Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 26 Spring 2010 Contents INSITE SPRING 2010 109
nvironmentally sustainable design
(ESD) or ‘green’ design are terms the
general public has long been familiar
with. In fact, architect and senior
lecturer at the Curtin University of Technology
Dr Elizabeth Karol says, the ‘green’ word has
been thrown around so arbitrarily as a
marketing term it means nothing any more.
Sifting the ‘green wash’ can be tiri ng and
confusing, and while arguments over climate
change continue, so greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions increase, pushing us closer to ‘the
point of no return’ (another familiar phrase).
So, let’s assume climate change is real
(research certainly indicates it is): what does
that mean for the Earth and its inhabitants?
Generating 40 per cent of GHG emissions
worldwide, buildings are the single largest
contributor. They make up 40 per cent of
the waste directed to landfill, use 40 per
cent of global energy (including embodied
energy in materials), 32 per cent of the world’s
resources in construction, 19 per cent of all
electricity (and increasing) and consume 15
per cent of potable (drinkable) water.
The Green Building Council of Australia
(GBCA) highlights the above figures in its
publication Green Building Evolution 2010
(gbca.org.au). It states that by 2030 about 30
per cent of the projected GHG emissions
from buildings can be avoided with net
building green ISSUE
household and this reduction could be
achieved using technologies available today.
The GBCA points out that if Australia
continues ‘business as usual’, GHG emissions
are projected to reach 664 million tonnes by
2020, or 120 per cent of 2000 levels.
ACF’s 2010 National Agenda for a Sustainable
Australia states “car-dependent cities, which
today f uel asthma and obesity, could be
transformed into clean, efficient places with
great public transport and happier, healthier
residents. If we invested in the cost-effective
technologies available now, we would save
30 to 50 per cent of energy in our homes and
help to protect families from future fuel,
energy and water price increases.”
It is such a broad issue, but building green
– truly green – is a step in the right direction.
So, just how green are we?
GBCA defines a green building as combining
design, construction and operational practices
to reduce or eliminate the negative i mpact of
development on people and the environment.
“Green buildings bala nce environmenta l,
social and economic issues to contribute to a
high quality of life and meet the diverse needs
of current and future generations,” it states.
“... building green is an opportunity to create
a better world through: energy efficiency;
green house gas emission abatement; water
conservation; waste avoidance, reuse and
recycling; pollution prevention – noise, air,
water, soil and light; enhanced biodiversity;
reduced natural resource consumption;
productive, healthy environments; and
flexible and adaptable spaces.”
Principal architect with Environa Studio,
in NSW, Tone Wheeler (pictured over), who
is recognised as a leading researcher in green
design, says improvements in urban planning
and building are central to increases in energy
efficiency and reductions in GHGs, “but this
hope, more like hype, is misplaced, either by
being simplistic in its intentions, or missing
the mark in its effects”.
He says a culture of ‘real green’ design
could lead to a more sustainable future, but
we have a regulatory system that prevents
worst practice, rather than promoting best
practice. “The Building Code of Australia is a
Perth is arguably the worst global offender in water, energy and car
usage and has only 5.5 per cent of Australia’s Green Star-certified
building projects – how can we lift our game? Georgina Walsh reports
However, that’s the global perspective.
Australians use more water and energy, and
own more cars per person than in almost any
other developed country. And, according to
the Australian Conservation Foundation’s
(ACF) 2010 Sustainable Cities Index, Perth is
the worst offender.
While Perth finished last, the ACF points
out that no city did well in its 15 indicators.
For instance, first-placed Darwin is almost
eight times less sustainable than the ideal city.
Australia’s residential and commercial
building sector is responsible for about 23 per
cent of our GHG emissions. Many reports (such
as the Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia
by non-profit organisation ClimateWorks
Australia and the Australian Sustainable Built
Environment Council’s The Second Plank
Update) say the built environment is one of the
most cost-effective, fastest and easiest ways to
abate climate change and reduce impact.
The Low Carbon Growth Plan for Australia
says we could reduce our greenhouse gas
emissions to 25 per cent below 2000 levels
by 2020 at an average annual cost of $185 per
“If we invested in the technologies available, we could
save 30 to 50 per cent of energy in homes ... to protect
from future fuel, energy and water price increases”
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