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September 2013 edition

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Indigenous Weather Knowledge map of Australia overlayed with the Miriwoong seasonal calendar (sources: Bureau of Meteorology and http://www.mirima.org.au/calendar)


From the Editor

One of the ongoing works here at the Environment Design Guide is to make the database of papers more user-friendly and easier to research as a design resource. While a new EDG website is not scheduled for development until later next year, we are actively working on how to better access the database so you can find the information you seek. Towards this goal, we have begun developing the EDG sortable index of Design Notes. The new, hopefully innovative part of the index is the sorting function, which allows you to filter papers according to project phase, scale/type, and climate as well as other standard categories like author and title. Once you've 'taken it for a spin' I hope you share your comments with us.

In a related matter, there are a number of papers in progress and three that will be published very shortly. These will be announced via a separate bulletin. They include:

  • Designing to heal: post-disaster rebuilding to assist community recovery
  • Climate change adaptation for buildings: an approach for design professionals
  • Social sustainability

Additionally, some hidden gems in the EDG database on daylight are noted below in the section on daylight below. If you are having issues finding a particular EDG note, or if you have any comments, questions, ideas or news items (especially outside Melbourne) for EDG news, write to: edg@architecture.com.au. As always, I would appreciate hearing any relevant thoughts you might have.

Until next time,

Noy Hildebrand


Climate change & adaptations

The connection between increased temperatures and increased intensity of rainfall. (source: Climate Commission)

Understanding climate change

A study based on tree ring analysis in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that El Niño cycles have been unusually active in the late 20th century. The last issue of EDG News mentioned that the first half of the year marked a number of record breaking hot days despite 2013 not being an El Niño year. Earlier this year the Climate Commission produced a report called The Angry Summer, which includes a number of useful infographics to visualise concepts such as that above. This interactive map shows locations of recent climate extremes around Australia.

In addition to higher temperatures, increases in drought, rainfall intensity, flooding and sea levels are forecast. The impacts associated with the different scenarios of CO2 release and temperature increase are laid out in this infographic. While the article 'Too big to flood? Megacities face future of Major Storm Risk' is slightly dated, its content remains relevant, considering the majority of Australia's cities are coastal. 'Leaving our descendants a whopping rise in sea levels' summarises research by Anders Levermann, which forecasts that for every 1 degree Celsius of temperature increase, the world will eventually experience a 2.3 metre increase in sea level. If carbon emissions continue the current rising trend and average temperatures increase 4-5 °C, the result could displace or remove a number of communities and cultures around the world.

Climate change adaptations

'Adaptations' here is plural because we probably need a number of such strategies in order to address the challenges before us. While I do not claim to be a climate change expert, I consider mitigation to be an integral part of the adaptation. Though mitigation may be considered distinct from adaptation, the passive design principles that help buildings to be self-reliant (say from utility power) could fall under the categories of mitigation (reducing the use of fuel) and adaptation (reducing the reliance on fuel). How can we adapt our existing and future buildings and infrastructure to address these multifaceted issues? Here are two articles around this complex issue, for when you feel up to tackling it. Researchers from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in the US) published a study on climate change on labour productivity in Nature Climate Change, where they say that humidity is already reducing people's productivity during the peak months of heat stress. 'How much is climate change costing us?' lays out the costs associated with climate change through the lens of Norfolk, Connecticut in the US. While this particular example is US-based, the topics covered - from insurance to local seafood industry - and how they are covered provide a robust perspective on ways we might assess the future scenarios, and how we might plan and build into the future. Closer to home, the ABC documentary series First Footprints suggests that the indigenous people of Australia have already experienced and adapted to some significant changes to the climate and landscape. How might such stories, perspectives and strategies enhance our problem-solving toolkit for this complex set of issues before us?


In the news

Thinking big. For those design practitioners who think and work at the macro scale, the resources below on urban sprawl, transportation and energy may be of interest.

