Caption: The winner, the Rhône Alpes team's "Canopea" (image: Jetson Green)
The US Department of Energy's Solar Decathlon has a counterpart in Solar Decathlon Europe, which took place over two weeks this year in Madrid, from September 14 to 30.
In a Solar Decathlon, college teams from around the world compete to design and construct small houses that showcase sustainable design, materials and technologies. The results are frequently inspired and push the boundaries of ESD. Not only the houses, but the participants themselves are the future of the industry.
inhabitat.com has an excellent blogroll on this year's competition.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review showed convincing data that resource efficient companies - "those that use less energy and water and create less waste in generating a unit of revenue" - do significantly better than companies less focussed on their environmental footprint.
Not only were those companies getting more bang for their buck across their value chain, but resource efficiency "also identifies management teams that are forward thinking, aware of the economic imperatives brought about by resource constraint".
In these tough, competitive times there's something in there for the building industry to consider. Sacrifice sustainability at your peril...
Image: Google Maps
The Grattan Institute's Jane-Frances Kelly and Peter Breadon wrote in The Conversation recently: "A new house is completed in an urban growth area every 15 minutes. These areas are home to more than three million Australians and their populations are growing more than twice as fast as the national average."
But, the authors go on to say, these houses won't be new for long - and if something is not done they will not age well. "Successful suburbs change as the community changes, delivering different housing options and new services as the need arises. If suburbs fail to do this...they won't experience the renewal that is essential to a vital city. " And if our new suburbs fail to adapt to the needs of succeeding generations, then development is likely to continue to sprawl into greenfield sites.
The Grattan Institute has released a report, Tomorrow's Suburbs: Building flexible neighbourhoods, that recommends how planners and designers can make new suburbs more adaptable to change.
Readers might also wish to take a look at a Canadian "documentary", Radiant City, that touches on some of the difficulties in retrofitting and adapting existing dormitory suburbs to residents' changing needs.
Nicole Sullivan, BlueScope Steel Sustainability
In recent months a series of Environment Design Guide notes, EDG 70 PD, 71 RC and 72 DH, have raised awareness within the architectural profession of the practical uses and application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
BlueScope Steel endorses the LCA approach, and wishes to lend its voice to the call for its wider adoption by the architectural profession and the building industry.
To quote Dominique Hes (EDG 72 DH): "LCA is ideally suited for evaluating the environmental impacts of alternative systems by comparing their material production impacts, operational considerations and end-of-life recycling and disposal". This is where LCA shines, as it can assess a whole range of impacts without prejudice.
LCA is complex because it is thorough. And although recent and planned developments are working to make it more accessible, the temptation is for practitioners to substitute it with a single metric, such as carbon or embodied energy. Other important metrics include water use, recyclability, ecotoxicity, human rights, biodiversity and resilience.
A key question before BlueScope Steel is: "Can a single metric be used instead of LCA as a proxy for sustainability?" We do not believe it can. Focusing on one metric to the exclusion of others risks suboptimal results by masking other impacts. A single indicator also in effect makes the value judgement that other impact categories are less worthy. Even embodied energy cannot stand alone.
Likewise, to only assess the impacts of construction without assessing whole-of-life implications through operational and demolition phases can place undue emphasis on getting low "numbers" for construction, at the possible expense of high maintenance or operational energy requirements.
However if your project is simple then LCA can be impractical. In these cases it is still important to consider a range of measures and timeframes, to ensure that you don't overlook other immediate impacts, or future impacts in the use and end of life phases. Only Life Cycle Thinking, which employs a multi-metric, whole-of-life, whole-of-building approach, can satisfactorily deliver truly sustainable results for your project.
We all want a silver bullet: an easy and inexpensive way to fulfil our responsibility to sustainable development. Unfortunately it does not exist. But on the plus side, we do have options here and now and the day is fast approaching when LCA won't seem nearly as complex and difficult as it does today.
Candlebark School Library (image: Timber Design Awards)
The winner of the 2012 Australian Timber Design Award is Paul Haar Architect for the stunning Candlebark School Library, an earth-covered library built into the side of a hill in Victoria's Macedon Ranges.
