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May 2011

In the News

New Design Notes


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New to EDG - Ania Hampton

The perils of the wishful client brief are explored in EDG note 67 AH, 'Designing User-Friendly Passive Buildings' by Ania Hampton. One of three design notes new to EDG this month. (Image: Living Graft Prefab Structure, www.terreform.org)

Making News - World First for Melbourne

A first for Melbourne as Grocon announces plans for a 10-storey Passivhaus apartment block that will be carbon neutral and made entirely of timber. See National News. (Image: Grocon)

From the Editor


Have you ever tried to find a paper on the EDG website and broken off your search in frustration? Have you ever wished there was some way you could look up a subject or an author?

I've long known our filing and search system was broke, and I'd like to apologise for any inconvenience its poor design has caused you. However I'd also like to announce some good news: we finally have a search app that works! It hasn't fixed everything, but it's a huge step in the right direction.

If you haven't visited EDG for a while, today – with new site search and the release of three new design notes – is the perfect time to come back. Go to the site, think of a subject or an author you'd like to look up, and do a search for it.

Let me know how it went.


EDG subscribers please take note, there has been a small change to our pricing structure. If you are a member of the Institute of Architects or the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) it will not affect you, but if you are not a member next time you go to subscribe you will see a slight increase in our prices.

More reason to join, as members of the Institute and GBCA will now save 20 per cent on non-member prices. And of course A+ members of the Institute will continue to receive EDG free, as part of their membership package.

For all current subscription prices see our Price List.

Michael Day

New Design Notes

This month we publish three notes on sustainable design for the built environment. Click on a title below and you'll be taken directly to the note's abstract on the EDG website.

Whatever the design note you're after, you should now have no trouble finding it. Go to the EDG website and do a search using any combination of title, subject, author name or keyword. Relevant design notes will appear in the results.

One search you might try is 'BCA Section J', or just plain 'Section J'. Top of your results should be EDG 66 MS 'BCA Section J and Commercial Building Facade Design' by Michael Shaw. With 662 downloads since its publication in March, it stands as our most downloaded design note of the past year.

If you didn't catch one of Michael Shaw's National Seminar Series presentations in March/April, or if you did but you haven't downloaded the note yet, now you know where to find it!


Designing User-Friendly Passive Buildings by Ania Hampton

This note focuses on engaging building users in the operation of passively designed public buildings. It will assist designers of sustainable buildings to understand what their clients really want, and to deliver a building that its users can and will operate.

Ania Hampton B.Eng(Mech)(Hons), M.AIRAH, is principal of Hampton Sustainability, an ESD consultancy. She is an Accredited Green Star Professional, NABERS Assessor and Thermal Performance Assessor.


The Climate-Adaptive Vernacular Architecture of Asia-Pacific by Carol Marra

This note is based on research undertaken as part of a Churchill Fellowship, which included field study in Vigan City, the Philippines; Fujian, China; and Central Japan. The locations visited regularly experience monsoons, typhoons and large seasonal variations. They are on the same latitudes (16 to 35°) as some of the most populous areas of east coast Australia. With the Australian east coast already experiencing more extreme and variable weather due to climate change, designers can draw some valuable lessons in adaptive strategies from the Asia-Pacific region.

Carol Marra (BArch), of Marra+Yeh Architects, is a graduate of the University of Texas. She specialises in environmentally responsive buildings.


Water Conservation and Harvesting in Adelaide, SA: Four Case Studies by Paul Downton

Adelaide has a relatively long history of innovation in wastewater treatment and water conservation, spurred on in response to South Australia's predominantly arid environment. Although the leading-edge techniques reviewed in this note are still the exception rather than the rule, they are becoming increasingly commonplace – driven by both legislation and environmental necessity.

Paul F Downton (BSc, BArch, PhD, ARAIA), Director of Ecopolis Architects, is a major contributor to the Federal Government's Your Home Technical Manual and a widely published author on architecture, cities and ecology.


Green Cities 2011 Highlights

Canadian architect Michael Green presents at Green Cities (Image: Copyright GBCA)

Australia's largest annual green buildings conference, Green Cities, had a stronger than usual emphasis this year on urban development, but as always building design and rating tools got a good look in.

Day One got off to a stimulating start with keynote speaker Jeb Brugmann, a Canadian urban strategist whose theories of spontaneous innovation and self-organisation in urban slums have been extremely influential in the planning and development sectors.