Impacts of urban sprawl
Cities with high urban sprawl offer less economic mobility, say Berkeley and Harvard researchers in the Equality of Opportunity Project. How would this relate to the Australian sense of egalitarianism? What would our communities look like if Australia's egalitarian sensibility influenced place making? Or if that is too much to think about for the moment, see transportation trends visualised or find out how 'better urban design makes us healthier happier and sexier'.

Even with our reduction in annual power plant electricity generation, coal fired electricity generated in Victoria still emits more than 3 times that of NSW. The information covers NSW, Qld, Vic and SA but sadly appears to be missing NT, WA and ACT. If anyone knows where such information lives, please drop an e-mail to edg@architecture.com.au.

Energy demand response aka demand-side management
If this doesn't sound sexy that's because visually and architecturally it's not. It can, however free up a couple billion dollars. Demand response describes a process between big energy users (i.e. large manufacturing plants, MCG, etc.) and the electricity provider during peak usage times, where the two parties negotiate suitable times reduce power consumption. Why is this worth talking about? Because demand response can curb the need to build a whole new power plant. What could we do with a couple billion dollars? More funds could be freed up to go toward good buildings! Find out more about demand response in the context of eastern United States.

Many design practitioners from planners to interior designers have expressed similar ideas about 'point collecting' rating systems such as those covered in 'Sustainable design: points and performance?' from Design Intelligence. While this article is written from a US perspective, replace LEED with Green Star and the general concepts come across.

The 1990's atrium skylight of the former T&G Building at 141 Collins Street, Melbourne is a good example of considered daylight design in a commercial building. (source: Antony DiMase)


Daylight through within the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad library by Louis Kahn. (source: Noy Hildebrand)

Light in buildings

Lighting technology
LEDs dominated the scene at the so-called Australian Smart Lighting Summit 2013 in early August. While the advances in this technology have been quite impressive, a more appropriate title might have been the Australian LED Summit. If daylight and dynamic lighting controls had more of a representation, then perhaps the event name could have been a better fit. Only one presentation touched upon daylight, and even this was more in terms of outdoor views rather than impacts on indoor usable light. On the whole, my favourite part of the event was the people present; there were a variety of engaged professionals and thus there were also some lively discussions. How can we get more of the industry to be interested in daylight and dynamic controls (for electric lighting)? For starters, if you'd like to learn more about daylight in buildings and how this can be integrated with electric lighting, then the next section might be your cup of tea.

Curious about daylight in buildings but not quite sure how to approach it in your design practice?
The smart folks at Building Green have written a robust introduction to daylight in today's buildings in Doing Daylight Right. They outline basic challenges and industry trends. This is recommended as an entry point into daylight in buildings.

Daylight enthusiasts, designers
If you like skylights and light scoops, check out the Light Scoop Design Guide. While the testing is specific to upstate New York in the US (at 42° north latitude), the relationship to the sun (though not necessarily the sky conditions) is similar to that Queenstown, Tasmania. Just mirror their south with our north.

Want to learn even more about daylight? Here are some robust resources to sink your teeth into:

Could you use some perspective? Check out Breathing Earth, a view of one year of seasonal transformations on earth, thanks to NASA Visable Earth and UX.blog. Notice anything about Australia's seasonal fluctuations?

Could you use a bit of uplift? Couldn't we all. Check out the world's first solar-powered plane as it completed its historic first flight across US.


Design tools, simulations & related news

Indigenous Weather Knowledge map of Australia overlayed with the Miriwoong seasonal calendar (sources: Bureau of Meteorology and http://www.mirima.org.au/calendar)

Climate Inspired: weather data visualisation as potential design input
Want to reconsider the Australian climate from an enlightened perspective? The traditional owners of the land conceptualised the seasons quite differently to our standard four; some groups had six or seven. Explore the names, places and climate of Indigenous Weather Knowledge. An excerpt from the site:

... all things past and present are interrelated, including the weather, landscape and previous generations, together with the plant and animal kingdoms ... connected as a continuum ... Climate and weather are controlled by supernatural forces which manifest themselves through the behaviour of the surrounding natural world.  

