On buildings and the zeitgeist

16 April 2014 – Here’s some good news from Perth – Kings Square, the huge development in the centre of the city, is using life cycle assessment.

And who best to do the rating than local outfit eTool, which has now completed LCAs on three buildings in Kings Square for Leighton Properties.

LCA has also been mandated for the $1 billion Perth Stadium for which a Brookfield Multiplex-led consortium was named on Tuesday as preferred tenderer.

It’s perhaps some consolation for the loss of a good public transport system, which lost out to the stadium in a recent budget rout by the state government. But the really big message is that the reality of buildings and development is that they stay with us for decades to come. And it means that you need to ignore that the politicking going on in the ideological backwaters of Canberra and elsewhere is inevitably short term (this too will pass). Good on the Barnett government for getting this right.

Cameron’s story on eTool has found a great bunch of good news that’s been bubbling away while the rest of us have been fretting about the circus going on in Canberra (except they’re using Panzas instead of Pandas). And of course now we’ve all become distracted by the water into winegate.

Broad Construction Services, used LCA to help achieve their Green Star rating target but also to meet LEED certification conditions required for Kings Square 2.


In Brisbane, Kathy Mac Dermott, executive director at the Property Council, said her invitation to Melbourne’s planning guru Rob Adams – to address her members, speak to council and some building owners around the traps – had been well received.

It was Mac Dermott’s way to help her members, who now have a raft of empty B and C grade buildings, the legacy of a mining downturn and what happens when the new state government sacks 14,000 public servants.

And being the optimistic people they are these Brissie folk loved Adams’ bright spark ideas. He talked about Postcode 3000 and how Melbourne brought residents in to revitalise a flagging city heart.

He had loads of suggestions: conversion to hotels, residential, retirement living and since Brisbane has a university in its centre, how about conversions to some student accommodation?, Mac Dermott told The Fifth Estate in a quick phone catch up on Thursday.

Other activity happening in Brisbane includes a second BEMP event on 6 May. That’s the Built Environment Meets Parliament conferences that bring together a number of organisations in the built environment and the pollies.

“Consult Australia is doing the logistics,” Mac Dermott said, “but everyone does their sessions. And we have three ministers coming – the Environment Minister, the Housing Minister and the Treasurer and Assistant Minister for Housing.”

The Queenslanders recently brought the homelessness portfolio into housing. Logical when you think about it.

Mac Dermott said planning reform was still big on the agenda for government and the big issue was how to bring investment and economic growth to the state, she said.

The other big issue will be no surprise to any observer of the development industry – speed of approvals of course.

On EUAs, the proposals picked up and championed by the Property Council are now in the hands of the city council. A waiting game, as usual, with EUAs.

Watch out people power is on its way

New chief executive of the Australian Conservation Foundation Kelly O’Shanassy is one to watch.

O’Shanassy took over from her long-serving predecessor Don Henry in February and this week issued her first media missive that showed major change was on the way.

For this traditionally conservative nature based organisation that had its genesis in 1963 with a memo from the Duke of Edinburgh, it will be interesting times.

O’Shanassy, it seems is right in line with the zeitgeist of the times.

The same zeitgeist that confounded all the political pundits in the South Australia election and saw Labor retain government; that in Western Australia re-elected Greens Senator Scott Ludlam against he odds; and this week handed the Greens 17 per cent of the vote nationally and 27 per cent in the so-called mining state of WA.

And it brought out what is believed to be the biggest surge ever of protesters at the March in March.

What’s going on?

According to O’Shanassy it’s a plain old fashioned frustration from people from all walks of life and all voting habits.

“People are frustrated that the government is pretty well on the attack and it doesn’t matter who they voted for, they aren’t happy that the government is not acting as stewards of the environment.”

It’s the roll back of environment laws, cows in national parks and a deliberate failure to deal with climate change.

Part of the plan for the ACF now will borrow at least partly from O’Shanassy’s experience with her last job leading Environment Victoria. She plans to partner with what she likes to call “unusual suspects”, the people who are impacted by what’s going on – progressive businesses and the health community.

Not just to people who label themselves greenies or environmentalist, “but to reach out to everyone who will be affected by the biodiversity impacts and doctors and nurses and mums and dads who want a future for their kids and jobs for their kids”.

“It’s not just an environment and climate problem, it’s a jobs problem, it’s an economic problem and a health problem.”

