Unstoppable green army, nasty unsociable media, Coburg project and more

7 October 2011 – Some wonderful news on the advancing army of green professionals: unstoppable, it seems. It is growing in confidence and numbers and now income. If all keeps travelling in this trajectory there will soon be a shortage, so educators be warned.

Sustainable jobs in property came out top of the money tree and this will buoy the industry. Those who are more experienced earned most, and 10 years’ experience resulted in up to double the average salary.

But what’s this about satisfaction?

Predictably, those in the not-for-profit sector reported greatest satisfaction, but those in the property sector … not so hot.

What might explain this? See the story

Spruiking, social media style

The audacity of the marketing and political manipulation brigade is breathtaking. Their ability to hide behind fake  personas in the social media space so that they can spruik messages dressed up as genuine opinion has reached new heights.

Today we have astroturfing and mummy bloggers, harnessed for the job. The latter are ordinary mums primed with corporate message. They have no training, no ethical body or peer review to create boundaries, but followers that can reach up to 120,000.

For those trying to persuade, in a genuine and ethical way, that we must fight climate change and be more sustainable, it’s a deeply disturbing story

Coburg project

Numerous parties involved in the collapse of the massive $1 billion green precinct project at Coburg in Melbourne’s north continue to vent their frustration, with some indications there will now be a legal challenge.

The project involved Lorenz Grollo’s Equiset group, a team of consultants and three years of intense work for a collaborative development with Moreland City Council, before the council pulled the plug, citing insufficient commercial payback.

According to Grollo and other sources involved in the project, its collapse will smash confidence that a local authority is capable of delivering the outcomes required for the much-mooted green precincts.

The council told The Age newspaper that there was extensive consultation before it was decided the deal did not stack up for council.

The key reason seemed to be the cost of delivering some highly ambitious green outcomes, namely six-star Green Star housing. Also included was affordable housing, underground car parking, and the upgrade to the public realm through plazas.

Grollo told the newspaper: ”We had to factor those in to the entire commercial offer. We reiterated to council, these are expensive items … but someone needs to pay for them. You can’t just put pressure on the developer to swallow those as costs.

”With all those components, we said you have to discount the land price or pay for them outright, or have some other mechanism, otherwise the project will not wear all those costs.”

Grollo said Equiset aspired to more sustainable green buildings. ”But you can’t deliver them overnight … there should be a stepped approach. Ultimately it’s the end user – residential or retail – who has to pay for it.”

Moreland chief executive Peter Brown said: ”What came out was that the model Equiset put forward was unaffordable for us. It wasn’t meeting a lot of council’s aspirational targets. We came to the conclusion that, as a value-for-money proposition, it was not going to work.”

Mr Brown said the council had suggested negotiating on a project basis, rather than the whole program.

”Nothing in the project they had on the table indicated what value there was to council in giving them a 20-year option over council’s land,” he said.

”If you’re going to give a company a 20-year option over council land, you would expect some significant return back to the community to help set up the public space and infrastructure. That wasn’t demonstrated. After advice from various parties, we decided to call it a day.”

Asia calling

Jeff Robinson, sustainable buildings group leader for Aurecon, is among the growing number of consultants interested in the work emerging from the Asian regions.

Robinson earlier this year addressed a conference in Vietnam on green buildings and says while it is still very early days on the journey, there is huge interest.

“It depends where you are in Vietnam, they are in the really early stages, but if you look at somewhere like Singapore, there is tons of stuff going on, really good stuff,” he said.

In Singapore this relates to the government’s ambitious target to have 80 per cent of existing buildings sporting a Green Mark rating by 2030.

See an article by Lend Lease’s Rod Leaver on this.

Zero carbon

Zero carbon houses are all the go. We’ve had a tentative start in Australia, most recently with the new Zero Carbon Challenge organised by the South Australian Integrated Design Commission.

So far there is a shortlist of five teams that reckon they can build a zero carbon house for only $300,000.

According to one of the shortlisted contestants, Deborah Davidson, associate manager South Australia for Cundall, it’s true this seems way too cheap and there could be some free time donated by team members. But once the prototype is built, she says that costs to replicate the design will fall.

The shortlist comprises:

  • Team VIM: Buzz Architecture; Scholz Vinall Design; Scott Salisbury Group/AREA Construction; JDR#1; and Connor Holmes; Exhibition studios; Dr Terry Williamson, Adelaide University; Jonathan Muecke; Vanessa Menadue; and Lyrian Daniel.
  • Collaborative Future: Cundall; TS4 Architecture; Holdfast Construction; Eco Active; Urban Sustainable Landscapes; MLEI; WT Partnership; Acdev; Ken Long; and Brock Urban Projects.
  • Energy Aspect Living: Energy Aspect Living; Bateup Urban Design; Alex Heath; RCI Consulting Engineers; and Bateup Visual Graphics.
  • Sekisui House Services SA: All required expertise from in-house.
  • Swanbury Penglase: Swanbury Penglase; Arup; Stephen Robert Berry; Rossdale Homes; and UniSA’s Dr Frank Bruno.

Zero housing was all the go in Toronto, too, for the Green Building Council of Australia team there for the World GBC and Green Build expo.

According to a postcard from Green Building Council of Australia chief executive Romilly Madew to staff back in Australia, the Australian delegation visited the Harmony House Equilibrium project in Burnaby, British Columbia.

“This is a net zero energy house and a winning entry in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s Equilibrium Initiative competition and aims to achieve LEED for Homes Platinum,” Madew said.

“The project incorporates a wide range of other green features such as low toxicity interior finishes, materials with recycled content, foam insulations using non-ozone depleting expanding agents, water conservation and rainwater harvesting.

“These measures aim to lower its environmental impact, conserve resources and create a healthy indoor environment for the occupants.

“It is the only Equilibrium home to be constructed on the west coast, and will be the first building in British Columbia that will be a zero carbon building, meaning it will emit no greenhouse gases from heating, cooling, hot water and the use of electrical appliances”. Details https://harmony-house.ca/