Robin Mellon and Nikki Byrnes, GBCA, Esther Bailey, Ben Thomas, BBP, Beck Dawson, Investa crowd before the Building Connections – Green Leases and Fitouts event

On so many events, so much activity, mostly good, some really bad

Did someone ring the bell for the start of the events season?

On 31 July we held the Salon for Sustainable Precincts at Café Sydney – Lynne Blundell has included a taste of what they said in her new column Behind the Lines this week.

On Thursday morning, 14 August, The Fifth Estate was moderator for IPD’s fantastic panel discussion on green buildings to launch the latest results for its Green Building Index (all good and Go there).

That same evening, The Fifth Estate was one of the presenters at a green leasing event Building Connections – Green Leases and Fitouts, organised by the Green Building Council of Australia and Better Buildings Partnership, at DEXUS offices in Sydney, which also featured our “Happiness Book” (chapter 8 is released today).

On 19 August we held our Surround Sound in Perth where nearly 80 people showed up (the final count showed; not 60) for an exciting night of passion and persuasion on the logic of sustainability.

See early coverage here and more detail of what they said here.

But we’re not finished yet.

Tom Davies

Sydney Metro Industrial Ecology Network is launched

Remember those crazy bad habits with office churn we uncovered in our Happiness book and through the work of people such as John Goddard? They call it “make good” but it should really be renamed “make bad” as landlords require fitouts to be ripped out at the end of a tenancy only to be replaced by the landlord and then again by the incoming tenant who wants to “do their own thing”.

On Wednesday we made a flying visit to a workshop hosted by the Better Buildings Partnership team (again) to work out how all those bright ideas about minimising waste in fitout can actually be turned into a real business.

The event turns out to be the first part of a five-part thrust into this huge but potentially massively rewarding job to change the game in recycling in the commercial building industry. It’s sponsored by the NSW Environment Protection Authority and is in in turn part of a state-wide program of $450 million over five years that will cover a number of waste issues.

Curating the commercial building work is Tom Davies and his Edge Environment team, officially appointed as facilitator of the Sydney Metro Industrial Ecology Network.

Yesterday it was the turn of furniture with other items such as glass and ceiling tiles to come.

Here’s a taste of the potential impact: among the BBP members alone there is 400,000 square metres of office space each year is “churned” due to lease expiry. Each 1000 sq m of that space produced as 63 tonnes of waste, with 79 per cent sent to landfill and only 3 per cent recycled.

  • See the BBP’s defit trial report here and its market research report here

What Davies was doing on Wednesday was gathering the decision makers in a room who could come up with solutions to that waste in offices.

And there were some strong – meaning realistic and workable – outcomes, he said.

Among them will be a pilot project with a tenant agreeing to a fitout using recycled materials, a program to mobilise social enterprises to assist and a plan to remove the barriers in waste to energy recovery with a project to send recycled timber products, such as laminated timber, to Newcastle to be turned to energy.

But the office component will be just part of the work, which will extend state wide and cover much wider recycling initiatives. Over five years the EPA will invest $452 million in the program.

Trains are good for property values, freeways are bad

We know public transport is key to a sustainable built environment and that property values rise around new train stations. But The Age this week reported that home owners in the East West Link corridor have suffered a major drop in property values. And the prospect of being next to congested freeway teeming with exhaust fumes is not something you see on the “reasons to buy this property” list.

However, when a public transport project gets underway, as Terry Ryder from Hotspots has observed, property values increase and suddenly everyone wants to live there.
Extremes breed extremes…sometimes good ones

The Cities Unit reborn

What did we say about extreme governments spawning … extreme action?

This week we saw the launch of a cities unit to replace the Major Cities Unit ditched by the Abbott government the minute it got into power.

The array of interests behind this amazing project is impressive – three main political parties, the former head of the MCU, the Property Council, transport people and more.

A key motivator of all this was Michael Apps, chief executive of the Bus Industry Association. Yes, the buses people.

