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?

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.

Another bunch of boxes for the CBD

14 December, 2007

The Age today produced a particularly wonderful piece of journalism, singing the praises of none other than themselves!

The Age render

Yes, they’ve unveiled plans for their new building. They like them so much they’ve written about it twice. Bates Smart are the architects and Grocon will build the thing (according to their media release, they’ve already started).

It will be on the south west corner of Collins and Spencer, with a nice big lawn out the front and some colourful bits (in the render at least) and will be 5 Star, but basically it just looks like yet another collection of intersecting boxes in search of any meaning or contextual relevance.

Perhaps that is a bit harsh, I’ve only seen two renders after all. Unfortunately Bates Smart website doesn’t have any more info though.

Eco, schmeco

7 December, 2007

The UK’s new scheme to build a bunch of ‘eco-towns’ is being criticised as being totally stupid. the basic criticism is that you can’t say something is ‘eco’ just because it has lots of insulation, and you especially can’t say it is eco if you have bulldozed a bunch of trees to get at the land to build it on and that land is miles from anywhere else. Der.

An economist pointed out a while ago that the best way for a small town to become ‘green’ was actually to move to London. Because of the density of London, the people that live there emit 40% less GHG than the national average, whilst the inhabitants of the town emit 25% more.

I tried to argue for the benefits of density with a committed Green a while ago, in the wake of protesting against some truly badly designed new development nearby, only to find out that density just didn’t fit with this person’s idea of green. Not enough mud bricks, vegie patches or hemp it seemed.

environment for development

27 October, 2007

Failure to address these persistent problems, UNEP says, may undo all the achievements so far on the simpler issues, and may threaten humanity’s survival …humanity’s footprint [its environmental demand] is 21.9 hectares per person while the Earth’s biological capacity is, on average, only 15.7 ha/person…

from a new report from the UN Environment Programme, Global Environment Outlook: environment for development (GEO-4), published 20 years after the Brundtland Commission’s seminal report Our Common Future.

hopefully this will inspire some action, rather than panic and/or further denial.

5 star treatment for everyone

26 October, 2007

it was announced today by the Building Commission that from May next year, all domestic renovation and extension work will include bringing the house up to a 5 star energy efficiency rating, press release here.

this is really a much more important step than introducing 5 star for new homes, simply because the vast majority of homes in Victoria are not new, but we do love to renovate. though it will still be pretty hard to make the argument for energy efficiency on the basis that it will save you money when greenhouse gas emissions are free and thus coal fired electricity remains so amazingly cheap.

DCM in manchester

23 October, 2007

DCM’s long awaited justice centre in manchester opens tomorrow. a review in the Guardian describes the building by the boys from Melbourne as “altogether a remarkable building” and “a radical and exhilarating piece of work”. they sound very excited.

DCM Manchester

looking through the pictures, the first thought that came to me about the building was “it looks like melbourne”. well, der really.