An inspired counterpoint to Brugmann's talk came at the beginning of Day Two, when Dan Epstein, Head of Sustainability for the 2012 Olympics, made similar observations to Brugmann but in a very different context, moving the spotlight from Mumbai to London and the developed world. An outspoken opponent of top-down decision making, Epstein praised the conference host city Melbourne's rediscovery and reoccupation of its laneways as a great example of urban place-making.

Also garnering a lot of interest on Day Two was the talk by Canadian architect Michael Green, whose research into the feasibilities of multi-storey timber buildings is creating a lot of excitement about the environmental and structural qualities of timber. (Ahead of the curve as usual, Grocon has just announced it is set to build the world's tallest timber building in Melbourne – see National News.) Anyone interested in Michael Green's work should check out his formal presentation on the Institute's Continuum website (see Events and Training).

Of questionable value, however, was the talk by 'sceptical environmentalist' Bjorn Lomborg. Lomborg is a maestro of soundbites, but his claims are as hotly contested as they are attention-grabbing.

For this participant, the conference highlight – in addition to Michael Green's presentation – was the panel discussion on Rating Tool Evaluation. Andrew Aitkin, Executive Director Green Star, Matthew Clarke, Director NABERS, and Shane Esmore of sustainability consultants Umow Lai provided a fascinating glimpse into the current state and future prospects of Green Star, LEED and BREEAM. Umow Lai were consultants on Grocon's Pixel project, during which Shane Esmore rated the building against all three tools, giving him a unique global perspective. His presentation, and those of all the other presenters, can be found on the Green Building Council of Australia website.


Cole is Half Right

Edith Paarhammer, Paarhammer Pty Ltd

As someone with a longstanding interest in passive design, I welcomed the publication in February of Gareth Cole's design note 'Residential Passive Design for Temperate Climates'.

When it comes to windows, though, I have to take issue with Gareth's statement that timber windows in Australia are 'difficult to seal as the timber can warp, shrink and split'. This is not the whole story. If they are made in the European style there is no chance that they will do any of those things.

The durability and stability of timber frames has a lot to do with timber selection and use of joints and multilayered profiles. Laminations help stabilise larger sections, making heights of up to five metres achievable. Factory priming, painting or oiling before delivery and installation reduces the possibility of frames getting weathered or water logged. When timber frames are well maintained they can last for hundreds of years, as they do in other countries.

And as Gareth points out, while in aluminium-framed windows the energy performance of the glass is decreased by the frame, in timber windows the energy performance of glass is enhanced: U-values as low as 1.1 are possible.

In addition to providing superior thermal performance, in bushfire areas a number of timbers can be used up to BAL-29, while Paarhammer products have been tested and approved to BAL-40 (as per AS3959-2009).

Made right, timber frames have none of the drawbacks Gareth ascribes to them, and all of the advantages.

National News

Climate Solutions Think Tank Launches Zero-Carbon Buildings Research

Climate change solutions think tank Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) is launching a new research initiative to investigate pathways to a zero emissions buildings sector. Following on from their Banksia award-winning Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan released in partnership with the University of Melbourne last year, the group has turned its attention to the built environment.

'Australia's building sector contributes around 23 per cent of the national carbon footprint,' says Matthew Wright, BZE's Executive Director. 'It presents a fantastic opportunity to achieve sizable carbon reductions.'

The Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan seeks to quantify the carbon reductions that existing buildings can achieve through retrofitting, and that new buildings can achieve through cutting-edge sustainable design. It will also quantify the maximum feasible contribution from distributed onsite renewable electricity generation.

The new research task will operate with well-defined parameters: to decarbonise the sector in 10 years using only commercially available technologies and practices. Beyond Zero Emissions are growing a reputation for innovative research practices. Online wikis and group meeting are used to facilitate collaboration.

'The great strength of our Stationary Energy Plan is the pro bono research provided by experts working in the sector,' says Wright. 'We want to do the same thing with the Buildings Plan. We're inviting people from across the built environment professions to get involved and help us write the most rigorous research on transforming the Australian building sector.'

Work on this mammoth research initiative is now underway, but there is a long road ahead. If you are interested in offering your expertise on a pro bono basis visit the BZE website, www.beyondzeroemissions.org. See also A Zero-Carbon Buildings Plan for 2020, below.

Grocon Team Brews Up Another World Beater

Artist's impression of the Delta Building (Image: Grocon)

Grocon has announced plans for a 'Passivhaus' apartment building to be built on the Carlton Brewery site, home to the cutting-edge Pixel building. The building will be known as Delta. Like Pixel it will be carbon neutral, but in this case it will be built entirely from timber (including the lift shafts) and will be perched atop the heritage-listed bluestone walls on Bouverie Street.

