comprehensive design, development and management services to the Biomass, Solar Thermal & PV and Wind energy industry. The company’s shares are currently dirt cheap and could be about to make an EXPLOSIVE move! Hurry and grab all the shares you can at these cheap prices. $5000 invested in GRDC today, could be worth more than $25,000 by Labor Day!

So don’t wait, grab your piece of the $10 trillion pie while most of Wall Street is still distracted by last week’s events.