The broad-span timber roof of the library supports a 500-600 mm layer of earth and is made of LVL (laminated veneered lumber) billets and massive exposed portal frames. The library also makes excellent use of recycled and salvaged timbers.
(Side note: With Lend Lease's Forte building in Melbourne nearing completion, Editor EDG is willing to bet that the 2013 winner will be a timber highrise...)
The Leadbeater's Possum, a victim of logging native forests to produce paper
(image: Wikimedia Commons)
Architect Victoria Clark has a plan to make 100% post-consumer recycled paper readily available for architectural practices in Australia.
Says Victoria: "Currently there isn't any copy paper manufactured in Australia that is 100% post-consumer recycled. There is enough plantation timber available to meet demand, yet we are still clearing native, and in some cases old growth forests, with devastating consequences. [For more info see www.ethicalpaper.com.au.]
"As a member of the architecture profession I believe that we are able to make a significant contribution to protecting our magnificent native forests. I have found a manufacturer that is able to supply both copy papers and plotter paper that is 100% post-consumer recycled. However I need to demonstrate that Australian architectural practices want 100% recycled printer paper. That is where you come in. Please take a few moments to complete a short survey that will show the levels of demand for ethical plotter paper."
Please take 5 minutes to assist Victoria with her research into architects' paper needs. Click here to take survey.
This will enable Victoria to work with a manufacturer to develop a suitable supply of paper that meets architects' requirements and is 100% post-consumer recycled.
Only the aggregate results of the survey will be shared with third parties. Individual responses will remain strictly confidential. Individuals and/or practices will not be identified.
A new report by the Department of Climate Change & Energy Efficiency sets out a cost-benefit methodology analysing options to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts and select the approach which offers the best long-term pay-off. The report, Economic framework for analysis of climate change adaptation options, is aimed at building and infrastructure owners and their agents because, in the words of its authors, "decision makers... need methodologies to determine if/when, and how, to adapt to a changing climate."
ASBEC's Zero Emissions Residential Task Group has released a report on the uptake of energy efficient refurbishments.
The report, Drivers of Demand and Towards Zero Emissions Retrofits, finds that the strongest factors influencing uptake include the age and condition of the building, rising energy prices, short payback times and increased property value, appearance and visibility of the measures, as well as the householder income group and the desire for increased comfort and convenience.
Climate Driven Design: Energy Efficiency by Degrees
John Maitland of Energy Architecture will examine the principles of energy efficiency. Through a range of project case studies and some results from post occupancy studies, he will review the local climate relevance, material selections and use of technological fixes. John will also relate a building to the human body, how their energy functions are similar, and discuss the impact of human behaviour.
When: Monday 15 October
BIM in practice
BIM is increasingly becoming the standard method for producing documentation and other project deliverables in the building industry. Presented by Dominik Holzer, this event explores the best ways for architects to implement BIM in their practice.
When: 5 November
Web: WA: Perth event; National: BIM in Practice website
Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) in association with RMIT's Centre for Design will be running a Life Cycle Assessment Training Series in Melbourne and Sydney in November 2012. Trainees will investigate the environmental impact of products over their whole of life, from "cradle to grave". The course will address impact assessment implications, process improvement, product marketing messages
Where: Melbourne and Sydney
When: November 8-16
AIRAH 2012 Pre-loved Buildings Conference, "Preparing buildings for the future"
How will today's buildings meet tomorrow's needs? And how can we optimise their performance?
When: November 19-20
Summer workshops in Design and Digital Fabrication with Wood
The UTAS School of Architecture and Design in Launceston, Tasmania, is continuing its long tradition of learning-by-making with two exciting workshops this summer.
The Digital Fabrication with Timber Studio is a three-day intensive studio that offers participants hands-on experience of digital design and fabrication processes with timber.
The Australian Timber Design Workshop is a two-week Australian Timber Design Workshop (ATDW) in which participants will design, fabricate, construct and install a small timber building from a controlled timber-rich palette in eleven days.
When: Digital Fabrication with Timber Studio, 14-16 January 2013; Australian Timber Design Workshop, 4-15 February, 2013
Where: Launceston, Tasmania