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’.


South Australia Embraces Sustainable Infrastructure

The South Australian Government has launched the country’s first infrastructure sustainability rating scheme.

The Australian Green Infrastructure Council developed the tool which can assess infrastructure including roads and bridges, ports, harbours and airports, communication and energy with ratings out of 100 points given to the projects or assets.

Infrastructure Sustainability is Australia’s only comprehensive rating system for evaluating sustainability across design, construction and operation of infrastructure.

Each project is assessed across economic, environmental and social criteria.
As well as being a rating tool, the Infrastructure Sustainability Rating Scheme includes an assessment process and education and training programs.
A rating in the 25-49 range is considered good practice, a 50-74 rating is excellent and 75-100 is leading practice.

“It will help us assess the quality of management systems, the process of procurement and purchasing, how a piece of infrastructure can adapt to climate change and what it will discharge into land, air and water,” Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“The scheme is voluntary and helps create better, more sustainable ways of designing, building and operating infrastructure which can then be marked with a rating level. It demystifies the whole question of what exactly we mean by economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

Harvesting new water ideas

Drinking rainwater that is harvested from rooftops is not a new concept and one that those in the country and not connected to the water grid embrace as a fact of life, but it’s something that could be introduced to capital cities in Australia.

Melbourne is one city looking at this and other ideas to conserve our most precious resource- water.

The Living Melbourne, Living Victoria report authored by former Sustainability Victoria chairman Mike Waller recommended expanding competition among government-owned water businesses and creating a water trading market, licensing private providers to offer not-for-drinking recycled and stormwater to the home and even paying a premium on water bills to avoid restrictions.

These recommendations were made as alternatives to spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects including a desalination plant, a north-south pipeline or the Thomson Dam.

A recommendation that all states and cities would do well to adopt is that new estates could produce more drinking water with new homes capturing water off their rooftops to be piped back to water storages, avoiding costly connections to the traditional water grid.

The longterm benefits of these ecologically sustainable recommendations would mean new communities would be more self-sufficient when it comes to their water usage and recycling resulting in more savings for the environment and in monetary terms.


Sustainability skills from paper to practice

Businesses, organisations and individuals across the world know how important it is to be eco-friendly and sustainable.

Tertiary education providers including Brisbane North Institute of Tafe and the University of Vermont in the US, have recognised the importance sustainability has in our lives and are offering sustainability training and accreditation.

These courses address environmental responsibility and can be applied across all aspects of life.

Brisbane North Institute of Tafe is already putting in place environmentally-friendly initiatives across its five campuses and taking this further is offering free, accredited sustainability training for the public.

Institute director Lynne Foley said they hoped to equip community members with skills so they could implement environmentally-sustainable practices in their workplaces.

The University of Vermont’s two courses in sustainability are offered exclusively online, appealing to those in business and working who are able to study in their own time and where ever they are located.

University Alliance executive vice president Adrian Marrullier said eco-friendly practices were not only good for the environment but assisted organisations to increase their profits.

These skills will not only be used in organisations and businesses, but flow into people’s everyday lives and their homes and, ultimately, increase sustainability awareness and initiatives throughout the community.

Future cities grow up and power themselves

Cities of the future, if the predictions of architects and urban planners prove correct, will grow upward, not outward.

Future urban planning and design may see an increasing trend toward multi-purpose environments. Indeed these may be the key to evolving cities of the future, with everyday living going from the individual to the communal. Social aspects, which have diminished due to urban density and design, may return to communities as this change integrates into the greater built environment.

An evolving urban landscape will see the humble house replaced with minimalist dwelling as our cities grow upward, not out and urban sprawl will become increasingly rare.

With skyrocketing costs in both infrastructure and utilities, many expect a diversity in living styles to catalyse over the next decade.

According to Giles Tribe Architects and Urban Planners principal Mark Broadley, City of Sydney director of planning, development and transport Graham Jahn and Victoria’s associate government architect Jill Garner future accommodation will be aimed at reducing the human eco-footprint and the level of impact that individuals have indirectly on the environment, whilst providing opportunities for sustainable design.

Eco-friendly will be another key to future existence, with power generation products tipped to become a staple of future building. Whether wind turbines or solar panels, both residential and commercial dwellings will be energy and waste-efficient.

Buildings inevitably, are expected to increasingly integrate with the natural environment, rather than taking from it, whilst energy consumption and waste production will become increasingly important aspects for reduction.

Whilst seemingly a little too utopian, one thing is for certain; the future holds the answers.