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2011, a Year in ESD

New Design Notes


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As construction of the Australian Institute of Architects' Melbourne office gets under way, we talk to Institute CEO David Parken about plans to make 41 Exhibition Street the first carbon neutral commercial building in Australia. (Image: Lyons Architects)

Innovative Timber Buildings

Above, the title image for "Innovative Timber Buildings" - one of several courses in sustainable design available on the Continuum website. For news on the Institute's green CPD initiatives, as well as policy, publications and chapter activities, read on. (Image: Eurban)

2011 - The Institute and Sustainability

This issue of EDG is different from usual. It doesn't have news stories from around the country and the world - it sticks to what's been happening sustainability-wise at the Institute of Architects. For that reason some might find it a bit boring, but this is one for the members. If you're an architect who's into sustainability and you want to know what's happening at your Institute, this is the issue for you.

Michael Day

New Design Notes

This month we publish four notes on sustainable design.

Glossary of Environmentally Sustainable Design

A glossary of built environment sustainability, from ASBEC to ZERTG; an aid to building professionals and students of building design.

Building Environmental Performance Assessment:
Methods and Tools, by Paul Downton

This note deals with the methods and tools for assessing the environmental performance of a building design in the early design phase of a building project. It describes building environmental performance assessment (EPA), explains how it is used in design, and points to a number of EPA modelling and rating tools that are commercially available in Australia, including energy performance tools, and life cycle analysis (LCA) tools.

Remote Area Building and Sustainable Development,
by Simon Scally

This note discusses approaches to sustainable design in remote, rural and regional areas. Based on the author's experiences in the Top End, it recommends approaches to managing a project and engaging its clients and end-users in design and delivery, so that the building or development will operate as planned into the long term.

Adaptive Comfort: Passive Design for Active Occupants,
by Chrithina Candido

The adaptive model of thermal comfort shifts attention from engineered comfort solutions to architectural ones. As the concept of adaptive comfort displaces the old static model, architects are beginning to explore the opportunities to engage occupants in the provision of occupants' comfort, which in turn has re-awakened an interest in natural ventilation. This note provides an introduction to adaptive comfort, which it is hoped will help architects design more sustainable, pleasurable and stimulating indoor environments.


41 Exhibition Street: Green-Building Exemplar

Interview with David Parken

This month EDG spoke with David Parken, CEO of the Australian Institute of Architects, about the redevelopment of the Institute's Melbourne HQ at 41 Exhibition Street into a carbon neutral, 5 star Green Star office building.

EDG: What sort of building are we looking at?

DP: The new building will be 22 storeys, comprising retail spaces on the ground floor and Institute offices on the 1st to 4th floors. The upper storey offices are being sold to private investors.

EDG: Why is the Institute replacing the old building?

DP: The standard of the existing premises at 41 Exhibition Street was the lowest of any Institute accommodation in the country. It needed either a complete refurbishment, rebuild, or sale and relocation to achieve an appropriate standard. We investigated all of these options and decided that the current site provided an excellent prime city location which is popular and convenient for both staff and members.  Therefore National Council decided that a new building incorporating design excellence and leading sustainable design would be the best option for the Institute over the long term.

EDG: A design competition was the first stage of a process to explore the design options for the site and this was won by Lyons in 2009. What was it about the Lyons concept that appealed to the Jury?

DP: The winning design was confident and efficient.  It was considered by the Jury to demonstrate an excellent understanding of the small site and its context and made a positive urban design contribution to the public realm at street level as well as incorporating leading sustainable design initiatives.
The building is certainly challenging in many ways, given its small site area and proportionately large core and perimeter wall area. The sustainability bar is also set very high. However the project is being delivered through an integrated project team, which includes consultants, the builder and key sub-contractors. Integrated teams are making the delivery of the new generation of green buildings possible.

The Jury comprised Howard Tanner (2008/09 National President), Karl Fender (then Victorian Chapter President), Professor Annabelle Pegrum (University of Canberra), David Parken (CEO) and Benni Aroni (Commercial Advisor).