Apps says that there is a real generational shift underway in the preferences of young people eschewing cars. Professor Peter Newman also made this point at the Surround Sound for Perth, where he said the move away from cars is one of the mega trends, under way and unstoppable, along with sustainability, renewable energy and biophilia.

Apparently, Apps says,  Gen X and Gen Y are not so keen on spending hours at either end of their day sitting at the wheel of a car commuting to and from work. How strange. These young folk want time for more of a life.

Apps described it as a “virtuous circle”, where the kind of planning decision which enables more car-free living has spin-off benefits for a whole range of other things including health, social inclusion, access to employment, and the general affordability of life. Bottom line is, he says, it is cheaper to catch a bus, walk or bike than it is to own a car and do the long haul in from the outer ‘burbs, which adds a whole other dimension to the housing affordability discussion.

The tripartite effect
And on the new cities unit, there’s a bit of a seismic shift in the political language it seems. Forever and a day it’s been all about  “bipartisan” as if the Greens had no voice and the Nationals had no independent identity.

This week we’ve heard the term tripartisan used by some fairly influential folks, including a Liberal party MP. This is a pretty huge shift.

Maybe it’s spring in the air, but then again, it might be the sweet whiff of a wind of change…

Melbourne again

Meanwhile, the planning approval juggernaut continues to roar on in Melbourne, with Victorian Planning Minister on Thursday turning the sod on Harpley, a new estate of 4000 homes at Wyndham Vale, south-west of Melbourne and ticking the “yes” box on some more of those towers which are breeding like proverbials in Adam Bandt’s electorate.

Bandt told The Fifth Estate he and some of the other Greens have been hearing from members of the planning professions who say things like, “the problem is many of these developers are building buildings, they are not building communities.”

Good master planners get it – just whacking in buildings does not make a neighbourhood. If it did, no-one would ever have described Canberra as “lacking in soul”, which was a fairly common epithet about our capital of capitals back in the late 20th century.

New look

Like everyone else in the built environment space, every now and get we all need a bit of a deep clean and retrofit, along with spruce up at the front end.

We hope you like the new look.

There are a few new features you might enjoy, and a lot more interactivity.

And as always the invitation for contributions for articles is wide and open.

Send a note to

Or call the office on 02 8084 2291 and have a chat.

One reply on “News from the front desk: Issue No 206”

  1. Talk about seismic shifts – well at least new thinking towards access and design.

    I attended the recent Universal Design conference held in Sydney by COTA and the headlines for me were:

    1. Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan has backed calls for Australia to follow Ireland’s lead and establish a centre for excellence in universal design.

    2. Ms Greiner, who is the chair of the NSW Ministerial Advisory Committee on Ageing, told COTA NSW’s Universal Design Conference last week that public policy was only good policy when it assisted all members of the community.

    With the NCC/BCA already incorporating access to premises, it is not such a big shift surely to think about the access features inside a dwelling. Let’s not just stop at the front door, let’s stop pretending ageing is for someone else, let’s stop thinking inclusive design is another nail in the coffin of affordability. Sure, we think of preparing for an age-related disability as something in the future, (like the batteries in our remote we only purchase new batteries when the remote stops working), but at the end of the day our homes need to include features that make living easier for families with young children, people who sustain a temporary injury (golf is a good one, but most likely falling off a ladder is your weekend trip to A&E), ageing baby boomers who dont wish to relocate away from their neighbourhood, and lastly be designed for people with a disability and their families, their visitors and their friends.
    We need a seismic shift because we are all only one slip, one fall from finding out the hardway that it is costly to make modifications to our home if the need arises. We need ‘good design’ to be about normalising liveable housing features, not just about thinking disability design is not your problem.It is the ultimate insurance policy to plan for this.
    Who is on board? Well Livable Housing Australia have now Grocon and Meriton committed to including liveable housing features in their new dwellings because they can see the market!

    If you are not embedding universal design features into your new construction, whether project home or residential apartment, you will miss out on one of the biggest new markets that just wont go away soon.

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