Small Changes To Sustainability

A new book on sustainability encourages small steps to transform the way we live to become more sustainable.

Motivating Change: Sustainable Design and Behaviour in the Built Environment encourages designers, architects and planners to get people motivated to change their behaviour through their design of urban areas.

Edited by University of South Australia’s Professor Steffen Lehmann and Dr Robert Crocker, the publication is the second edited by Prof Lehmann in the Earthscan Series on sustainable design.

The book is a collection of essays by academics from around the world who they hope will inspire those involved in urban design to play their part in the issues of climate change.

Prof Lehmann said people only needed to make basic changes to change the way people live.

“We live in a disposable culture where we build and buy for the short-term,” Prof Lehmann said.

“We see it in all aspects of life: we are building houses that are only made to last 30 years at the same time as we are tearing down 100-year-old buildings without reusing the materials with which they were constructed, and our mobile telephones are redundant after just a couple of years’ use.

Prof Lehmann said the most important issues needed behaviour changes at many levels – the city to the individual – and it needed to be long-lasting.






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.”

Greening Government Buildings

The Australian Federal Election is on all our minds and governments always want to make cuts to save money, so how can governments save money from their own buildings?

The Green Building Council of Australia has called on political parties to introduce greener initiatives to government buildings to save taxpayers millions of dollars each year.

GBCA chief operating officer Robin Mellon said governments could reduce overheads and cut carbon emissions by improving the efficiency of existing buildings.

He said retrofitting was the most sustainable way to save money and green up the government’s buildings.

“A modest 10 per cent improvement in energy efficiency would save more than $35 million per year in electricity costs and be equivalent to the electricity required to power 23,000 homes,” he said.

“A 10 per cent improvement would also reduce carbon emissions by 167,000 tonnes – the same as taking 46,000 cars off the road.”

Mr Mellon said the recent Climate Institute’s ‘Boosting Australia’s Energy Productivity’ research highlighted that Australia’s poor investment in energy efficiency cost the country tens of billions of dollars in economic growth.

He said a symbolic gesture would be to gain a Green Star performance rating for Parliament House, being the most significant federally-owned building in Australia.

Carbon To Become Sustainable Green Building Product in University Trial

Carbon could soon be locked up forever to make new green building materials in a joint venture between the University of Newcastle, Orica and the GreenMag Group.

The research pilot plant will be built at the University of Newcastle to trial technology that turns carbon emissions into carbonate rocks, which could then be used as green building materials.

Malavika Santhebennur from Australian Mining wrote that while Orica was already capturing some of its carbon dioxide emissions at its Kooragang Island manufacturing facility in Newcastle, it was looking for an appropriate disposal technology solution for itself and the industry.

The research team will include University of Newcastle Priority Resarch Centre for Energy professors Bodgan Dlugogorski and Eric Kennedy and Orica senior research associate Dr Geoff Brent.

Professor Dlugogorski said the difference with their mineral carbonation model was that they transformed the carbon dioxide into a useful product, rather than just storing it underground.

Professor Kennedy said they wanted to process the carbon dioxide emissions quicker than the earth’s national carbonation system so that they don’t accumulate in the air, and be cost-effective at the same time.

The trial plant is expected to be operating by 2017.




Real- Life Examples of Green Living

Environmentally friendly and low energy usage homes will throw open their doors next month for the annual Sustainable House Day.

September 8 will celebrate the 12th celebration of green thinking in house design and living, with about 250 houses expected to welcome people in so they can show off their environmentally friendly features.

The day is an opportunity for people interested in reducing their negative impacts on the environment to find out how they could embrace renewable energy, recycling and other green practices.

Rather than being a day of displays, these homes are working examples of how you and your family can live real lives and still be kind to the environment. Not only will these homes show people how they be nicer to the environment and save energy and finite resources, reducing their carbon footprint, they also show viewers how they could be saving money doing it.

Organisers said owners of sustainable homes were investing more in water harvesting and solar energy.

greater investment in harvesting water and solar energy as communities realise our resources are finite and likely to become more expensive. By becoming energy efficient today, you’ll be on the front foot to save on energy bills and help the environment now and into the future.

The homes are also real-life examples of how inventive architecture can be used to save energy and make home design greener.

Sustainability Awards Push for Environmentally-Friendly Innovations

Nominations are open for the 7th Annual BPN Sustainability Awards, which are designed to encourage and reward Australia’s best practice in sustainable building and architecture design.

