On Victoria’s susty training wheels and how no car parking can save up to $100,000 a unit

There’s good news out of Victoria with two interesting jobs on offer through government agency Sustainability Victoria.

According to the agency’s director resource efficiency Stefan Preuss, one of the jobs is for a skilled financial wiz who can help businesses and households find the finance they need for energy efficiency or sustainability upgrades.

Preuss says it’s dealing the reality that government probably can’t fund all the programs we should have so the job is about finding alternative sources of finance, whether through the banks, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, green bonds or green government bonds.

The move was supported in the last state budget and it responds to changes to Environmental Upgrade Agreements with new legislation last year expanding their reach to all Victorian councils.

Of course the Sustainable Melbourne Fund is already working in the EUA patch and Preuss says the agency will be careful to dovetail its new work with the SMF’s. The SMF by the way is supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency so let’s hope mooted government cuts of $1 billion to ARENA go the same way as so many other five-minute policies from Canberra these days.

Preuss thinks the role is pretty unique. It will “help us get into the space of helping industry funnel private investment in the most appropriate method”, he said.

A second job on offer in SV to manage a research program to quantify the benefits of healthy homes on… health.

A no brainer? Maybe, but the impact has not been measured and this is a way to prove the benefits.

However it’s unlikely to work on the likes of the new Senator Malcolm Roberts, in Parliament thanks to 77 primary votes. On that score Roberts demonstrated on Monday night’s Q&A that if you stood him in the Arctic in front of a liquefying glacier, flanked by giant holes in the ice that are spewing methane and anthrax from the melting tundra, he’d say it was a conspiracy, cooked up by NASA. (Roberts makes you want to take an aspirin and think of Tim Flannery whose advice on such people was “ignore them; walk way.”)

The bad news is that there is still no good news or any news at all from the VicGov on resurrecting the Greener Government Buildings Program.

Daniel Andrews probably reckons there’s not enough votes in property, forgetting of course that the majority of voters live in buildings. Most would also like to know that a big whack of their taxes can be averted from paying for dirty brown coal power and into something useful like hospitals or schools.

Training wheels, baby stuff and indicative of a premier who is not quite sure of his stuff.

It’s like Victoria is still scared to stand up and say something strong on climate and energy. They need to listen to Lou Reed and Bill McKibben and Ian Dunlop: “there is no time”.

Then again if Andrews was as acutely tuned a pollie as he should be, he wouldn’t have picked a fight with volunteer firefighters smack in the middle of a federal election, something more than a few commentators say cost federal Labor a possible victory.

Last we heard Labor leader Bill Shorten was still not speaking to him.

  • UPDATE 25 August 2016: The VicGov on Monday announced it had at last brought back the Greener Government Buildings Program.

We take it all back Mr Andrews. You are indeed a good and brave man!

See story here, Victoria’s Greener Government Buildings program is back

No parking at Central Park block saves $70,000 to $100,000 per unit

Sydney this week saw one of the most high profile and often controversial development sites to date, at Central Park, Broadway, announce that the final Lego block was being leveraged into place.

The building, winsomely called Wonderland, with cute green rabbits and magic mushroom motifs peppered throughout, was designed by Richard Francis-Jones of FJMT, with design lead by senior associate Simon Barr.

No wonder they came up with that name. The architects did a very interesting curvy S-shaped number here with no less than a gobsmacking 178 different floor plates.

Such a variety of sizes and views makes it hard to specify prices, according to Mick Caddey, director with developer Frasers Property and Sekisui House. We’re not sure what the sustainability implications are for such a level of variation but Barr did indicate it was a challenge to execute.

Caddey, however, assured the attendants at a media briefing that new residents in the 294 new apartments would all share in the same sustainability benefits enjoyed by the residents in the balance of the 2200 apartment precinct – recycled blackwater treatment and trigen-generated energy savings.

All this was of interest to the audience that included Chinese property publications and lifestyle magazines. Another note that struck interest was that parking would be very scarce. Only around half the apartments will have parking and there will be no visitor parking on site.

The Fifth Estate asked Caddey what were the pricing implications of such a decision, or rather council mandate. Between $70,000 to $100,000 per space in savings, he said.

That’s a big number but an even bigger one when you add in the cost of the car, maintenance and fuel, he pointed out. Besides parking is hardly needed with the new light rail going virtually past the back door, heavy rail within metres and Sydney CBD at the front door.

The low levels of parking on the rest of the site had their challenges of course.

Caddey says it took quite some convincing to encourage a supermarket to set up shop. “No cars, no trolley? Forget it,” Caddey reminisced.

Eventually Woolies jumped in and after holding its breath a bit, everyone adjusted. Caddey says the supermarket is now trading its socks off and notching up figures comparable to the same floor area in Double Bay.

People have found new ways to shop, to carry things, he said.

In other words it’s not the end of the world. Just different.

The new building is the final piece of a puzzle that has a rich and volatile history especially in its early days.

There was the famous court case when environmental activist Matthew Drake-Brockman and the Environmental Defenders Office, challenged the project in the Land and Environment Court claiming planning minister Frank Sartor had not taken into account climate change and other environment impacts in his approval of a massive redevelopment of the old CUB brewery site in central Sydney.

The project later added the highly acclaimed environmental elements that have given it its green brand, perhaps a brilliant example of what a bit of “nudge” power can do.

Today it’s set a standard in large-scale development that’s been hard to rival.  It’s been influential if based on its green walls alone, which were clearly going to be a hit and emulated when the first young hipsters started calling it “cool”.

The new digs will sit amidst an intriguing array of buildings designed by well known local and international architects.

The precinct emerged into public life during the era of Frank Sartor as  planning minister and was fiercely opposed by local residents who managed to trim down density (despite its central location) and it was also the subject of court challenges on its projected emissions.

Offered by Carlton and United Breweries it was bought by Frasers Property, headed by Dr Stanley Quek, in 2007.

Frasers was later joined by Sekisui House as a partner. Frasers later changed hands, bought by a Thai conglomerate. Dr Quek retained the Kensington Street precinct. And Frasers later bought Australand.

Interestingly Australand had earlier eyed the CUB site but withdrew because of the planning nightmare that the site faced.

Now it’s finally onsite, in another form, planning issues dealt with and the project all but complete.

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