On things old and new and what’s on the way

16 January 2014 — Welcome back to our readers who are back… to the others, we salute you for doing the sustainable thing and having a longer holiday. Bring back the long summer, we say!

First, a little recap. We know how it gets at the end of the year – all rush and resolution to get away. But it’s then that some of the more interesting things come out, such as:

The Sustainability Salon for Perth and WA, Part 1 of our two-part ebook on Greening the West. The salon, with some highly influential people who will pave the way in sustainability for the West, was about the potential and the roadblocks. Part II will be projects on the ground and under way. So please send along your suggestions. We’re gathering material now. Case studies? Yes please!

The Tenants and Landlords Guide to Happiness, Chapter 5 of our green leasing guide, marking the half way point for this work in progress

The Emissions Reduction Fund the long awaited green paper on the Coalition’s answer to climate action, which according to some views could bring a bonanza in retrofits for the commercial property sector. And certainly the green paper showed plenty of evidence that the contribution of the built environment was being taken seriously. Bad luck about the decimation of intellectual and human capital in the battle for the climate and the planet that the government has insisted on perpetrating.

An interview with Property Council of Australia chief executive Peter Verwer on his wishlist for 2014, which is über ambitious as usual.

BASIX – A review of the NSW Government’s Building Sustainability Index expected to ramp up environmental outcomes in new housing. Interesting that the deadline for submissions has now been extended. See our report. Watch this issue. It’s bound to break out this year as the push for better more sustainable outcomes finds its way – at last – to the resi market. Inevitably this will cause some fireworks as those old stalwarts of the status quo in housing and building, the lobbyists, get wind that some of the changes might cost a few dollars – until the more clever members of the building industry work out how to incorporate the innovations more efficiently, which they always do. Some of the issues bubbling away include the feeling (still not mapped and surveyed) that houses are not being built to the standards promised in their ratings, whether that’s BASIX or NatHERS. So far though we know that Rodger Hill, who is chief executive office of the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors, has organised a briefing for assessors on 5 February with the NSW Government to discuss the changes to BASIX.

What’s changed over Christmas?

Things always change over the Christmas break, especially in the past few years. It’s as if some psychological gremlin escapes during the festivities to play some weird havoc.

We’ve arrived back at work to be greeted by devastating floods in Queensland, horrific bushfires in Victoria, tsunamis on our door step. Last year it was a fairly robust economic uptick… until the federal election was announced, nine months out.

This year all seemed quiet for a few weeks but the thing we’re all in this industry to act on, climate change, came knocking loudly on our door.

By early in the week the southern states were baking in plus-40-degree Celsius heat. In some parts of outback Australia, the thermometer had gone to its highest point of 50°C in the shade so no-one really knows how hot it really was and by Thursday Adelaide and Melbourne were above 40°C and the electricity supply was threatened by over-use of airconditioning (caused by the overuse of coal fired electricity, which was causing the need for the airconditioning).

Okay, where are the affordable solar aircon units? Surely someone out there is well on the way to building a global empire on something that could be even more useful than Google.

But it’s not all bad news.

For the property the outlook is all sunshine (as distinct from dumb heat). According to the Property Council/ANZ sentiment survey says we are in for a cracker of a period with all asset classes in property expected to do well, but in particular that part of it closest to our hearts: residential.

Peter Verwer, chief executive of the Property Council, says, ”This is Australia’s largest industry powering back up after a long period of consolidation.”

Good, because we know what all the property chiefs said during the mini GFC that whipped Australia (with a feather): “In tough times everything gets wound back, so it’s no surprise that sustainability also takes a cut.”

So let’s hope there are a lot more jobs out there for the green knights of this industry.

Certainly more jobs across the sectors was high on the expectation list in the survey. We’ll be keeping tabs on that as usual.