Citizen Involvement in Green Developments

Not only do eco-cities have to be green and environmentally sustainable, they also need to be socially inclusive, consider residents’ wellbeing and affordable.

This is the call from experts at the International Green Building Convention.

These environmentally sustainable cities are being built across the world including Serenbe in the US, Eco-City and Binhai New Area both in China, Vauban in Germany and the African Eco-City in Zimbabwe among countless others

Dr Thomas Schroepfer spoke about five eco-cities in Europe and said one, Vauban in Germany, gave residents the chance to design their homes and a say in what their city would look like.

He said car-owning citizens agreed to buy a carpark in one of two parking lots on the edge of the development, then walk to their apartments.

The cities, therefore, became playgrounds and areas where people could socialise, which improved people’s health because they were moving more and, thus, reducing their chance of heart disease and stroke.

Dr Schroepfer said that involving people in the design of their cities could also mean they would be more afford because citizens were directly involved in all aspects of planning and design.

“Future eco-cities need to create a more positive correlation between affordability and innovation,” he said.

“If we don’t find a different way to approach such projects, they might remain in the realm of high-end housing, and that is certainly not the role of sustainable development.”

Cooler Lighting, Greener Houses

Melbourne residents are being encouraged to hang up their power hungry traditional light bulbs, for energy-efficient LED lighting.

cherryLED and Sustainable Melbourne Fund have partnered for the ‘Lighting that Pays for Itself’ program.

The initiative will see 400 homes change to LED lighting for a small upfront cost and repay the remainder with a 36-month plan.

cherryLED general manager Ben Wright said the average home would save money back straight away.

“With their involvement in supporting similar community projects, such as solar neighbourhoods, we are proud to have secured Sustainable Melbourne Fund as our supporting partner for the ‘Lighting that Pays for Itself’ program,” Mr Wright said.

Sustainable Melbourne Fund CEO Scott Bocskay said the project would reduce the city’s carbon emissions and was exactly the product they looked for to finance energy efficiency ideas.

By signing up to the ‘Lighting That Pays For Itself’ program people can save up to 89 per cent on their lighting electricity bill.

Compared with halogen down lights, which radiate heat of 200 degrees Celsius, LED lighting operates at 55 degrees, which keeps homes cooler, reduces the load on air conditioning systems and reduces the risk of ceiling fires.

Sustainable Melbourne Fund has already helped reduce the carbon footprint of office towers across Melbourne city by providing building owners with up-front capital to pay for retrofit projects.


WA Turns Its Waste Into Energy

Wasted energy could be a thing of the past for Western Australia, with the state planning on redirecting waste from some landfill sites to create an alternative energy source.

There has been state government approval for Western Australia’s first large scale waste-to-energy facility in Boodarie near Port Hedland.

WA environment minister Albert Jacob said the New Energy facility was expected to process up to 255,000 tonnes of waste a year and put 15.5 megawatts of power back into the grid. As part of the approval, construction for the facility must start within the next five years.

“This is an exciting step forward for waste management in Western Australia,” he said.

“There are no other waste-to-energy plants of this scale currently operating in Australia. Waste-to-energy technology has the potential to offer an alternative to landfill with the additional benefit of energy generation.”

Other countries already use this technology, however, some green groups are worried there could be issues with emissions and that this doesn’t encourage people to reduce the amount of waste being produced in the state.

Mr Jacob said he was confident the existing regulatory regime under the Environmental Protection Act was well equipped to minimise and manage the environmental impact of waste-to-energy plants.

He said waste management in the Pilbara region of the state had struggled to keep up with the expansion of the resources industries, with a great increase in landfill, so this would improve waste management, increase recycling rates and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Smart Blocks Mean Green Buildings

An innovative program to help apartment owners and managers improve energy efficiency and environmental friendliness has launched in Melbourne and Sydney and there’s a workshop coming to Adelaide.

Smart Blocks can allow apartment buildings to reduce power bills by up to 30 per cent by providing a step-by-step project management and collaboration tool for owners corporations to reduce the money they spend running common facilitates, which can include lights, water systems, ventilation systems, heating and cooling plant, and swimming pools.

On average, residents of high-rise buildings use 25 per cent more energy per person than those living in detached dwellings with up to half of this energy use comes from common property.

The program was developed in conjunction with Strata Community Australia, City of Sydney, City of Melbourne, Owners Corporation Network of Australia, and Green Strata and has worked with about 15 cities and towns delivering free workshops for apartment owners and their managers.

City of Melbourne environment portfolio chair councillor Arron Wood said the city’s population was growing quickly and they needed to make buildings more efficient for their ultimate goal of being a carbon neutral city.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said her city also needed to show its residents how being more efficient could save them dollars and be kinder to the environment and Smart Blocks had shown them how replacing old items with more energy-efficient products and using equipment in different ways could curb energy consumption.

A workshop will be held in Adelaide for apartment owners and strata and building managers on August 20 at 6pm at the Belgian Beer Cafe ‘Oostende’.


Greening Urban Areas With Native, Designer Eucalypts

Designer eucalypts are being developed by University of Adelaide researchers that are more suitable for home gardens and urban landscaping.

Dr Kate Delorte is leading the project at the Waite campus, with researchers and nurseries developing cheaper and more efficient ways of propagating eucalypts with certain flower colours, sizes and forms.

“Only through producing improved cultivars, propagated using methods like grafting and tissue culture, can we guarantee that the buyer knows what they are getting in terms of flower colour and tree size and shape,” she said.

Dr Delaporte said there was great potential for these plants to be used more in gardens and urban areas as they provide habitat for native birds, insects and animals, but there were only a small number of improved eucalypts currently available.

