During this crazy year that most of us are (again) happy to kiss goodbye to, the industry has managed to rack up some amazing wins. Big steps forward in commitment and bold actions. Cop26 is probably our collective highlight, galvanizing as it has, a global momentum from governments and financiers, the most powerful and previously the slowest to move.

In the built environment there have been strong moves forward, especially in the almost sudden priority interest that emerged on embodied carbon in buildings. The new Australian Building Code was by contrast no surprise: the powers of retrograde are at it again, trying to stymie forward momentum on energy.

On energy we have now the demise of coal in our near sights, gas too, and thanks to the wokeness of corporates there’s also much gnashing of teeth about whether the new sustainability strategy trotted out is labelled greenwash instead of something soft and furry.

Consumers or voters should we say are on our side. This coming year we will know whether this growing support from the silent majority that has in part at least given us the Great Resignation or “lying flat” movement, translates to the Great Transformation on climate and sustainability and we elect whatever party or bunch of independents for that matter who can shove the agenda along with haste and shove the recalcitrants out the door.

Highlights from our readers

On your part, wonderful readers, our analytics tells us you’ve read a massive 5000 articles during the year. Including in big numbers already, our latest ebook, The rise of buildings and place that help me thrive, published on Monday.

Not all the top hits though were actually published in 2021. Your trawling through our archives combined with the very helpful Google boost we get because of our strong “authority” (we’re told) pushes our stories up the rankings, which means that old favourites keep coming back to the top.

For instance the now almost perennial, Cool roofs V dark roofs from 2014 is still racking up the hits. Even though we did this update in December 2018, The truth about dark roofs and cool roofs and this explainer from our sister site The Green List, Explainer: cool roofs for dummies in September this year.

Top score for the year was Nikola Tesla dreamed of free electricity; what happened? by Stephen Dark, published in September 2020 and it’s there at the top of the trending posts every single day. You might think this is because of that famous word in the title as people search for something else about Tesla but the time spent on page reading is a massive 9.24 minutes, so no, people are reading the piece! 

In number 2 spot is by Joost Bakker’s new self-sustaining, zero-waste Fed Square home is good enough to eat from late last year in number 2 spot and Treated timber and termites? Why bother and why not to bother from early 2021, proving there’s a lot of appetite for better insights into building fundamentals and new ideas for our homes.

You can understand why some of the top 10 stories made the grade: they strike a note in the “need to know” universe of our changing world. 

For instance,  Where to buy property for the climate emergency and that Ninety per cent of Australian consumers want sustainable products. In Western Australia readers lapped up a story on the potential change in the notoriously low quality housing market that state has managed to deliver. Check out the piece here, Are new homes in Western Australia about to get a whole lot more energy efficient?

Another big hit – for not very pleasant reasons –  was for our story on what we thought was a fantastic new estate at Gisborne in the beautiful Victorian rural area near Daylesford. 

The article caused a small fury among the locals because we so obviously liked the ambitious sustainability designed into the project. Problem was that the locals didn’t particularly want the development, no matter how green it was intended to be. What we tried to convey in the commentary that followed was that we are concerned with the sustainability of development, not whether the project sits within or outside of the town’s development boundary. This is an eternal dilemma that faces sustainable built environment aficionados when the locals don’t want to see their lovely community disrupted at all.

We sympathise, but therein lies the yawning gap between protecting the rights and privileges of existing communities against future communities. 

We can say we elect our political representatives to make these tough decisions, leaving our hands clean and our hearts pure. But seriously this is not good enough. We need all of us to engage, engage, engage, listen but then also speak. Loudly. And if we reject something we need an alternative. We need to accommodate the whole of humanity in our fight for sustainability, not just our immediate family or community. And this is not an excuse for the development community to build where it wants. If they wish their work to be taken as equitable we need to see them fight for high rise apartments in Toorak or Bellevue Hill, not just the suburban sticks. We need developers to earn the right for their social licence to operate. Nothing is a given.

On the passing of Richard Rogers –  a gift to all who struggle

Richard Rogers, one of the great architects of our time, has in a way bestowed a gift or legacy in a way – to all who struggle.

Take to heart this little snippet of a report card from the university Rogers attended, Architectural Association School of Architecture in the UK, dated 4th July 1958. 

It’s been doing the rounds on Twitter:

“Rogers [sic] late entry into the 4th year was not successful. 