Governments can blame themselves when the backlash comes.

“The bottom line is that there does seem to be a ideological opposition across Australian governments to nature and to fixing climate change because we know that economically speaking it’s a good thing to do.

“But governments aren’t listening and the days of having really good ideas backed by logic and argument may have gone.”

At Environment Victoria O’Shanassy turned around an organisation that was dependent on government funding and massively built its support base.

In the past it had been reliant on government grants for 80 per cent of its funding. A model that “didn’t make for a very strong campaigning organisation”, she said.

Today 75  per cent of funding is independent of government.

“We massively built engagement in Victoria. We went from 3000 to 60,000 members and most of the growth was in the last three to four years. We changed the tone of the organisation.

“We encouraged people to get involved with climate change and clean an energy and they didn’t have to brand themselves as environmentalists or greenies.”

Nature and climate change affects us all, she said. “We got them involved by signing petitions and sending letters to their MP.”

There are plenty more disaffected people out there right now, O’Shanassy said.

Down the rabbit hole we go folks.

Our dear Premier Uncle Bazza in New South Wales has been caught with cork unscrewed and he’s had to resign over a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange he had forgotten he was given by someone, that has now gone missing. We shall refrain from mentioning things like people turning (Sydney) water into wine and then back into water (and if it’s Sydney Water then probably at a value greater than the wine). No we shall not say anything of the kind. Leave it all up to the scrutiny of the Independent Commission Against Corruption now unearthing some unearthly dealings in matters of government.

We thought O’Farrell was doing not such a bad job. And very much hope this isn’t a plot by the coal and coal seam gas industry to undo any slight baby step hurdles he could put in their way and pave the way for a more obliging premier. But then what can explain the catastrophic failure of memory loss? From bad to worse as they say.

Media reports tipped Treasurer Mike Baird is likely to be the next premier with Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian as deputy.

A new airport? Yawn…

So Sydney will finally get a second airport. And to cap off all the extra carbon criminals that this will enable NSW is going to build a spanking new highway so people can drive there emitting even greater pollution (but provision for a train station is promised for sometime in the future…good to know).

Watch out for the parking fees, said one observer this week. It will be replica of Sydney Airport, where there is one bus, and a very expensive train.

Alexander Collot d’Escury explaining Desso’s cradle to cradle carpet manufacturing system at a lunch hosted by Sustainable Business Australia and The St James Ethics Centre in Sydney

Desso carpets cleaning up

Alexander Collot d’Escury, chief executive of carpet manufacturer Desso, was in Sydney recently to promote its cradle to cradle manufacturing process that aims to have a restorative impact on the environment.

The company, which Collot d’Escury made clear was keen to outperform all other manufacturers in its processes, revealed something of the future at a Sydney lunch hosted by Sustainable Business Australia and The St James Ethics Centre, where SBA is now based.

In a quick video Collot d’Escury showed carpets that light up with LED powered information that could be programed to lead people to safety during an emergency for instance, or with fun patters designed for a party.

As part of its sustainability commitment Desso has joined an initiative along with a range of other manufacturers of carpet and apparel to remove plastic waste from the ocean, and use it in their processes.

Healthy Seas, a Journey from Waste to Wear” takes marine waste, particularly fishing nets, to create its “ECONYL” product, a regenerated nylon yarn.

In the Healthy Seas project, Desso worked with supplier Aquafil to recycle old Polyamide 6 yarn from used carpets and fish nets into the ECONYL yarn, a process that can be performed repeatedly.

This means that more than 90 per cent of its commercial carpet tile collection is now certified as cradle to cradle, with 50 per cent of the carpet tiles containing up to 100 per cent of the ECONYL yarn.

Attending the lunch at the St James Ethics Centre were:

Dan Chesson, Global Renewables Stuart White, dean of UTS Business School; Ché Wall, director of Flux engineering; Alexander Collot d’Escury, Desso; Nicole Smith, director of Tin Shed Marketing; Simon Longstaff, chief executive of St James Ethics; Gerry Carroll, chief executive of Object Consulting; Claire Budden, manager of Sustainable Real Estate at LJ Hooker; Colin Bray, regional managing director at Desso; Dominic Ambriano, national sustainability manager at AMP; Andrew Petersen, chief executive of Sustainable Business Australia; Suzie Barnett, director at Suzie Barnett Consulting; and Tina Perinotto, managing editor of The Fifth Estate.

See separate story