Melbourne's warm winter day via WeatherSpark. The screen shot shows temperatures for 17-19 Jul 2013 in Melbourne, when the highs around the 18 th (dark black line) exceeded previous average highs on record for that day (the lighter portions).
(Source: Noy Hildebrand via WeatherSpark)

Visually explore daily weather data alongside historic data with WeatherSpark's beautiful weather graphs and maps.

Not sure how climatic data can inform design? Here is an older but still relevant, practical Australian website-based guide called Design for Climate. Just enter your nearest location and it will output climate adaptive strategies to consider in the early design phases.

Energy Modelling with Simergy
Energyplus is a very robust though notoriously not user friendly building energy modelling engine. This is where Simergy comes in. Simergy is a 'free graphical user interface enabling EnergyPlus to be used more easily and effectively'. Interested in building energy modelling? Why not give a go. More information, including documentation and download are available here.


Advocacy & research

Sustainable Design Industry Survey
Griffith University is performing a survey of Australia's sustainable design industry. The topics covered include qualifications and experience, resources and industry projects and leaders. The university is inviting the building industry to participate in the survey, which can be found here.

End Fossil Fuel Subsidies
The Australian Government pays the fossil fuel industry to pollute. Doesn't sound good to you? Additional background information, including a link to the petition and template letter to your MP (for those in Vic) can be found here.

Say NO to new coal

Trains Not Toll Roads (Melbourne Region)
Want to minimise environmental destruction and petrol use impacts and maximise the spatial footprint efficiency of transport systems? Consider signing Trains Not Toll Roads.

Are you accidentally investing in climate change?
Over 55 per cent of mandatory pension contribution is invested in high-risk, high-carbon assets with less than two per cent being invested in low-carbon assets. So, while you may be spending your money intentionally and according to your own values, you may unknowingly be investing your money in things you are completely opposed to, like high-carbon industries. If you are interested in writing a letter to your superfund see this template.


Events & training

Environmental Film Festival Melbourne
When: 5 - 13 Sep Where: Kino Cinemas, 45 Collins Street, Melbourne
Program: http://effm.org.au/program
More Info: http://effm.org.au/

World Green Building Week - free industry events around Australia
Various organisations have graciously volunteered to hold events to celebrate World Green Building Week. Many of these events even offer CPD points. Please note that some events require bookings.
When: 16 - 26 Sep
Where: around Australia
Web: http://bit.ly/WGBW-13

Sustainable Walking Tours
For those of you who are self-directed explores, gather yourself and perhaps a few friends for a self-guided walking tour! Self-guided walking tour details for each city:
Adelaide Brisbane Melbourne Perth Sydney

The Melbourne Forum is a series of free public talks with the goal of increasing the development and refurbishment of commercial buildings in Victoria to achieve greater levels of sustainable performance. The upcoming forum is titled 'Innovative construction techniques'.
When: 17 Sep, 5.30pm for a 6pm start. Presentations will finish at approximately 7.30pm, after which drinks and finger food will be served.
Where: The Treasury Theatre, Lower Plaza, 1 Macarthur Street, East Melbourne
Web: http://bit.ly/MelbForum


Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes
A fan of Le Corbusier? Are you (or can you be) in New York this September? If you answered yes to both questions, then the Corbu exhibition at MoMA may be for you. Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes is now on view through September 23. (If you go, EDG would love to hear from you.) While he is in some ways the 'father' of modern architecture and all that that entails, he did learn from his mistakes later on. His later work addressed climate and sun conditions, as evident in Le Corbusier: a French lesson on 'Murs neutralisants'. Note: If you are a Corbu of Kahn fan and would like to see more about climate responsive buildings in future EDG news or papers, e-mail the Editor.
Where: MoMA, New York, US
When: until Sep 23



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