David Waldren, Grocon's General Manager at the Carlton Brewery site, said the company wanted to extend and expand its thinking: 'We want to go further than ever before in the development and construction industry,' he said. 'Buildings like Delta will bring a new standard of comfort and quality to Australian residential settings.'

The Delta building will be 10 storeys high, with 50 apartments. It is designed to be one storey taller than the Stadthaus in Hackney, East London, currently believed to be the tallest building of its type in the world.

The pre-fabricated structure will consist of FSC certified cross-laminated Spruce, a product first developed in Switzerland and never before used in Australia. It will use shredded newspaper as insulation.

Passivhaus is the fastest growing energy performance standard in the world, with over 20,000 buildings realised to date – the majority since 2000.Passivhaus' strengths lie in the simplicity of its approach; build a house that has an excellent thermal performance and exceptional airtightness, and mechanically ventilate through a Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) unit.

Mr Waldren said of Delta, 'It has an airtight building envelope, is very well insulated and the timber window frames feature triple glazing'.

The building will have its own gas-fired electrical generator powered by waste woodchips, and a rainwater and greywater recycling system.

'Buyers would pay a premium of 10-15 per cent on the costs of an average apartment but because of these systems, they won't be paying water or electricity bills and will be quarantined from things like a carbon tax forever,'' Mr Waldren said. He said apartments would be sold off the plan this year. Most would be three bedroom and would cost around $1 million.

The team working on Delta is the same as worked on Pixel – Grocon, studio 505 architects and sustainability consultants Umow Lai.

Perth Architect Calls for Ban on Air-Con

Raymond Jones has decried the Über McMansion (Image, Sanjib Lemar, Wikimedia)

Pioneering Perth architect Raymond Jones, credited with designing the city's first passive houses 50 years ago, has loudly lamented the state of the local architecture. At the opening of a retrospective of his work at the University of Western Australia in March, Jones took aim at oversized, energy-guzzling McMansions. 'We are just not going forward at all,' he said, 'we are going backward'.

'Every bit of square metre of soil they want to smother it instead of having a nice blend of opening, then having pavilions, light weight pavilions that respond to the environment.'

Jones was particularly disgusted at the proliferation of air-conditioning. 'We ought to legislate that there is no air-conditioning in new homes,' he said. 'It pollutes the environment and it makes people lazy because they build any type of house without it being renewable energy inclined.'

Jones called for a renewed commitment to the Indian Ocean 'which is a wonderful asset that is never capitalised on and should be worshipped like a god for the benefits of the sea breeze'.

A Zero-Carbon Buildings Plan for 2020

Experts in the field of building energy efficiency met in Melbourne last Tuesday at a Buildings Retrofit Workshop co-hosted by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE) and the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute.

Among the many distinguished participants were RMIT Adjunct Professor Alan Pears, John Macdonald from DesignInc, Shane Esmore from Umow Lai, John Duffin from ARUP, and academics Dr Dominique Hes and Dr Sara Wilkinson. Participants pooled their collective expertise to devise retrofit strategies for non-residential buildings that would achieve maximum energy demand reduction for Australia's existing building stock.

Heidi Lee, Project Manager for the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Buildings Plan, said that the day had been a great success. 'It was a priceless opportunity to gather years of experience and knowledge in one room. The pro bono contributions of these experts has made an invaluable contribution to the Plan.'

The workshop concentrated on a set of building typologies which had been identified by a team of building researchers headed by architectural historian Louise Honman.

In keeping with Zero Carbon Australia guiding principles, all strategies had to employ proven, reliable and commercially available technology and practices. The proposed upgrades now stand to be refined and worked into a draft Plan. In the final stages of the Plan, engineers will model energy reduction figures for the upgrades and finance experts will cost their roll out and implementation.

In the meantime, BZE have just announced a further workshop to investigate upgrading of building HVAC and mechanical systems. The date for that workshop will be finalised soon, and anyone interested in attending is encouraged to contact Trent Hawkins at trent@beyondzeroemissions.org.

The Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Buildings Plan is due for release later this year. To find out more, visit www.beyondzeroemissions.org/buildings.

Launch of Building Products Lifecycle Database

The Building Products Innovation Council, made up of the significant material groups in the Australian building industry, has announced the completion of the Building Products Life Cycle Inventory project.

Three years in the making and involving key building materials sectors in partnership with the Federal Government, the project standardises the way the environmental impacts of Australian building materials are accounted for.

The database of building materials will assist lifecycle practitioners, architects, designers, engineers, builders, developers and regulators to more accurately assess the impact buildings will have on the environment.