EDG: The project is aiming for a 5 star Green Star (Office Version 3) rating. What are some of the things that are going to get it there?

DP: The project incorporates various features to target 5 stars, including energy efficient heating and cooling with high levels of fresh air intake at each floor, rainwater harvesting, low water usage fixtures, bicycle parking and showers, no on-site car parking, a very efficient envelope with high performance glazing, and waste management plans.
The design team looked at what additional features it would take to achieve 6 stars, but these were considered to be unfeasible given the small project size and site constraints. Many of the options would have involved a lot of additional plant through co-gen/tri-generation options. Instead, the Institute chose to take an exemplar, market leading approach to target carbon reduction.

EDG: How will that work?

DP: The building will have carbon neutrality as its core principle. Our modelling projects that over a 30 year life cycle the building will achieve a 42 per cent carbon reduction compared with a standard "business as usual" new office building. The savings will be achieved through energy efficiency, waste management, transport strategies and use of sustainable materials. A further 18 per cent carbon reduction will be obtained by the purchase of appropriate green power, and remaining 40 per cent will be purchased through carbon offsets.

EDG: What are some of the strategies you will employing to reduce your carbon emissions.

DP: In terms of materials, one example is the use of "bubble deck" slabs, which reduce concrete content by approximately 30 per cent through an innovative use of plastic spheres in the pre-cast concrete decking.
Operationally, a Sustainability Charter within the Owner's Corporation rules commits both the Institute and all owners and tenants to the goal of carbon neutrality. The Institute and other owners will have some annual reporting obligations on their staff transport choices which are quite simple and the Building Manager will track operational energy use and waste management and then purchase the appropriate carbon offsets. The owners will then be issued with a statement of carbon neutrality each year. In time I believe this will become the norm in the commercial property sector.

EDG: Carbon neutrality is a relatively recent and still-developing concept. How do you define carbon neutrality in the context of this building?

DP: For 41 Exhibition Street our consultant team used the "total carbon modelling" methodology, which measures the building's carbon footprint of embodied energy, operational energy, transport and waste over a 30 year life cycle. [A report released last month by ASBEC (the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council), Defining Zero Emission Buildings, throws some much-needed light on the subject of measuring building emissions.]
The actual carbon impact will be measured on an annual basis including actual energy used, transport choices of occupants and waste management and recycling, together with a 30 year plan to offset all the measured embodied energy in the building materials.

EDG: Are the cost savings from a 42 per cent more energy efficient building enough to justify the extra spend in its design and construction?

DP: Yes, the analysis shows that there is a pay-back period from the energy efficient design. What we found was that the energy saving was approximately $1500/annum/floor, while the annual cost of offsetting the entire carbon footprint was approximately $2000/annum/floor; the Institute has chosen to reinvest its energy efficiency savings to help achieve its carbon neutral target.

EDG: As Chair of the ASBEC Climate Change Task Group, you've been very active in the post-carbon design space. How do you personally feel about having carbon neutrality as a core principle of this project?

DP: I am very proud that the Institute is committed to a project which is both an exemplar in design and market leading in terms of its commitment to carbon neutrality. We believe our Sustainability Charter, committing owners and tenants to the goal of carbon neutrality, is a first in the commercial property sector. As an exemplar project we are showing that the Institute will walk the talk and learn by doing. I believe that the strong presales of the floors in the project confirms that there is interest in these  goals, as well as the future-proofing of the building's value in a world which is moving towards reducing its carbon usage.
On a recent trip to Japan I was very impressed by the design of many of the newly built office towers in Tokyo, typically restricted to very small sites and at the forefront of sustainably. I believe 41 Exhibition Street will be a truly sustainable "Tokyo Tower" in Melbourne.


