Monthly Archives: June 2010

Eco Architects Endorse New Energy Law

25 June 2010

Jacinta Goerke, Journalist

THE federal government’s new law to introduce energy efficiency certificates for commercial building landlords as from 1 July 2010 has been welcomed by eco architects.

Western Australian eco architect Mr Garry Baverstock said the legislation was a sensible move and he hoped it would soon include residential buildings.

“The built environment constitutes between 30 and 40 per cent of CO2 emissions so the more we move toward retrofitting existing buildings and ensuring new ones comply with passive solar design principles, the better,” said Mr Baverstock.

Mr Baverstock said ongoing price hikes for electricity, gas and water had seen a shift in the way people thought about their homes and office buildings.

“People are now interested in how the orientation and materials used to construct homes and commercial buildings can significantly reduce their energy bills,” said Mr Baverstock.

“My only concern is whether the new law will be open to misuse.

“The ACcuRate system allows homes with air conditioners to receive higher ratings than those without which is absurd in most metro and south-west locations because properly designed and constructed buildings simply don’t need air conditioning,” said Mr Baverstock.

Mr Baverstock said money and legislative change were the main motivators in changing people’s behaviour.

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Climate Change and Intergenerational Equity – What is Needed in Energy Policy? Part 7

Urban Development and Consumption – Adaptive Management Needed

Outdated residential suburban sprawl needs to stop immediately in all our major cities.  The stifling economic effects of upgrading all infrastructure for uncontrolled population growth and the compound effect of wasted energy in commuter traffic, needs addressing urgently.  The following measures are needed for the development of our cities:

  • An awareness that the biggest threat to the planet apart from increasing levels of consumption by individuals, is global population growth and that there are far too many people for the ecology and heath of the planet to support.
  • An urgent debate on the 2050 population targets for Australia and its distribution in all States, based on economic opportunities and the implications for global population control.
  • An urgent debate on the security implications for Australia should GHE start driving huge numbers of refugees and illegal immigrants to our shores from Asia.
  • What defence strategy will be needed to protect our culture and way of life if the GHE problem is not solved and world population continues to grow without meaningful and effective controls in place?
  • What consumption targets are going to be needed and possible, to build a quantity v quality of life in Australia that can be a model for other countries to the north in our region to follow?
  • A focus on regional development in key, strategically identified regions rather than continual population growth in our capital cities.  New infrastructure is often cheaper to build than rectifying and upgrading existing, inadequate systems.
  • A greater focus of adaption and higher density development around transport and shopping/commercial nodes, to maximise the use of existing infrastructure.
  • Set stringent benchmarks for all building developments that will deliver large reductions in energy and water use, thereby starting a process for practical achievement that is superior to the current compliance methods.
  • Develop a set of compliance procedures and a development approval process for complexity that allows maximum creativity and rewards innovation.  At present, the current system is unbearably stifling to professionals wishing to advance the science and develop new built environment solutions.  We need more scope for highest common goal solutions rather than lowest common denominator practises that dominate the approval processes.
  • Offer greater incentives for building reuse and retrofitting, as this is the major challenge for the next 40 years.  Penalising wastage is also needed to give developers who are acting in the public interest distinct advantages over those who choose ‘business as usual’ solutions.
  • Tighten controls on land releases and prevent land clearing to force more urban redevelopment and adaptation, rather than develop new housing estates.
  • Look at ways of shifting the building industry to deliver the new patterns of development, new high standard passive solar designed structures and new technologies that enhance the energy and water efficiencies.
  • Institute culture change initiatives for the general public that assist change process faster than most industries will voluntarily initiate, or have time or the motivation to effectively implement.  This must be government led and fostered.  Non-profit, community based entities can play an important role here.
  • Improve professional education and training to ensure all our Built Environment professions are up to the task.  At present they are not.
  • Improve levels of communications and media to foster and help focus public and corporate action on the issue and not to continually give equal credence to self-serving sceptics or to those who for dysfunctional reasons of ego, are seeking notoriety.
  • Support primary and high school outreach initiatives that prepare the next generations for the challenges they will face and the solutions they can offer.

Conclusion – Failure Should not be an Option

A process of adaptive management is needed.  We need the right experts, with an expert coordinator, in the correct forum that has an attitude that failure is not to be an option.  Only then will a bipartisan political approach have any meaning.