For more information go to www.bpic.asn.au/LCI.

International News

Wind and Waves Growing Across the Globe

Wave (Image: Quahadi Añtó, Wikimedia)

Oceanic wind speeds and wave heights have increased significantly over the last quarter of a century, according to a major new study, Global Trends in Wind Speed and Wave Height, undertaken by Australian researchers.

The results of the study – the most comprehensive of its kind ever undertaken – were published last month in Science.

The authors are Professor Ian Young, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, and Swinburne oceanographers Professor Alex Babanin and Dr Stefan Zieger. In conducting the study, they analysed satellite data over a 23 year period from 1985 to 2008.

'We found a general global trend of increasing values of wind speed and, to a lesser degree, wave height over this period. The rate of increase for extreme events was most significant,' Professor Young said.

The data showed that wind speeds over the majority of the world's oceans increased by 0.25 to 0.5 per cent every year. For extremely high winds, speed increased by a yearly average of 0.75 per cent.

The global increase in wave height was most significant for extreme waves, with the largest one per cent increasing by an average of 0.5 per cent every year. However in some parts of the ocean, extreme waves increased by up to one per cent per annum. 'For example, today the average height of the top one per cent of waves off southwest Australia's coastline is around six metres. That's over one metre higher than in 1985,' said Professor Babanin.

It is important to bear in mind that small increases in wind speed can increase hazards dramatically. For instance research cited in EDG note 66 MSa Climate Change Adaptation for Building Designers shows that a 25 per cent increase in peak gusts causes 650 per cent increase in building damage.

EPA: Greenest Homes are Near Public Transit

Homes near public transportation use significantly less energy than homes in the suburbs, even green ones.

A study released last month by the US Environmental Protection Agency confirms what your real estate agent has been telling you all along: location is everything.

The study finds that a typical home in a conventional US suburb uses an average of 108 million BTUs (British Thermal Units) per year for heating, cooling, lighting and appliances. But its residents will also use 132 million BTUs per year for transportation – totalling 240 million BTUs.

However, if the same home were located in a 'transit-oriented development', the study reveals, its residents would use only 39 million BTUs per year for transportation. In that case the home's total energy consumption would fall to 147 million BTUs, a drop of nearly 40 per cent.

See also EDG note GEN 83, 'The Costs of Urban Sprawl', and 'Shall We Dense?' in Publications and Reports, below.

Publications and Reports

Shall We Dense?

New housing development in Narre Warren, Victoria (Image: Wikimedia)

A new report by Simon McPherson and Adam Haddow of SJB argues that government and industry is failing suburban householders by not encouraging the development of shops and services near new housing. The report, to be delivered to the World Sustainable Building Conference in Helsinki in October, says that services need to be close by to encourage walking and patronage, and for this to happen housing density must approach 30 houses per hectare – twice as many as current Australian building guidelines mandate.

'Your Home' Back in Print

Your Home Technical Manual (Image: DCCEE)

The Your Home Technical Manual, Australia's foremost handbook on sustainable homes, has been reprinted.

Written by architects, designers and builders for a general and professional audience, Your Home is an easy-to-read guide to matching designs to Australian climate zones, with detailed advice on materials performance and water and energy conservation strategies.

The revised fourth edition includes updates on insulation, lighting and hot water.

Your Home is available in print and online. The print edition can be purchased for $49.50 from Architext or the Alternative Technology Association.

New ecospecifier Website Makes for Easier Specifying

Along with Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), ecospecifier is a leading source of verified green product information, with over 6000 eco-preferred products in its database.

In a major change to its business model, ecospecifier has launched a new website with free access to all its product listings.

Its GreenTag and GreenRate GBCA-recognised product certification database is now open to all visitors. Other improvements to the site include easier navigation, image galleries and improved search.

ecospecifier is an invaluable source of information for green building product researchers, including technical advice as to products' relevance to green building rating tools such as Green Star, NABERS and BASIX.

ecospecifier: www.ecospecifier.com.au
GECA: www.geca.org.au

Events and Training

Sustainable Building: Does It Measure Up?

Presented by the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors, this two-day conference will examine the tools, processes and products enhancing sustainability.

Get the latest industry and policy updates, explore an exhibition of innovative products, tools and technologies, attend lively debates and informative conference sessions and network with like-minded individuals.