2011 Year in Review

National Sustainability Committee Report

Peter Scott, Chair

NSC members meet in Melbourne, September 2011.  From the left: Peter Overton, Gerard Siero, Brentan Rasheed, Peter Scott (seated), Anthony Nolan, Jannette Le, Brendan Meney

The Institute established the National Sustainability Committee (NSC) as one of five national standing committees. Its remit is to positively influence the development of government policy and legislation and the affairs of the building and construction industry, consistent with the Institute's Sustainability Policy and to be a point of reference for the Institute on sustainability matters. The NSC structure is representational, with active and committed members from all Chapters plus one expert member forming the Committee.

The NSC identified two key priorities for 2011: preparation for implementation of a sustainability audit of capital assets as a first step towards defining the Institute's environmental footprint; and review and consolidation of the Institute's Sustainability and Environment Policies.

In regard to the sustainability audit, work is being carried out by the NSC to facilitate tendering early in 2012, and to prepare the Institute for auditing.

In regard to the policy review, the NSC has been combining the best aspects of the Institute's Sustainability and Environment Policies. This work involves updating outdated information and strategies, and streamlining the structure of the updated policy to compliment the Institute's suite of policy documents. The anticipated outcome is both an updated Sustainability Policy and a new Climate Change Policy.

The NSC's other activities for 2011 included:

  • input into the UIA (International Union of Architects) "Sustainable by Design" programme
  • input into the Climate Change Adaptation Skills for Professionals (CCASP) Program
  • input into the drafting of Standards Australia's "Principle-based Climate Change Adaptation Standard for Settlements and Infrastructure"
  • preparation of a draft Institute position paper on Mandatory House Energy Rating
  • work with the National Committee for Continuing Professional Development on incorporation of the recommendations of the NSC paper "A Framework for CPD for Institute Members on the Subject of Sustainability" into a revised Institute CPD Policy.

The NSC will refine its priorities and develop a schedule for action for 2012 at its final meeting for  2011, scheduled for December.

Institute Policy: Sustainability at the Core

Kylie Ruth, Government Relations Officer

Among many professional associations there is a keen understanding that the built environment has an important role to play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and there has been considerable investment and research by these organisations - including the Australian Institute of Architects - into the contribution that design can make to sustainable development.

Buildings shape our lives, and their construction and operation accounts for almost half of the world's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Sustainable, low impact and low carbon design is therefore critical to a sustainable future. Sustainable design also improves the liveability of our communities. In recognition of those things, the Institute's National Council made Sustainable Communities one of the its three policy priorities for 2011-13.

The Institute's Sustainability Policy addresses actions to be undertaken by government, industry and the community. For architects, the policy contains an addendum, "Sustainable Design Strategies for Architects", that is intended for use as a checklist and prompt for addressing sustainability issues during the design and use of buildings.

Across the sector, the Institute is engaging with government and other key stakeholders at a number of levels. We work closely with other professional organisations, including the  Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), the peak body of organisations committed to a sustainable built environment. We supply advice to government agencies and make submissions to government inquiries, comment on proposed legislation, and meet with government ministers and departmental representatives. The national Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP) program, which the Institute co-hosts, contributes to the policy debate on the built environment through an annual summit and by commissioning documents for discussion with government and agencies.

In the fields of education and skills development, the Institute funds and maintains the Environment Design Guide, Australia's leading source of environmental design advice for architects and building professionals.

A high percentage of the Institute's CPD content, including its National Seminar Series and Continuum audio-visual webinar site, has a sustainability focus. In addition, each State and Territory chapter develops and delivers its own local program of CPD activities, many of which address issues of sustainability.

To meet the profession's need for education and information in the area of climate change adaptation in the built environment, the Institute, in collaboration with UNSW, and with Australian Government funding under the Climate Change Adaptation Skills for Professionals Program, developed resources and learning material for practising architects through the continuing professional development program. A Climate Change Adaptation web portal with a suite of resources will also be developed.

