Garnaut on the built environment

12 March, 2008

The Garnaut Review today released Issues Paper 5 – Transport, planning and the built environment

The information contained therein seems to be generally sensible, and I think it is particularly worthwhile for the architecture profession to take note of the fact that buildings are responsible for 23% of Australia’s GHG emissions. This figure does not however include the emissions from the construction and renovation of said buildings. This also compares to transport being responsible for 14% of Australia’s GHG emissions (private cars are responsible for 7%, though this is rising).

What I do find interesting, in fact somewhat worrying, is the fact that 5.5 pages are dedicated to transport and planning, whilst 2.5 are dedicated to buildings, which seems out of whack with their respective emissions impact.

Something I’m surprised wasn’t mentioned (given the market focus of the report) as a  way to reduce built environment emissions was the disclosure of  a building’s energy rating when it is sold or leased. How are people supposed to make rational spending choices without all of the relevant information?


Venice pavilion competition

5 March, 2008

Cafe Di Stasio are sponsoring another competition to design a new Australian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale, details are here. Thanks to Kirk for this and also to the massive ad taken out by Cafe Di Stasio in The Age on the weekend.

*sigh* if only it could actually get built…


Tonight, tonight, it all began tonight

7 February, 2008

The Citta/ARM St Kilda Triangle development just got the green light from the Port Phillip council.

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Okay, so it’s been a while, apologies.

Having had a while to think this over, I think that the scheme is too big and probably does have too many shops. It seems that there is not enough public transport or car parking available to deal with the extra people, it is already pretty chaotic down there. I think that the State Government really should have stumped up the cash for the refurbishment of the Palais rather than make Citta pay for it, because in doing so the Government merely assured that the developer would have to increase the number of paying tenants on the site to cover the extra costs. It also gives the developer a perfect excuse to add more venues for tenants even if they are not necessarily needed. I have no particular evidence of this but it doesn’t seem unlikely.

I think ARM’s scheme is good though. They’ve proved themselves to be very capable with large scale stuff in the last few years, even if the smaller stuff is looking like they don’t have much time invested in to them (I think the best example of this is to be found comparing the Storey Hall Annex to the RMIT Prospective Student centre a few doors apart on Swanston Street, but years apart in age and miles apart in design quality). Also, I think the fact that the development is not just another shops, offices and apartments job is great, they’ve actually included other functions into the site, ‘cos there is actually more to life then shopping, sleeping and going to work.


Over the rainbow

1 February, 2008

Process is back this coming Monday evening the 4th of Feb, at Loop bar as always.

The title this month is ‘Over the Rainbow’, with Soren Luckins from Buro North and Matthew Bird from Studio Bird talking about multidisciplinary practice.

And if anyone was wondering, Loop was designed by Geoff Crosby.


A concrete example

30 January, 2008

There’s an article in the current issue of New Scientist about this fantastic new type of concrete being made right here in ol’ Melbourne town.

It is essentially concrete without Portland cement. The stuff is called ‘e-crete’ (my goodness words with randomly added e’s at the beginning annoy me) and it is made by a company called Zeobond. Instead of regular cement it uses fly ash or mineralogical slags for the required bonding of the concrete. The problem with cement is that to make it you need to cook the hell out of limestone (calcium carbonate), which not only requires a huge amount of energy, but the chemical reaction that occurs when you cook the limestone results in not only the quicklime (calcium oxide) that you need for the cement, but carbon dioxide, which as well all know is a greenhouse gas.

Cement production worldwide accounts for about 4-5% of total man made greenhouse gas emissions. For each kilogram of cement produced, approximately 800 grams of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere with the majority of this, about 500 grams, coming from the actual chemical reaction itself and the rest from fossil fuels used to provide the heat to drive the reaction.

But the Zeobond stuff uses geopolymers (like fly ash) instead of Portland cement, which don’t release anywhere near the amount of carbon dioxide and don’t require heating either, hurrah!

Unfortunately you can’t specify this for a slab just yet. At the moment e-crete is only able to be used in non-structural applications. Still, it’s something to look out for in the (hopefully near) future.


Silence is golden

21 January, 2008

Happy new year arkatekts, hope you’ve caught up on some sleep in the time from the last post.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of news in the world of Melbourne architecture, yet. Perhaps when everyone has had a few more weeks back at work it will start to pick up a bit. Not that everyone doesn’t seem to be pretty damn busy again already. Or looking for a job, there seems to be a bit of that happening at the moment.

In the next month or so we’ll see the new architecture program at Monash swing into action though. According to the newspaper supplement, they admitted 75 students, with approximately half of those coming from high school. Very interested to see how things work out for the study of architecture at Monash; from what I’ve heard it will be a damn good course (but they lose points for the absolutely bloody awful music on their webpage, oh god I’m in cafe del mar hell). The renderings of the building reno by WSH look good.

RMIT‘s admission figures seemed to be down to me at 51, but that was HECS places and let’s face it, architecture is a cash cow for universities, they get in as many full fee paying students as they can because they provide the cash. Desperately needed cash because government funded places are so under-funded, no university could possibly run with HECS students alone.

And Melbourne, well, it is impossible to tell what is going on there, what the hell is a Bachelor of Environments anyway? I’m not necessarily against the Melbourne Model (or the Bologna Model, which is basically what it is), hell, I can think of a lot of advantages to being able to change your mind about architecture and simply be able to change your major, rather than going into a whole new degree, I can think of a lot of people who would have benefited from that.

Something that has happened over the holidays that I think deserves a mention is that the old Melbourne power station demolition has begun. I may be the only person in Melbourne who is actually sad about this, I actually like that building in all it’s greyness. It may not be “pretty” but it was I think a really interesting part of the history of the city in both functional and aesthetic terms. Now no one would consider generating electricity so close to where it is actually used (I’m sorry but a few wind turbines on roof-tops don’t count), it seems that the only functions allowed in any new building in the city are offices, apartments and shops, as though life consists entirely of work, sleep and shopping. And I like it’s concrete grunginess! Sick of slick panels everywhere that just make real buildings look like bad renderings.

Oh well, I suppose it’s only heritage if it’s pretty isn’t it?

According to this forum, Peddle Thorpe are the architects of the proposed scheme, the developers are Soldis Capital.

There are some great photos here.


We don’t like you any more DCM

21 December, 2007

The looooong awaited DCM Stonehenge Visitor Centre has been scrapped by the UK government.

The UK architecture minister (they have an architecture minister??) said that the scheme as a whole was just becoming too expensive. Apparently it all rested on putting a road underground nearby, to the tune of about £500 million. The building itself was a mere £65 million in comparison.

Now though the government is proposing a temporary visitor centre instead, which seems like a good way to build something shoddy that will not function very well and will probably cost them more in the long run anyway (or hang around for longer than it was ever meant to, like those classrooms in Victorian schools built in the 1950’s that only had a 25 year life-span but are being vainly renovated to this day).

DCM are understandably a little bit peeved.


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