I believe the Australian public is getting very tired of current politics over Climate Change.  Western Australia with its buoyant economy can start to take the lead with the adoption of a politically disarming policy.  Politicians are in a unique position of having WA show the way for the rest of Australia.  In that way our members could have the self-satisfaction of saying: ‘I achieved something great while I was a parliamentarian!’  ‘I took action and we (our parliament) led Australia and the rest of the World in our corner of the world and help to make a difference’.

What is the alternative?  There is no ethical alternative.

Surely the political debate should be over how the scientific outcomes are to be achieved, not a continuing debate on whether outcomes are needed.  It is time to move on!

Back to Part 6

An Independent Professional Opinion by Garry Baverstock AM, B. Arch, MSc, LFRAIA,
Adjunct Professor, Built Environment Program, Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) at Murdoch University.
Director of Wise Earth Research Centre.

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Climate Change and Intergenerational Equity – What is Needed in Energy Policy? Part 6

Climate Change – Where is Governance is failing?

I think the average person is aware that there is something sadly wrong with governance in Australia in relation to Climate Change and that it is now at a low point where rhetoric, spin and industry lobby groups determine what is in the public interest, not the public interest itself.  This issue is way above party politics and the following failures need to be addressed if this country is to be a contributor and not an international ‘weasel’ when it comes to doing something to solve Climate Change once and for all:

  • The delay in setting mid and long-term goals for GHG reductions to solve Climate Change (where failure is not an option) and setting targets for industries to follow, free from corporate bullying and interference from self serving, ‘sceptical’ politicians.
  • The lack of definitive information about the realities of Climate Change and the economic challenges for Australia and the clear consequences of insufficient action locally, nationally and globally. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
  • Failure to convince Australians of their proportional and arguably, more than their proportional responsibility, to act to address Climate Change.
  • Continuing to allow inappropriate interference of industry groups with entrenched incorrect ideas and vested interests, in keeping development patterns and ‘business as usual’.
  • Continuing to allow ‘dumbing-down’; lowest common denominator rating and compliance systems for buildings for approvals; and making the process unfairly tortuous for those who are in the creative, individually designed home and commercial market.
  • The avoidance of Adaptive Management methods to determine the best way forward using the best scientists and climate experts available, and a stable of complementary professionals who can deliver practical and workable solutions, without the agenda being hijacked by those with suspect public interest motivation.
  • Inadequate rewarding of positive Climate Change behaviour and inadequate penalisation of poor or negative behaviour of the community in relation to water use, energy use and over consumption of materials.
  • Lack of proper research into what can be done before the year 2050 to avert a run- away GHE and quantify what is possible.  There needs to be an urgent review following on from the Stern and Garnaut reports.  This review has to be action-oriented: not arguing about the climate science any longer.
  • Not setting a good example for our Asian neighbours to follow.  The 1-2 % impact of Australia on GHGs is not an ethical or intelligent excuse for doing nothing.  Our relatively small population means that it is not what we do to help ourselves that counts: rather, because of our wealth and education levels it is what we can do to set workable solutions for our neighbouring countries in the region.  It is leading by example.  It is a fact that most Asian governments often look towards Australia for governance inspiration.  This is a practical outcome and should greatly increase opportunities for Australian expertise and export industries.  It is not just a moral or ethical position, as often used as an argument for action or non-action.   It is a compelling economic reason in itself.

Back to Part 5

Continue to Part 7

An Independent Professional Opinion by Garry Baverstock AM, B. Arch, MSc, LFRAIA,
Adjunct Professor, Built Environment Program, Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) at Murdoch University.
Director of Wise Earth Research Centre.

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Greenhouse Gas Reduction – What is Needed in Energy Policy? Part 5

Greenhouse Gas Reduction: What Extent Will Be Needed?

So looking at the big picture, even if all countries keep their emissions low as prescribed in this article, there is still a short-fall of 30-40% in the greenhouse gas reduction needed by 2050, even if everything goes well.  Of course it will not go that well!  Human nature, as often proven throughout in history, always appears to deliver too little and too late.  So projected results for greenhouse gas reduction must be tempered.