Of course the surest proof the Institute's commitment to sustainability is in its plan for the redevelopment of its Melbourne HQ at 41 Exhibition Street (see interview with David Parken, above). A Sustainability Charter will commit owners and tenants of the building to the goal of carbon neutrality - a first for Australia's commercial property sector. In this, as in all things, the Institute's commitment is to be an exemplar of built environment sustainability.

EDG: The Year Ahead

Michael Day, Editor

"Architects can, and must, play a fundamental role in achieving a sustainable future."

Sustainability Policy, Australian Institute of Architects

Among the actions recommended to its members in the Institute's Sustainability Policy, one seems particularly relevant to EDG: to "promote the importance and substantial opportunities of sustainable design to clients and colleagues".

EDG exists to help the Institute, its members and the industry at large achieve the goal of a sustainable built environment. And this goal seems to be broadly supported by architects. According to a recent survey of architects' attitudes to climate change adaptation, 60 per cent said they were changing their practice's behaviours as a result of climate change issues, and 73 per cent said they would value information to help them better adapt.

But architects are busy people - the day-to-day demands of the profession are pressing, and continually growing. The competition for commissions is fierce and clients are not always as sustainable as one would like… Besides, if we are to be honest - and if the uproar over Section J proved anything - when faced with difficult choices many architects are as liable to sidestep ESD as any client.

We can only guess how many architects regard ESD as being non-negotiable, to the extent of "placing sustainability at the core of their practice structure". But one thing is for sure, if you make it too difficult or onerous for people to do the right thing, the likelihood is they won't do it. Unless we make ESD interesting, stimulating, fun - and ultimately saleable - there's a danger it will remain the rarefied concern of specialists, theorists and early adopters.

Our vision for EDG is to bring ESD out of the theory closet and make it actually happen. To do that we have to communicate to an audience characterised by good intentions but limited attention and competing demands on their priorities. To move ESD from the text book to the work station means giving this audience the information they want, when they want it, in the form that they want it. In the past year we've made a little progress towards that goal with improved newsletter and design note formats, and better search and navigation. But with our current IT platforms there is only so much we can do. So next year, with the help of some new IT, we will work to create a site where content is easily brought to the surface; where the user experience can be personalised and people can interact; and whose purpose is to share knowledge and facilitate better design.

We hope you will take the journey with us.

Continuing Professional Education (CPD): Lessons for Life

Johanna Gasser, National CPD Manager

The Institute develops a wide variety of CPD courses and content, both independently and in conjunction with third-party providers. Content ranges from the live presentations of the National Seminar Series to audio-visual "webinars" found on the Continuum website. Sustainability features very prominently, covering around one third of all CPD content.
In 2011, National Seminar Series presentations included "All the Way with Section J", and "Leaks and Seals: Avoiding Condensation through Smart Design".

More recent Continuum webinars include "Dream Big", an address on highrise timber buildings by Canadian architect Michael Green, and "Integrating Solar Technology".
Both "All the Way with Section J" and "Integrating Solar Technology" are available as EDG design notes.

More exciting sustainability content will be coming your way in 2012. Visit the Institute's CPD page for the latest course listings.

Leadership in Sustainability Prize

Paddy Peisley, National Manager Events, Awards and Exhibitions

The Leadership in Sustainability Prize will enter its third year in 2012.  The prize was developed by the Institute to recognise the advancement of sustainability in architecture and urban design, through effective practice, advocacy, education and community engagement.

In 2010, the inaugural recipient of the prize was Tony Arnel, retiring Chair of the World Green Building Council (see Comment below) followed by Healthabitat in 2011, for their work in improving indigenous housing.  Next year's recipient will be announced on 21st March 2012 at the Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards in Adelaide.

Entries for the 2013 prize will open in mid-2012. Individuals or groups demonstrating exceptional leadership and an outstanding contribution to the advancement of sustainability of the built environment may be nominated or may self-nominate. Visit architecture.com.au/prizes for more information.

