View from Kangaroo Pt to Brisbane

By Michael Heenan, and Tim Elgood

31 August 2011 – The Green Building Council of Australia’s master class of 60 senior professionals in government, architecture services and construction pooled their resources In Brisbane on 25 August to design a sustainable community for 2030.

Led by Michael Heenan and Tim Elgood they redeveloped Kangaroo Point in Brisbane as a hypothetical Kangaroo Island City for 2030.

A real and sustained reduction in the carbon cost of building and energy use by 2030 can only be achieved with a whole-of-community “carrot as well as stick” approach.  This was the key takeout from our presentation to the GBCA ‘s Design 2030 forum in Brisbane.

We looked at a range of factors that will influence how we live in 2030 and proposed a national carbon reduction fund be set up to reward individuals and communities for their energy saving achievements.

Our strong message is that it is not enough simply to put a price on carbon – you have to change people’s behaviour, at a day-to-day level, both in the workplace, and at home.

To achieve that, we need to give people a reward or bonuses for their efforts to reduce consumption, both as individuals and at a workplace and community level.

A rigorous “whole of community” approach to meeting sustainability targets is required, to include designers, developers, builders and materials manufacturers.

In particular we need:

  • Building and precinct design that set clear, visible real-time benchmarks for energy use, both in the construction phase, and when buildings are occupied
  • Build-in technology (energy use meters and calculators) to give occupants immediate feedback on consumption
  • Mechanisms for communities to set their own energy reduction targets, and buy-in to their achievement
  • Tangible rewards in the form of rebates or bonuses, for achieving those benchmarks.

Most importantly, we need to ask property owners and developers what incentives they will provide to get communities to share the costs of reducing carbon.

The GBCA has called for complementary measures to support the carbon price scheme including tax breaks and white certificates, investment in research,development and commercialisation of low-emissions technologies and mandatory disclosure.

Our presentation identified design trends and themes that will determine what our communities look like in 2030, referencing the GBCA Green Communities framework.

First, we identified key factors that have shaped communities throughout history – from the ancient city of Pompei (destroyed in 79AD) to modern communities in Brisbane (Kelvin Grove Student Housing), Sydney (Kogarah Town Square) and Vietnam (Long Thanh Community).

We then took the best components of sustainable communities, past and present, coupled with the benefits of new and emerging technologies and looked into the future.

So what will it be like to live in 2030?

Australia’s population will be 35 million.

Communities will have major precinct-wide renewable energy and recycled water infrastructure.

A formal strategy for improving building performance – the Community Carbon Fund will be in place, with bonuses and incentives for improving carbon performance.

All new residential and commercial buildings will be carbon neutral (operational carbon).

Tight performance requirements will be in place for existing buildings with 60 per cent  minimum savings.

There will be a high carbon tax on new building materials.

Total carbon foot printing will be a common metric and  cooling towers will be banned.

Energy utilities will be able to switch off appliances in your building on peak days.

Waste management and materials will be a focus of reduction targets.

Annual energy costs for a typical house are likely to be $5,000 pa. Petrol costs will be $4 per litre

Queensland is set to double its population in the next 50 years and will be the

second most populous state by 2050.

Michael Heenan is a principal of Allen Jack+Cottier Architects, He is designing a number of new cities with disruptive environmental strategies where urbanity and ecology share equal status.  He was a judge at the World Architecture Festival in 2010 and 2011.

Tim Elgood is principal, Cundall Sustainability and ESD Consultants.

His main area of expertise is in integrating low-energy mechanical services and passive design techniques with architectural designs in order to determine the most appropriate environmentally sustainable design solution.