This means that if ‘business as usual’ and superficial or ‘green wash’ continues, as evident at present, the mandatory and eventual urgent action to reduce fossil fuel use by 2050, could be as high as a  62-72% reduction , after all other avenues have been exhausted.  To achieve such a dramatic decrease in fossil fuel use seems impossible, even though totally necessary to result in effective greenhouse gas reduction.  To create a dramatic greenhouse gas reduction in the magnitude needed, after all the built environment, culture change, transport and agricultural solutions have been tried and to a great extent failed, would cause a great deal of economic and social upheaval.  World wars have occurred under lesser circumstances before.

But, being basically an optimist, I am predicting many early initiatives will actually succeed to a certain degree.  I believe the ultimate challenge will end up forcing an urgent and mandatory greenhouse gas reduction of 40-50%  after all other measures are exhausted.

This shortfall in greenhouse gas reduction needs to be dealt with  progressively rather than occurring all at once.  Obviously progressive change is acceptable to most politicians and society as a whole and there are positive signs that this technological change has already begun.  What is in contention is the actual rate of change and the present extent of greenhouse gas reduction.

To determine this rate of change, a multidisciplinary expert management is needed and decisions made that are based on science and sustainability based economics, not based on political machinations and hijacking of the agenda by powerful and influential industries.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Photo

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Needed

This all means that solar and renewable energy will definitely have to progressively replace fossil fuel sources to a large degree.  The extent will greatly depend on the success of  the built environment to make changes resulting in adequate greenhouse gas reduction.

Solar and Renewable Energy – Why Use Them?

Do nothing with the built environment and we are heading for economic hardship, as far more expensive renewable sources will have to be used to replace our current enormous investment in fossil fuel power sources.  This realisation is the key to why I spend so much time on the promotion and advocacy of solar and renewable energy, starting in the 1980s with the Solar Energy Information Centre and subsequently online and with my educational efforts since the closure of it.  The advent of solar energy technologies complements the total built environment strategy as advocated.  Most systems need a building roof to sit upon or be part of a local or remote power system for a group of buildings.  There is a definite relationship between these two industries.  It is difficult to separate them – they are already and ever-increasingly intertwined.  Many of the technologies need a roof or a wall to accommodate them.

Make no mistake!  Australia along with the Western World, is eventually heading for disastrous economic times if we do not act now on improving the efficiency of the built environment to result in significant greenhouse gas reduction.  The previous arguments have shown why we must do more than we are currently doing,  given the threats to life on the planet if ‘green-wash’ continues for too long.

It all comes down to reducing coal-fired, or gas or oil driven power station outputs of energy and replacing at least 50% of the residual energy needs, after the conservation approach is maximised.  This  needs to be replaced with renewable and solar energy, if our standards of living are to be comparable to the present day and if we are to achieve greenhouse gas reduction to the extent needed.

This proposed technological shift would be the biggest change in society and lifestyles since the Industrial Revolution.

However, by acting on reducing energy and water dependence, we can still have a healthy share of fossil fuel use for base load power for hundreds of years.  We simply need to reduce consumption and energy use in our built environment now.  Otherwise, we will simply have to close the coal-fired power stations down when disasters start snowballing with Climate Change.

I fail to understand the short sightedness of the coal industry if they have a long-term vision for their industry and shareholders taking this logical progression into account.  Perhaps their current leaders are still waiting for a miracle?  Maybe they do not care about the long term and want to keep making returns for their lifetime alone?  Who can explain the logic of greed?  We all need to embrace significant greenhouse gas reduction and look ahead, taking  responsibility for the future, rather than denying the dangers.

This is why I spend a great deal of my present time and resources expounding these ideas on Wise Earth’s global website:

Rather than seeing Climate Change as a threat I see it as an opportunity for innovators and emerging industries to meet the challenges  of greenhouse gas reduction. The first step is to immediately start to get our built environment functioning to deliver measured prescribed outcomes and adapt until it does.  This will require support of private initiatives and the ‘movers and shakers’ who get things done, as well as to review outdated compliance and development processes that are obviously not working from the government end of the spectrum. Greenhouse gas reduction should be our first priority and needs our significant and immediate attention.

Back to Part 4

Continue to Part 6

An Independent Professional Opinion by Garry Baverstock AM, B. Arch, MSc, LFRAIA,
Adjunct Professor, Built Environment Program, Research Institute for Sustainable Energy (RISE) at Murdoch University.
Director of Wise Earth Research Centre.

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