When: 19–20 May
Where: Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre
Web: https://secure.absa.net.au/index_absa.htm

Dream Big: The Work of Michael Green

Available on the Institute of Architect's Continuum site, this presentation by Canadian architect Michael Green presents some of his award-winning work and discusses how evolving systems and designs in wood can be used to lessen the significant negative effect of buildings on the environment. Michael demonstrates how new uses of wood technology can be used to construct efficient and affordable structures that cause less harm to the environment, while maintaining functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Course structure and materials: Flash presentation
Length of course: 1.5 hours
CPD: 1.5 formal points
Web: www.continuum.com.au

Green Star Foundation Course

The Green Star Foundation Course is GBCA's flagship course, and replaces the Green Star Accredited Professional Course. In this full-day course you will learn the fundamentals of Green Star, and take the first step toward becoming a Green Star Associate or a Green Star Accredited Professional. The course focuses on the content and application of Green Star rating tools, including the business case for building green, the various Green Star rating tools available, the categories and credits within the tools, and the steps necessary to register and certify a project.

Where and When:
Melbourne: 11 May, 6 June
Hobart: 31 May
Adelaide: 16 June
Web: www.gbca.org.au

AIRAH Pre-Loved Buildings Conference

Mandatory disclosure, rising energy costs and concerns about carbon emissions all mean that updating the existing building stock has become the most important of tasks. Given most of our building stock isn't new – and not really designed with energy efficiency in mind – it's high time our older buildings were brought up to speed. That's where AIRAH's Pre-Loved Buildings Conference comes in, with a focus on optimising the performance of existing buildings.

When: May 23–24
Where: Pan Pacific Perth
Web: www.airah.org.au

Sustainable Architecture Forum (SAF), Raising the Green Bar

Beer, colleagues and ESD. Meet with colleagues in design and discuss all the issues in a relaxed and informal setting. Guest presenter TBA.

When: June 8
Where: Order of Melbourne, 2/401 Swanston St Melbourne
Web: www.refuelvictoria.com

Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP)

BEMP is an annual summit between parliamentarians and industry leaders that looks into the relationship between Australian communities and their built environment, and explores issues that affect national prosperity. BEMP's goals are to discuss changing community needs, industry trends and critical issues; discuss public policy ideas that can help build sustainable communities; and to showcase leading built environment industry and professional practices.

Consult Australia, Australian Institute of Architects, Green Building Council Australia, Planning Institute of Australia and Property Council of Australia are the co-hosts of BEMP. The Australia Award for Urban Design (AAUD) awards presentation dinner will be held the evening before the summit, on Tuesday 21 June at the National Gallery of Australia.

When: 21–22 June
Where: Canberra
Web: www.bemp.com.au

Making Cities Liveable Conference – Healthy Cities

The 4th Making Cities Liveable Conference will be a platform for government and industry sector professionals to discuss causes, effects and solutions that relate to population health, sustainability, natural resource management, transport, climate change and urban design. Delegates will examine the impact of urban and transport planning on the health and well-being of the population and the planet.

When: 28–29 July
Where: Noosa, Queensland
Web: www.healthycities.com.au

State Of Australian Cities (SOAC5) National Conference 2011

The State of Australian Cities is a national forum, held biennially, to share scholarship directed at the complex and multidimensional issues facing us as an urban nation.

When: 29 November to 2 December
Where: University of Melbourne
Web: http://soac2011.com.au

Building Simulation Conference 2011

The 12th bi-annual Conference of the International Building Performance Simulation Association (IBPSA), will be co-hosted by IBPSA Australasia and the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air-Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH). The simulation of building performance is increasingly embedded in the design process through green rating tools, regulation and as a general means of optimising design. Building Simulation 2011 will explore current best practice and new horizons for the use of simulation to drive better building design.

When: November 14 to 16
Where: University of Technology, Sydney
Web: www.bs2011.org

International Events

UAI 2011 – The 24th World Congress of Architecture

Described as the 'Olympics of Architecture', the UIA World Congress is a major international architectural event that attracts around 10,000 architects, engineers, researchers and students.

Since the inaugural World Congress in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1948, it has taken place triennially in 23 different cities around the world.

On the theme of 'DESIGN 2050', UIA 2011 TOKYO will provide participants with opportunities to discuss the future of architecture and cities through various programs including keynote speeches, technical sessions, international competitions, workshops, exhibitions and tours.

When: 25 September to October 1
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Web: www.uia2011tokyo.com/en

World Sustainable Building Conference (SB11)

The World Sustainable Building Conference is run every three years (SB08 was held in Melbourne). It brings together the world's leading technical experts and researchers on sustainable built environments. It also summarises the results of multiple regional events in sustainable building.

When: October 18–21
Where: Helsinki, Finland
Web: www.sb11.org/sb11-helsinki


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