The awards want designers, architects and buildings to push the boundaries of innovation by rewarding this initiative.

The 10 entry categories are Small Commercial, Large Commercial, Office Fitout, Single Dwelling (New), Best of the Best, Landscape Design, Innovation of the Year, Multi Density Residential, Public Building and Urban Design, and Single Dwelling (Alterations and Additions).

The awards’ judges are looking for services or products that help sustainable built environments, sustainable design, and preservation and rehabilitation of land among other criteria.

Past winners have been rewarded for initiatives including collaborative designs, environmental and social sustainability, integrating nature into design, energy efficiency, passive design and solar shading.

Building Products News (BPN) Magazine, a respected industry journal since 1967, started the awards, with interest continuing to grow each year, alongside the recognition that good building design is vital to environmental sustainability, energy efficiency and in reducing our carbon footprint.

The ceremony will be held in Sydney on Thursday, November 7 with nominations closing on August 30.

Carbon Farming for Biodiversity

Carbon farming could boost Australia’s biodiversity, but experts have warned cautious optimism.

University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute director of ecological modelling Professor Corey Bradshaw has authored a new paper in the journal Biological Conservation, reviewing the consequences of Australia’s carbon economy on biodiversity, with contributions from 30 scientists.

He said they could help each other, but land management had to be done with biodiversity in mind from the start.

Professor Bradshaw said tree plantings would be the best way to encourage biodiversity, but warned that the fastest-growing, simplest and foreign species just to farm carbon.

“Carbon plantings will only have real biodiversity value if they comprise appropriate native tree species and provide suitable habitats and resources for valued fauna,” he said

“Such plantings could however risk severely altering local hydrology and reducing water availability.”

The environmental expert said regrowth in areas that have been cleared also needed to be managed carefully to benefit carbon initiatives and biodiversity and changes to agriculture around carbon farming would benefit biodiversity.

Professor Brawshaw recommended modifications including reductions in tillage frequency, livestock densities and fertiliser use, and retention and regeneration of native shrubs.

He said carbon pricing projects could help conserve biodiversity, but only if properly managed from the outset, with long term planning, not short sightedness.

Planning With Love

Social planning specialist Dr Wendy Sarkissian argues that plans for higher density living needs to be done with LOVE-  Listening,Openness, Validation and community Education.

Focusing on Adelaide’s 30 Year Plan, Dr Sarkissian said residents want to protect their territories and didn’t want higher density living in their backyards, but the community needed to be involved in every step of the planning process.

“Community members need to understand the sustainability reasons behind housing density increases,” she said.

“But I think the big mistake being made is that we are trying to educate people first – before we listen openly to them and understand what they have to say to us. People have deep connections with their home and their community. We have the strongest place attachment to our ‘core territory’ of home because it has symbolic and psychological importance. Instinctively, we will defend our homes and neighbourhoods at all cost.”

She said community backlash against higher density living connected to the 30 Year Plan would continue unless planners, designers, governments and developers understood and respected this instinctive response.

Dr Sarkissian said the design of higher density housing needed to reflect people’s ideas of home.

“Some higher density housing looks like offices or factories – it can be harsh and not domestic in scale or appearance,” she said.

“We need housing that is more ‘home-like’. And we need engagement processes that reflect greater emotional intelligence than the processes we currently employ.”

Higher density housing has been found to have many environmental and sustainable living benefits.

The Bug Key to Food Sustainability

Sustainability is a holistic way of life not limited to architecture, town planning or green star-rated structures, it also includes what and how we eat.

Insects might not be the choice of food for most Australia,s but The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says they’re the food of the future because they’re sustainable.

The UN’s FOAO states that food is becoming scarcer and it is not feasible or sustainable to increase the land available for farming, so diverse food sources are needed.

The UN believes that insects are the answer to a more sustainable food source, a way of diversifying diets and more than two billion people already eat them.

The major reasons the UN sees insects as one of the solutions to sustainable food production is that they can provide protein and nutritional needs that disadvantaged members of society could lack, they are easy to raise and harvest and can be farmed or harvested in the wild, they could offer a cheap and efficient opportunity to counter nutritional insecurity by providing emergency food and insects could also improve the livelihoods and quality of traditional diets among vulnerable people.

Sydney celebrity chef Kylie Kwong already serves up crickets in a variety of dishes at her restaurant in the harbour city.

She recently told the ABC that she’d been serving insects since February and she’d had a positive response from diners and that insects were delicious.


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.