The new method of propagation comes from germinating seeds in culture and propagating from the initial seedlings, rather than propagating from tissue culture taken from Maureen eucalypts, which has unreliable.

“There’s so much opportunity to bring new eucalypts into the garden, all with bright flower colours, attractive foliage, bark and nuts, that are a good small size,” Dr Delaporte said.

The trees being designed for urban environments must be tested for issues including dropping limbs before they will be released commercially.

Celebrating Sustainable Building

Melbourne and Sydney are celebrating sustainable building practices with Green Building Day 2013.

The day builds on the success of the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star Day 2012.

The day will look at the future of the green building industry in Australia, the trends, predictions and the latest market insights and industry opportunities.

Highlights of the days will include findings from the Green Building Council of Australia’s first quantitative research into the impact of Green Star on the built environment over the past decade including a talk from Green Star Director of Operations Orjan Lundberg about how many thousands of cars Green Star certified buildings have taken off the roads, millions of litres of drinking water they’ve saved and thousands of truckloads of waste they’ve diverted from landfill.

Bruce Precious of the GPT Group will present on the CSIRO’s predictions on the six megatrends that will impact the sustainable building industry over the next 20 years.

Representatives from some of Australia’s most successful green building project teams will take questions on the road to 6 Star Green Star success and share their tips on everything from engaging, to troubleshooting, to managing expectations.

There will also be a networking session, allowing participants to mingle with the Green Star team and share ideas on the future of Australia’s sustainability rating system.

Green Building Day will be in Sydney on Wednesday, May 29  and Melbourne on Friday, June 7.


Schools Raise Green Kids

Setting Australia up for a sustainable future and educating the environmentalists and those who will make the green breakthroughs to come is starting at school level.

The Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI) is a holistic approach to education for sustainability with measurable environmental, financial, educational and social outcomes.

The students learn by doing and the program involves the whole school community to reiterate the initiative.

Pilot programs were run in Victoria and NSW as pilots and it is now being introduced into schools across the nation and has been taken up by more than 2000 schools and 570,000 students.

The program links schools to other programs they may already have been participating in, such as Energy Smart Schools, WasteWise, Waterwatch, Waterwise, Landcare and the Reef Guardian Schools Program.

As well as giving students an early introduction to sustainable practices, schools have also reaped the benefits with up to 80 per cent reductions in waste, 60 per cent reduction in water consumption and savings on energy consumption of 20 per cent with associated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Schools are saving money and students have more pride in their schools and have a greater interest in learning.


Green Farming

There are fewer jobs that rely more on the environment than farming, and many are embracing environmentally friendly methods to grow food for the world.

Subsistence farmers experience higher yields by embracing alternatives to conventional farming methods because, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, the world needs to produce more food with fewer resources.

One alternative method is Agroecology, which mimics natural ecosystems, and improves soil fertility, adapts to climate change and reduces farming costs. According the UN, it also more than doubled crop yields within 3 to 10 years.

Developed in Australia, permaculture is organic and low-input using intercropping, water harvesting and recycling resources. Globally, some permaculture programs are run as part of other projects focused on health and environmentally sustainability, which gives communities many more benefits than simply greater food yields.

Sustainability is not an issue just for designers, architects or those involved in technology development, it’s something to be embraced by people in every aspect of their lives to make improvements to the global population.

These principles are not limited to farming projects, even home garenders can embrace the principles of permaculture in their backyard to enhance their produce and lessen their detrimental effects on the natural environment.

Students To Showcase Australian Retrofitting in China

Retrofitting is likely to be the trend for those wanting to create sustainable living spaces in 2013, according to the Emerging Trends in Real Estate Europe joint report, published by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC).

Europe isn’t the only place this is becoming a popular way to greener living, Australian architects, builders and even students are embracing retrofitting.

Students at the University of Wollongong and TAFE Illawarra have taken retrofitting to a classic Aussie fibro home and will make it into an eco-house.

The 30 students are part of the Solar Decathlon, a global research and building competition driven by the Chinese and United States governments, and have made it into the finals with 23 other teams from around the world.

They are also the first Australian group to compete in this event.

The home is called The Illawarra Flame Australia and students want to inspire the building industry and demonstrate it is possible to transform most Australian homes into stylish, affordable and sustainable homes of the future.

The home, once completed in Australia, will be taken to China for judging in August.

Students will compete in and be judged on 10 events covering all aspects of housing design, including architecture, market appeal, engineering, communications, solar application, thermal comfort, hot water, appliances, home entertainment and energy balance.

The judging and events will be between August 6-15 in Datong, 300km west of Beijing in China.



Adelaide: Example of Regenerative Development

Adelaide has been used as an example to the world of a city that copies natural ecosystems for sustainability.

World Future Council director of programmes Professor Herbert Girardet this month said he was concerned about the effects of human work today on future generations and the relationship between cities and the world’s ecosystems.

He said the largest impact on the biosphere came from production and consumption systems in cities.

In an interview at COP18 UN Climate Change Conference 2012, Professor Girardet said Adelaide had gone from linear processes of resource consumption to a more circular functioning where waste food and water was being returned to surrounding farmland to increase soil fertility.

He said the traditional linear consumption model needed to be addressed with new technologies and innovative ideas on urban development.

More than being sustainable, Professor Girardet said cities needed to develop ways of being regenerative in their developments.

Adelaide is being regenerative in its development by copying the circular functioning of natural ecosystems.

He said this was also being discussed by other cities that were under construction as well as those already built.

Professor Girardet said sustainable development had not achieved enough and many organisations had realised that they needed to restore the natural world through human technologies and development, rather than just sustain the relationship between humans and the natural environs.