State and Territory Chapter Reports

ACT Chapter

Melanie Croaker

The ACT Chapter, through its Planning Committee, has long worked to create a space in Canberra where it could promote sustainable design. In 2009 it developed a program of talks to provide the local profession, allied professional bodies, government and the community with a venue for further debate on the issue of sustainable cities. The Sustainable Cities series proved a great success and resulted in a report of proceedings: 21 Century Canberra - Moving Towards a Shared Vision for a Sustainable City.

The program was continued in 2011 with the theme of Opportunities from Change. Topics included: "Future Demographics", "Building Height and Sustainability" and "Food and Urbanism". A report on proceedings will be released in 2012.

Canberra winters are notoriously chilly, so the Chapter's Winter Sessions CPD talks sought to take the edge off the cold with some timely advice. Talk topics in 2011 included "Thermal Leakage" and "Hydronics".

This year, the ACT Chapter was the community organising group for Sustainable House Day, a nationwide event where for one day homeowners open their doors to the public to give site tours of their sustainable homes.

NSW Chapter

Roslyn Irons, NSW Chapter Manager

In 2011, the NSW Sustainability Committee continued its successful forums on a diverse range of sustainability topics, with topics including: rating tools, tri-gen and green roofs.

The committee has been very active, with communication methods including a group-specific website and a discussion group.

In 2012 the NSW Sustainability Committee will be looking to interface more effectively with the broader NSW membership, for instance by giving presentations at the regular Tuesday Night Talks and by opening its web forums and discussion groups to a wider range of participants, including regional members and members who may not be able to attend live events.

Queensland Chapter

Richard Sale and Marci Webster-Mannison, co-chairs Queensland Sustainability Committee

The Queensland Chapter held a variety of events promoting sustainable practice. Highlights included "Cooling Rural Australia", passive design case studies presented by Dr Marci Webster-Mannison, and "Specifying and Detailing Timber".

In 2012 the Queensland Sustainability Committee will be developing position papers on climate change adaptation, design vs. as-built ratings and carbon pricing. The Designing Sustainable Communities forum next year will concentrate on densification, looking at how various Australian and overseas models could be applied to Brisbane. The Renewable Energy forum will concentrate on photovoltaics and renewable air-conditioning systems.

South Australia Chapter

Richard Hosking, SA Chapter Manager

To celebrate and debate good design in South Australia and beyond, the Sustainable Built Environment Committee developed the INPROFILE seminar series, showcasing 2011 Award winners. Presentations explored the context, design philosophy and environmental performance of each project.

In July, the SA Chapter was invited to be the lead partner in delivering the Green City Forum, a two-day initiative co-hosted by the Institute and SA Integrated Design Commission in which 120 professionals considered strategies for developing Adelaide as a green city. It used the Siemens Green City Index as a starting point and produced a range of proposals which have been gathered together on the 5000+ website.

Tasmania Chapter

Jennifer Nichols, Tas Professional Services Coordinator

Sustainable activities in Tasmania this year have included "Green Communities for Tasmania", a seminar and workshop co-hosted with the GBCA, and a talk by Peter Ho, director of Phooey Architects, where Peter "talked rubbish…showed rubbish…then tried to reuse and recycle it".

Victoria Chapter

Nic Granleese, Vic  Professional Development Manager

Victoria's Sustainable Architecture Forum (SAF) is one of the most active such forums in the country. In 2011 the SAF sought a closer alignment between itself, Chapter Council and the National Sustainability Committee. SAF's aim is to promote the role of sustainable design within the professional and to the wider community, with regular public events and forums with allied professionals ("Beer, colleagues and topics to tackle").

Monday Night Talks at the Chapter featured a variety of sustainability content, including "Shall We Dense" by Simon McPherson of SJB Urban and "Passive Design and Taking a lead in Green Star" by Stefan Preuss of Sustainability Victoria and Trudy-Ann King of GBCA.


From Boutique to Mainstream: The Global Green Building Evolution

By Tony Arnel, Chairman World Green Building Council

During my involvement with the World Green Building Council I've witnessed a fringe green movement become a mainstream industry.

