On peace doves and dumb predators, the real scandal in building and development, Yudelson and EUA get company from SA

Oh dear the building and development game has been infiltrated by bikies and crims who coerce poor contractors to giving their mates preferential treatment. And possibly drive up some of the costs of labor.

Let’s take a step back for a minute.

The Australian Financial Review today had Lend Lease claiming the sum total of employees on Barangaroo who had ended there through shady means was five. Five.

“On Barangaroo only five of the 570 workers were put in place by labour hire companies now under question,” the quote goes.

Here’s what else the AFR said, “…many think the problem is not widespread.”

But let’s get hysterical anyway. Makes for good copy.

It’s hard not to have some sympathy for Australian Council of Trade Union chief Ged Kearney on 7.30 last night hammered by Leigh Sales, who tried to point out that every industry in Australia tends to have its share of misfits and miscreants.

And she didn’t even mention the GFC perpetrated by non-union labour and what it cost the public and taxpayers who bailed them out.

Okay. If we’re going to spend money on investigations, whether judicial or through a royal commission, or using government or media, why don’t we investigate the other really big scandal in the building and development industry? The rip-off of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of home owners and taxpayers who must bear the brunt of shoddy building practices that pretend to deliver wholesome worthy homes but keep producing product that barely meets minimum standards and falls way short of anything that compares in other sophisticated developed countries?

Take a look at Cameron’s Jewell’s story on BASIX and the proposed upgrade of environmental criteria for new housing.

It’s hit a nerve. Still. Read the comments. There’s quite a few and they’re from thoughtful people, some of whom are experts in the field. Well worth a dip if you are one of the growing number of people who realise that greening the commercial office sector is one thing, but there’s much bigger fish that will fry in the much hotter sun under the swathes of housing still being built like it’s 1999.

Even in terms of black and dark roofs. Many – no most – of the developers are still putting in black roofs, despite what we know now – that it causes major damage to the cooling bill. And the environment.

Astoundingly, you can go to the site of one major roofing supplier and see a list of 37 roof options, only one of which is listed as “light” by the BASIX criteria.

Sure BASIX lets you trade off the heat gain with some other cooling options, but imagine if people chose all the options that made the most thermal and environmental sense.

Are developers still really expecting us to believe it’s consumer choice that’s driving black roofs and houses that add up to vast spaces but don’t meet their specifications?

Will the housing lobby oppose the use of cool roofs if they were mandated? Why do some councils still place aesthetics and heritage above our urgent environmental needs? Are they right?

We’ll be doing a little investigating of our own in this regard.

If you’d like to do some whistleblowing the address is editorial@thefifthestate.com.au

We may not be able to promise airtime on the nightly news but it’s quite possible someone in that part of the media might wake up to the really big scandal in this industry that needs some serious investigative resources.

Yudelson on feisty

It’s great to see Jerry Yudelson stirring the pot again. Not that we endorse that sort of thing, of course (much), but in relation to green ratings it’s kind of a hot topic.

Yudelson was recently nominated president of the Green Building Initiative, a building rating system that promises something easier, more accessible and cheaper than LEED.

Some wit in Oz noted that as a LEED fellow, this might be seen as surprising. Was Yudelson signalling something about LEED?

What it means is nothing at all, said Yudelson in reply to our query.

“A good, nimble competitor always spurs disruptive innovation and cost reduction in any industry.

“If the vision is truly ‘green buildings for all in one generation’, then one would think there would be applause for market participants such as Green Globes and GBI that provide technically rigorous, consensus-based, but more accessible and less expensive rating and certification systems.”

One of the clients the GBI pitches for is the US federal government. We know there was a big stirring up of anti-LEED sentiment from the PVC & Pals chemical people in the US who were incensed that the new version of LEED would dare ask people to disclose what was in the building materials. No suggestion to ban the toxic substances, mind but to disclose.

Building upgrade finance

South Australia this week announced it had released its draft for its Building Upgrade Finance scheme for energy, water and environmental efficiency upgrades in commercial buildings.

Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter said the BUF (just to confuse the rest of the country which calls these schemes Environmental Upgrade Agreements) would overcome the split-incentives in leased buildings – that is, when the tenant gets the benefit but the owner pays the cost.

Better still, the BUF will tie the loan to the property, not the tenant or the owner, with loan repayments collected via a local government charge on the property.

The scheme is part of the climate change sector agreement between the State Government and the Local Government Association of South Australia and requires an amendment to the Local Government Act 1999, the minister said.

“We also see it creating opportunities for the clean technology sector, improving the quality of our building stock, mitigating the impact of rising energy and water costs on business, and delivering a range of environmental benefits including reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” Hunter said.

You can make your suggestions for another 10 weeks.

Details: https://saplan.org.au/yoursay/building-upgrade-agreements

Speaking of EUAs, Sydney based Roger Walker of Walker EcoStrategies reports he’s working on a number of deals in Parramatta, the CBD and Newcastle – still hush-hush but with one in particular promising to provide a solar energy upgrade at a profit! That’s because the length of the agreement goes beyond the payback period.

United States says yes to solar

The US president Barack Obama in his State of the Union address, said a house or business in the US goes solar every four minutes.


The company is launching its sustainability strategy on Thursday night. We’re excited.


David Chokolich, a principal consultant of GHD in Perth, this week tested the prevailing breeze for us in Perth and said it had been a tough 18 months for consultants with some serious tapering in staff and could still be quite difficult for a while.

Some consultants are at about a third of their previous size. Of course the drying up of expansionary work in the resource industry has driven more competition in Perth, Chokolich agrees, since it seems to be a rosier picture elsewhere on the eastern rim.

“There’s so much competition. We’re bidding on jobs and prices are as cheap as I’ve seen them in years.”

However, there’s plenty of work in energy management and life cycle auditing.

“Lots of smaller clients who are saying, ‘I’m going to do what I need to do to get our buildings working better.’

“We’ve got a good skill set in that area. There’s lots of contractors selling their services and some taking the engineering out of it, but then a lot of people are getting stung. To get to the right outcome you need the engineer’s influent. It’s not just about FM and it’s not just about getting a contractor to install a box; it may not be the optimum solution.

“What you pay engineers to do is to give you the best options.”

So… the engineers are in fightback mode we see.

Doves of peace need to be fast, nimble and resilient

Okay, it was definitely spooky. The Pope releases two doves as a sign of peace to the world and they are immediately savaged by other birds.

But let’s not be too despondent. We know that countries with centuries of peace don’t end up producing much of note. Apart from excellent time-keeping perhaps. Yes, we know it takes an irritation to produce a pearl. And maybe constant invasion and war to produce feisty creative inventive resilient people.

So that’s the sustainability industry right?

And yes, there’s enough attacking marauders, spoilers and book burners to last for a few hundred years of pearl manufacturing, we know.

But it turns out that the savage birds in Rome, a yellow-legged gull and a hooded crow are all brawn and very little brain – even less speed. So the peace doves got away and lost only a few feathers.

It’s a bit like that with the climate deniers and green knights. When the latest attack on climate action happens and when the latest slashing of resources and corporate knowledge gets thrown down the non-compostable toilet, remember the doves. You need to be as swift, clever and resilient as those doves.

When in Rome… fly.

Besides, there’s plenty of good news to confuse those buzzards.

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