Nils Larsson

From Celsias New Zealand – 26 May 2010 – Keynote speakers during the first morning’s proceedings at the Sustainable Build Conference at Te Papa, Wellington have painted a dramatic picture of the daunting challenges facing the sector with the onset of climate change.

Setting the context for the next three days of scientific paper presentations on sustainable building design and construction, professors Brenda and Robert Vale, fellows of Victoria University’s School of Architecture, outlined the radical lifestyle changes necessary to create a future in which New Zealanders use a fair share of world resources.

Likening it to a world war rationing scenario, Robert Vale said: “We like to believe that if I have more then you can also have more, as some of it will trickle down to you. But this is not the case.”

“Not only will you have to own a Toyota Prius,” he joked. “But you will have to not drive it very much.”

Brenda Vale, drawing on current energy use research, called for a movement away from current increases in single occupant homes, to a situation in which grandparents would share homes with their families

The couple, who also authored The Autonomous Home and have been instrumental in sustainable design and building projects both here and in the UK, envisaged a complete ban on flying, and a return to shipborne passenger travel.

“You will probably travel less, but when you do travel you will travel for longer periods,” said Brenda.

In similar vein, Nils Larsson, executive director of the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment, said that it would probably take one or more major environmental disasters and several thousand deaths in a major industrialised city before western industrialised nations really started to take the situation seriously. Given that governments only tend to use ideas in a crisis which are already ‘lying around’, he argued that wide ranging contingency plans to manage the worst effects of climate change urgently need to be prepared.

His proposals included a complete ban on new coal-fired power stations unless effective carbon capture was in place and preparations for the relocation of essential transport and health facilities in the event they are destroyed by extreme weather events. He too liked the situation to war-time preparedness, in which it was essential to make these plans now.  Read more