What exactly is going on here?

Overflow of good stuff, bad stuff and indifference

11 March 2011 – Isn’t life in greenworld/sustainable world getting way big? The Fifth Estate, for one, is struggling to keep up. So here is a special cropped issue to bring you the latest news, sooner.

We’ve got Lynne Blundell’s report from Green Cities 2011 – more to come on that score – and we’re getting dizzy watching the machinations of politics as it twists and turns in spectacular contortions to cope with the infiltration of planning and property issues into its inner bunker.

You only have to take a look at Lend Lease, as it manages to get the law changed on contamination issues at its Barangaroo site in Sydney. After a NSW Land and Environment Court case has started and before the verdict is delivered (see the huge list of stories on this here )

What exactly is that company doing to its brand? This is the same company that took the biggest bow for 30 The Bond, Australia’s first green office building, the Green Olympics and a whole lot of other pace setting, benchmark raising stuff.

And what else is NSW in for with a change of government likely late this month?Who else is quaking in their workboots? On the other side of the sustainability fence, there’s bad news: Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell has promised to open up more  urban sprawl.

In Melbourne Leon Gettler interviews new Liberal premier Ted Baillieu. What is Baillieu’s attitude now that he’s clocked up 100 days in the job. On almost day one he said he would send the troops to colonise more greenfield sites for housing developments. The game plan is on track apparently. Baillieu, an architect, points out the reason: it’s cheaper to build on the fringe than in the urban centres. Yes, we know. Australia’s clever builders can whack up a house faster and cheaper than just about anyone else on the planet, on a comparable basis.

So what’s stopping them delivering the same fast-food style product for places that can deal with  bigger densities?

This is the critical question of the decade. It’s about to churn our political system to bits, (just like the carbon price issue.) Tony Arnel, chair of the Green Building Council of Australia, the World GBC and Victorian Building and Plumbing Commissioner, issued a powerful and effective call at GC11  for the industry to work out how to build more sustainable high rise housing.

Existing high-rise buildings do not perform so well on sustainability grounds, not because they can’t but because the people who put them up couldn’t have cared less about saving energy. In the past sustainability was not much of an issue.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

That doesn’t mean we stop trying and give in to cheap housing and fat profits on our farmlands and rural areas.

This is probably the cleverest property industry in the world. It can do anything it wants.

There are already a lot of very smart people globally working out how to import high rise prefab housing to Australia. Some are even doing it here.

There are geniuses working on technology, co-generations, tri-generation, distributed energy and water, communities, sustainable precincts.

We’ve got Landcom’s Precinx rating tool, a new communities rating tool on the way from the GBCA. Now we’ve got a building product life cycle assessment data base (see our story) and so much more on the way.

The community know there is something wrong with the system. They can probably live with denser communities if they are consulted, treated with dignity and included in the strategic planning for their communities. Plenty of precedents there. And at Barangaroo,  why not?

What they can’t stand is to be treated as irrelevant.

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au

The Fifth Estate – sustainable property news and forum