Governments have begun to wake up to the costs of climate change and recognise that buildings are truly the low hanging fruit.  Technologies and practices which were once considered extraordinary are now business-as-usual.

Today, green buildings take many shapes and forms, from glittering skyscrapers to low-technology, high-performance buildings. The Tsoga Environmental Centre on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, is an example of the latter. The centre addresses socio-economic sustainability alongside the environmental by creating employment, offering training and empowering the local community.

Since the WorldGBC was first established in 2002, we've moved beyond buildings and are now talking about green communities, precincts and cities.

And we've moved beyond our focus on environmental sustainability and are looking at how green development can deliver on a range of socio-economic priorities.

For developing nations, providing adequate housing for 500 million people and electricity for 1.5 billion people brings with it many challenges and opportunities. In these countries, thoughtful consideration of sustainability at the earliest stages of design and construction will deliver the best economic and environmental outcomes.

In developed nations, ensuring the right mix of market leadership and government regulation is essential to substantially reduce CO2 emissions.  It is not simply a case of opting for regulation, the role of business is crucial - it is businesses that will drive sustainable growth through investment, innovation and job creation.

It is my dream that one day the WorldGBC will be redundant.  It's my hope that one day all buildings will be carbon, energy and water positive, and environmentally sustainable. The carbon-hungry dinosaurs of today will be archaic relics of history. But for now, the WorldGBC's challenges remain as pressing as ever.

Tony Arnel has recently stepped down from the role of Chairman of the World Green Building Council, a position he held for three years. Tony is also Victoria's Building and Plumbing Industry Commissioner and chairman of the Green Building Council of Australia. Tony was recently appointed to Sustainable Melbourne Fund's independent Board of Trustees, which aims to assist businesses to capture the economic benefits of sustainability in the built environment.


Tankulator Rainwater Tank Sizing Tool

By Michael Day

We live in a single-fronted, inner-suburban terrace, so when the time came for us to buy a rainwater tank there was no question of it being a large one. We decided on 2000 litres, which seems to be the maximum size for most ultra-slimline tanks. It is also the minimum size to qualify for a Victorian Government rebate.

Now I can hear the sustainability police scoffing, "2000 litres! Toy tank." But thanks to  a great new tool called the Tankulator, I now have evidence to prove that it was the right size for us.

The report from the Tankulator tool indicating that our tank was the right size

The Tankulator is a joint initiative of the Alternative Technology Association (ATA) and Sustainability Victoria. It uses local rainfall data from a 15-year period dating back from 2010. You enter your location, roof area, plumbing connections etc, and it tells you if your tank is sized appropriately.

The Tankulator report showed me that even though our tank is small, our family's relatively low daily water consumption means we can get away with it. And we do use much less than average. Whereas the average Melbourne household uses around 150 litres per person per day, we get by on 50 litres each.

The report also showed that by servicing our garden, toilet and laundry, our tank will cut our current water consumption by almost half, around 100 litres a day.

Of course there may come a time when we start to use more water - perhaps when the kids are older. In that case we'll just use more mains water. We'll still be saving tens of thousands of litres and sending less runoff into our local creek.

I recommend you go to the Tankulator site and play around with some scenarios. Change your roof size and your tank size. It's fascinating to what happens when you scale everything up to "average": a four person family consuming 600 litres a day under a 220 sq m roof. You'll see that yes, you can harvest enough rainwater to supply the garden, toilet and laundry, but you'll need a 7000 litre tank to do the job. That's too big for many yards. Perhaps people would be better off sizing down their water consumption before they started sizing up their tank.

The tank, a BlueScope Water WATERPOINT ULTRASLIM®, 2000L (RRP $1815)
We also purchased a Bianco external toilet/laundry pump with a Rainsaver mains water switching system, a Frog's Mouth, a Lazy Lizard and a Tank Gauge Water Level Indicator.


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