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september 2012

In the News


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Building Information Modelling (BIM) has come of age in Australia with the release of Australia's first BIM practice notes.

House demolition

LCA's $64k question: if to make it 'green', a building has higher specs than it would otherwise have, does the extra embodied energy obviate the operational gain?
Read on...

BIM in Practice

Dominik Holzer - BIM

BIM and IPD Steering Group Chair Dominik Holzer launches 'BIM in Practice' at the Pixel Building, Melbourne

The Australian Institute of Architects and Consult Australia have combined to develop resources and guidelines for Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). Resources can be freely accessed from a new website, BIM in Practice: bim.architecture.com.au.

Touring state capitals in August, the BIM in Practice roadshow opened everywhere to full houses and receptive crowds, indicating that 2012 will be remembered as the year BIM came of age in Australia.


Living Future Institute launches in Australia


The Living Future Institute (LFI), an international NGO focussed on social justice and sustainability, launched in Australia in August. LFI Australia's founding director is University of Melbourne senior lecturer and EDG author Dominique Hes. According to Dominique: 'The Living Future Institute Australia (LFIA) is dedicated to establishing a powerful network of informed, influential, and active global citizens who are committed to redefining humanity's relationships with the ecosystems we inhabit'.

The LFI's built environment arm is the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the world's most rigorous certification program. The University of Wollongong's Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, scheduled for completion in mid-2013, is on track to be the first Australian building to be certified by the LBC.

Designed by Cox Richardson, the centre will feature natural ventilation, rooftop PV and a wind turbine. It will also have a natural waste water system, integrated green IT building management, and permaculture and native food gardens.


Germans do it again with Effizienzhaus Plus

Efficiency House

The Efficiency House (image: screen capture)

There is probably too much focus on technology when it comes to greening the building sector, but in the green tech stakes there's no denying Germany is setting the standard. Not content with developing the Passivhaus standard or implementing the world's most progressive PV policies, the Germans have brought the two together - efficiency and renewables - in a concept house that produces more energy than it consumes, even after charging two electric vehicles.

The Effizienzhaus Plus website has very detailed English-language brochure explaining the hows and whys. Well worth checking out.


Embodied vs. operational energy -
the last word on LCA

With the Passivhaus standard coming under a fair bit of scrutiny in the US lately, green building pundits there have been arguing the relative merits of building high-spec efficient buildings vs. low-spec less-efficient ones. Essentially, it boils down to Life Cycle Energy Analysis (a topic we covered in a recent design note, EDG 71 RC). There were some folks saying the über-green Passivhaus systems would take years to pay off (in energy terms), and others saying the payback from efficiencies would be very quick. Now an article in Green Building Advisor has laid the argument to rest: 'on average, the incremental embodied energy is paid back in under a year'.

The article goes on to say:

'If you toss in superior comfort and great indoor air quality, it's a no-brainer. So we consider the argument pretty much settled, and furthermore believe that requiring life cycle analysis to obtain certification would be a waste of time and money.'

Which also happens to be the advice of Dominique Hes in EDG 72 DH, A Practical Guide to Life Cycle Assessment of Buildings: by all means use LCA to compare and evaluate systems but 'doing a comprehensive LCA for every building project would be neither cost nor time effective'.

Note: EDG 72 DH has recently been revised with corrections. Download it here.


Sustainable logging - needed now


Caption: Low-value forest timber can't compete with lucrative cash crops such as palm oil. (Image: Timur Oleochemicals)

Here at EDG, we are fans of timber. In EDG News 69 (September 2011) we reported a study, published in the Journal of Carbon Management, that found that if builders began replacing steel and concrete with timber, the amount of carbon locked up in construction materials could be quadrupled within the next century.

On that score, the evidence in favour of controlled, sustainable harvesting of old-growth forests is mounting. For one thing, as the Journal of Carbon Management study points out, 'forests have limited capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they age, and there's always a chance a fire will sweep through a mature forest'. So from a carbon sequestration point of view, harvesting trees once their speed of growth peaks makes a lot of sense.

But from a species loss and forest conservation point of view, there is also a preponderance of evidence showing that the best outcomes for old-growth forests are likely to be achieved via sustainable harvesting regimes, rather than blanket bans on harvesting.

It is well known that there are powerful economic forces driving developing nations to convert their forests to cash crops such as palm oil. But by rooting out illegal logging operations, and ending practices like Papua New Guinea's Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs), those nations can raise the price of legitimately harvested timber, making sustainable logging a more economically viable option. Logging is going to happen anyway, say the proponents of managed forestry, so conservationists need to focus on making it just and economically and environmentally sustainable.

A considered discussion of the subject is available at The Conversation: 'Can forest conservation and logging be reconciled?'