“He has a genuine interest in and a feeling for architecture but sorely lacks the intellectual equipment to translate these feelings into sound building. 

“His designs will continue to suffer while his drawing is so bad, his method of work so chaotic and his critical judgement so inarticulate.”

Rogers, born in Florence in 1933, went on to win most of the top accolades for his profession: the Pritzker Architecture Prize – architecture’s highest accolade – in 2007, the Royal Gold Medal in 1985, the American Institute of Architect’s Gold Medal in 2019 and the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture in 2000.

He worked on the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Lloyd’s building and Millennium Dome both in London, the Senedd building in Cardiff, and the European Court of Human Rights building in Strasbourg,” Wikipedia says.

Goodbye 2021 – hello tiger

With this we farewell 2021 and look forward to 2022, the year of the tiger in Chinese astrology. Let’s all channel that spirit for whatever comes next! (Maybe we need this tiger above, rather than the benign sleepy-looking thing in the main pic).

We’ll be on our annual hiatus for the next few weeks and be back on deck in the third week of January.

And just for fun here is the full list of the top 50 league table on The Fifth Estate for the past 12 months:

  1. Nikola Tesla dreamed of free electricity; what happened? 
  2. Joost Bakker’s new self-sustaining, zero waste Fed Square home is good enough to eat
  3. Ninety per cent of Australian consumers want sustainable products 
  4. Cool roofs V dark roofs – special report
  5. Treated timber and termites? Why bother and why not to bother
  6. Where to buy property for the climate emergency 
  7. Ninety per cent of Australian consumers want sustainable products 
  8. Are new homes in Western Australia about to get a whole lot more energy efficient?
  9. Gold star sustainable Gisborne development is snuffed by council despite serious community backing. Now it’s up to Daniel Andrews to help
  10. Timber, concrete and steel more expensive as demand surges 

11. Nightingale rocks (in a shaky way) and discovers form follows finance

12. A regenerative housing estate at Gisborne that’s attracted a lot of savvy people and community buy in

13. Passive House – the long form debate, point by point 

  1. Five big trends shaping sustainability in 2021
  2. The Good Car Company’s bulk buy model is going national
  3. Rob Stokes just made NSW Australia’s most progressive government
  4. The truth about dark roofs and cool roofs
  5. Victoria’s goes mandatory in plans to fight climate change
  6. Why Bill Gates can’t save the world
  7. Building Circularity ebook
  8. How to design your house for fire resistance and sustainability
  9. The reasons behind our housing crisis are clear…if we care to look
  10. The inside story on green steel – time to put pedal to the metal
  11. On why we need to stop telling lies about our housing and planning policies
  12. Emma Herd snares top new job
  13. Power Ledger’s Jemma Green says distributed energy resource assets can create grid stability and earn money
  14. No smoke, no ash: here’s how one house survived the fires
  15. Why Atlassian has to be bold with its Sydney headquarters
  16. What really happened to St Kilda’s old “Gatty” after the The Block did its makeover and big “reveal”
  17. On the “very successful, very professional model” Zali Steggall used to defeat Tony Abbott – and why it’s growing
  18. Dick Clarke: On debunking feng shui
  19. Four new sustainable building materials to watch
  20. New 8-star Northcote project shows sustainable townhouse design is doable
  21. The Greta Thunberg Conspiracy
  22. It’s not all bad with the climate outlook – ask Peter Newman 
  23. China’s most sustainable building is zero carbon, energy, water, waste and formaldehyde
  24. Why the RBA is wrong about zoning and house prices. Again.
  25. “Building back better” is great, but what if “un-building” works even better?
  26. Loud street? How about noise cancelling devices for your windows?
  27. The Greta Thunberg Conspiracy
  28. Buy tickets to our new event: Back to My Happy Healthy Workplace 
  29. The wood from the trees: what we all need to know about nature’s gift
  30. Power Ledger switches blockchain platforms
  31. What’s wrong with 1000 new apartments in the heart of Burwood?
  32. Passive solar design versus Passive House: why we need both for healthy homes in Queensland
  33. Electrifying our homes – Can the gas industry stop us?
  34. Why blockchain just might be the answer to better construction
  35. High density, greenery-rich cities are possible: but there’s a catch
  36. The reasons behind our housing crisis are clear…if we care to look 
  37. The economics (not) of 22 new public housing units in Glebe… or asset stripping

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *