Indonesia can leapfrog our green building mistakes

13 May 2014 — Indonesia has the potential to leapfrog the West in terms of sustainable development, according to Chris Tanner, Brisbane firm Bligh Tanner’s principal engineer – planning and environment.

Speaking to The Fifth Estate by phone from Jakarta, Mr Tanner said the Austrade green building-focused trade mission he’s been part of had been encouraging regarding opportunities that exist for Australia to assist Indonesia.

One of the areas Indonesia is extremely progressive in is energy efficiency, Mr Tanner said, which is partly a matter of necessity given the country’s limited energy infrastructure, compared with Australia.

“There is no question mark over [energy efficiency],” he said. “There is a strong movement here for introducing new things, of being proactive.”

Chris Tanner

Big plans for a more sustainable new city

One of the major changes Mr Tanner has been observing on the trade mission is the major expansion of private development compared with his previous visit to the nation 20 years ago.

“There are very large private developments for houses, hotels and shopping centres, which are going to provide a lot of opportunity to start retrofitting microgrids and decentralised water systems,” Mr Tanner said.

One of the major development projects Mr Tanner and the other members of the trade mission have been to see is the 6000 hectare New City project on the outskirts of Jakarta. On completion, it is planned that up to 300,000 people will live there – a scale that dwarfs both Australian urban renewal and greenfield projects.

“The masterplan has a lot of employment built in, including industrial, manufacturing, retail and commercial enterprises,” Mr Tanner said.

“One of the seemingly intractable issues in Jakarta is traffic congestion, so having everything [residential and employment] co-located is a big step forward.”

The growth of the Green Building Council of Indonesia

Mr Tanner and the other trade mission delegates also attended a range of green building functions, including the World Green Building Council – Asia Pacific Network Seminar, Green Right Green Building Expo and Conference, and undertook visits to green building sites in Jakarta and the city of Bandung, which is approximately 140 kilometres south east of Jakarta.

The Bandung trip included visiting an eco-learning centre, meeting with local business leaders and a tour of the GreenShip rated Bandung Institute of Technology, a tertiary institution. Mr Tanner explained that GreenShip is the Green Building Council of Indonesia’s equivalent of Green Star.

The GBCI was founded in 2009, and involves a range of stakeholders including the construction industry, industrial building and property sector, government, educational institutions and research, professional associations and community-based environment groups.

In mid 2013, the Indonesia Government introduced new environmental building guidelines for the greater Jakarta area. The guidelines apply to schools and other educational centres of 10,000 square metres or more; hotels and health centres of more than 20,000 sq m; and shopping malls, offices and apartment complexes over 50,000 sq m.

Categories of green compliance these types of buildings are now subject to include energy efficiency, focused mainly on reducing consumption; water conservation, including demonstrating water-efficient landscaping, water recycling and rainwater harvesting systems; and air quality, including ventilation and infiltration.

Drainage canals in downtown Jakarta

The issues around water infrastructure are human as well as technical

Mr Tanner observed that in terms of development and expectations, from where the community has been to where it would like to be in the future, it is a long journey, particularly compared with Australia. Water infrastructure is one crucial issue.

“Around 2010, only 25 per cent of the people in Jakarta had access to a safe, piped water supply. [The other 75 per cent] either did not have piped water, and carried water from wells, or the water they had was not safe,” Mr Tanner said.

“The goal was to get to 50 per cent of people having safe, piped water by 2014, and they haven’t got there.”

Tanner’s areas of expertise include water infrastructure projects in Australia, and to his expert eye, the issues appear to be a lack of investment and also the sheer practical difficulties involved in retrofitting pipework through large, highly developed city areas.

There is also a cultural requirement for the Muslim population that water quality be of a high standard, which makes the type of water recycling systems being constructed on both a micro and macro scale in Australia a problematic option.

As Mr Tanner explained, “Purity [in terms of water] is a big deal and it is hard to do given the huge sprawling cities and the sprawling networks of pipes.

“The Muslim population are very sensitive to the water they bathe in, and are reluctant to consider treated waste water. That is a shift that may take longer. Any great technical solutions need to fit the culture.

“Deforestation is also an issue in terms of water quality, as the water sources are getting muddy, which makes it hard to treat to the right standard. There is a huge amount of administrative issues to do with that.

“There is also a lot of what I term ‘silo thinking’ [in terms of the water supply]. The institutions are set up without good links to their counterparts. For example, the water supply people don’t talk to the treatment people.”

Generally, however, Mr Tanner said most of the Australian technology for water treatment and supply was useable for the Indonesian context.

“I don’t see technology as being the issue, it is more tackling the administrative and governance level – there are huge gains to be made in that,” Mr Tanner said, noting that the same is true for parts of Australia such as Queensland, which unlike New South Wales, does not have a legislative framework that allows for alternative water supplies.

In terms of the use of renewable energy and microgrid systems, which are a growing trend in nations like India, Mr Tanner said he has not seen much evidence of their use in Indonesia.

“It comes back to the institutional and administrative issues,” he said, explaining the nation has government-owned power and water systems.

An opportunity to benefit from our experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly

Mr Tanner observed that one of the opportunities the growing green building sector has is the opportunity to look critically at what the more developed nations have not done so well, and “leap frog” those technologies and approaches, while adopting and innovating on those ones which have worked. He also believes there are opportunities for Australian engineering and architecture firms to be part of the progress in niche roles, providing high levels of advisory and assistance.

“We’ve done a number of things [in Australia] which have not been done here yet, but I don’t see it as a case of us coming over in the capacity of all-knowing experts [and] being in charge. There are plenty of skilled people here, good architects and engineers – and a lot of them are very well-educated, many of them in Australia.”

“I certainly see a long-term future for [Bligh Tanner] here as a business,” he said. ‘The difficulty is how to move ahead and build the relationships.”

One reply on “Austrade helping Indonesian green building sector to leapfrog the West’s mistakes”

  1. Good one Chris. It was great to meet you and have our Cairns based Engineers and Architects on the trade mission and at the WGBC conference. The Tropical Green Building Network has tropical expertise to share with the Indonesian Green Building Movement.

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