Study seeks to establish link between internal temperatures and A/C use

A University of Sydney study aims to determine the threshold living room temperature that triggers people to switch on air-conditioning. It will also attempt to discover whether homes with thermal protection, such as retrofitted ceiling insulation, actually use less energy.
Researchers aim to put tiny temperature loggers (about the size of a watch battery) into people's homes - some inside rooms and some inside A/C air-handling units. The loggers will be taking the OBJECTIVE temperature measurements over a 12-month sample period. For the SUBJECTIVE measurements, the researchers have developed a 30-second 'right-here-right-now' comfort questionnaire that is sent to the householders' smartphones on a semi-regular basis.

The researchers seeks interested householders to be part of the study.
To participate, householders have to have:

  • an A/C system in at least one room
  • a smart-phone (iPhone or Android)
  • a willingness to do the comfort questionnaire from time-to-time

To enquire, contact Christhina Candido at christhina.candido@sydney.edu.au


Tell us what you really think, Lstiburek!

Fascinating article in Inhabitat a few weeks back - an interview with 'building science pioneer' Dr Joe Lstiburek. The man is sure not afraid to speak his mind! Here are some quotes from it:
'The focus now on the architectural education is all art and what's missing are all of those other pieces — one of those missing pieces is building science or building physics.'

'The most effective technology transfer in the world is a lawsuit.'

'In the last 50 years the architectural profession has managed to piss away every energy advance that the rest of us have made because of all of the glass.'

'Architects need to get in charge of the process again, totally in charge of the process, and for that they need the education and the experience...'

In between times he rails against LEED, building checklists and a dozen other things he contends are damaging to the practice of architecture - which he still believes can save the world. It's entertaining and colourful and puts us in mind of Geoff Clark's recent comments in EDG News. (Also watch for Geoff's forthcoming design note, 74 GC).


EDG editor wins sustainable design award

256 Rae

Photo: Nic Granleese

With a bit of luck and the right clients, the sustainable architect can put their principles into practice over and over. But for most of us, our home is our only canvas. So it is with Environment Design Guide editor, Michael Day. That's why Michael and his partner Verity have been delighted with the attention the modest renovation of their inner-Melbourne terrace has been garnering, including a profile in Sanctuary: modern green homes magazine and the award for Innovation in Sustainable Design from City of Yarra.

The project's objectives were to respect the original Victorian structure, impinge as little as possible on the garden, minimise waste, maximise efficiency and keep costs under $200,000. And add to that: share the learnings.

Michael and Verity's house will be open to the public on Sunday September 9 (with the kind assistance of volunteers from the ATA and the Institute's Sustainable Architecture Forum) as part of Sustainable House Day.


Events and training

Sustainable House Day
Some of Australia's greenest homes will open their doors to the public for the eleventh annual Sustainable House Day on Sunday 9 September - showcasing the country's most environmentally sustainable and innovative homes that invest in renewable energy, recycling and other practices designed to reduce their carbon footprint.
When: Sunday 9 September, 10 to 6pm
Where: Australia-wide
Web: www.sustainablehouseday.com

Lawrence Nield Gold Medal Tour
The 2012 Gold Medal for Architecture has been awarded to Lawrence Nield for his outstanding contribution to architecture over the past 45 years.
Lawrence Nield's career combines prolific and continued output of significant architectural and urban design projects, services to the Australian Institute of Architects, and academic and teaching achievements, which include a distinguished list of writings and publications.
His stated aspiration is that architecture provides support and background for cultural and social activity, maintaining that 'without meaning and recognition architecture is just a commodity'. He argues for environmental leadership in architecture and personally has shown true leadership through his consistent and passionate advocacy for this humanist role for the profession.
When & where: Tasmania - Friday 7 Sept; Newcastle - Friday 14 Sept; Sydney - Tues 23 Oct
Web: www.architecture.com.au/goldmedal

Climate Driven Design: Energy Efficiency by Degrees
Presented by John Maitland of Energy Architecture, this interactive seminar will examine the principles of energy efficiency in relevant climates. Based on John's 30+ years of architectural experience, which will include a range of project case studies and some results from post occupancy studies, he will review local climate relevance, material selections and use of technological fixes. The relationship between efficiency and the star ratings will be explored and John will also relate a building to the human body, how their energy functions are similar, and discuss the impact of human behaviour.
When: 11 September - 15 October
Where: Touring nationally
Web: www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=28669

Increasing Density, Decreasing Impacts
Energy use in multi-unit residential buildings: a session organised and chaired by Belinda Strickland from the Victorian Chapter's Sustainable Architecture Forum (SAF).
Increased density of our residential stock seems an inevitable trend. Yet recent research shows that medium- and high-density apartment buildings have both a high operational and a high embodied energy footprint. This presentation seeks to show how increased density can be accommodated within our cities while minimising the energy use impacts attributed to this building form. Will include an overview of the pioneering use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) in Forte, Docklands.
When: Monday 17 September, 6.00pm
Where: Student Lounge, Ground Floor, Baldwin Spencer Building (Building Number 113), University of Melbourne
Web: www.refuelvictoria.com/2012/06/increasing-density-decreasing-impacts.html



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