The retail sector is one of the largest energy guzzlers in Australia, consuming 50 per cent of the commercial property sector’s share of energy and generating up to 5 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to an April 2010 article.
Lighting is responsible for a large portion of this energy consumption. While a comprehensive breakdown of the retail sector in Australia has never been undertaken, a 2002 report commissioned by the UK Government gives an insight, revealing that 18 per cent of all service sector electricity consumption was from the retail sector, with electricity mainly used for lighting. Cooling and air conditioning is likely to be the other largest part of energy use here in Australia.
The size and scale of shopping centres can make sustainability a challenge – with the need to provide fresh air, natural light and temperature control to large spaces resulting in high consumption of electricity and water.
However, there has been a recent paradigm shift and we are now beginning to look beyond the negative impact of retail centres, and instead identify their potential as power stations and water harvesters.
Some shopping centre owners have recognised the importance of reducing their environmental impact. We have solid data from the US which demonstrates that shopping centres with higher quantities of fresh air, more connection to outdoor spaces and fewer air pollutants from materials also have lower energy bills and higher sales per square metre. Why? Simply because people like shopping there.
US research company Heschong Mahone, for instance, has found evidence that access to natural light alone can increase sales at the till. A 2003 study found that daylit stores deliver an increase in sales of up to 40 per cent. “By the most conservative estimate, the profit from increased sales associated with daylight is worth at least 19 times more than the energy savings, and more likely, may be worth 45-100 times more than the energy savings,” the report found.
The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has integrated much of this international research into its Green Star - Retail Centre v1 tool, which was released to the market in August 2008 to support the sustainable planning, design and construction of high-performance retail centres.
Green Star, which has been the leading environmental rating tool for buildings since 2003, evaluates the green attributes of building projects based on nine categories, including energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality and materials.
The tool, which assesses base buildings and services, not tenancy fitouts, considers the unique development requirements and impacts of retail centres. As such, the number of credits within categories and the category weightings vary from other Green Star rating tools. Examples of credits in the tool include: implementing a waste and recycling management plan, addressing car park ventilation and encouraging trip reduction.
Indoor Environment Quality, which affects both customers and employees of retail centres, is an important category, and rewards best practice where it relates to ventilation, comfort and pollutants. For example, Green Star points are available to retail centres with good natural light, with one point awarded where 30 per cent of the nominated area has a Daylight Factor of at least 2.5 per cent.
Lighting retrofits can also make a real difference. Stockland, one of the sponsors of the Green Star tool for retail centres, undertook an energy audit of 19 retail centres in 2008, and as a result implemented initiatives such as installing energy-efficient lighting in car parks and malls. This is expected to result in an approximate reduction of 8 per cent of total base building energy use over a two year period.
Of course, reducing energy consumption in retail centres is best achieved through a combination of good design and good habits. Tenants of retail centres are beginning to recognise their role in reducing energy consumption, and green leases are driving tenants to reduce their carbon footprints and take an active role in supporting the green initiatives of their retail centre.
The Green Star – Retail Centre v1 rating tool can be downloaded from the GBCA’s website: www.gbca.org.au
Inspiring to see the growing links between better places and better quality of life. Great article on bbc.com today.
"Probably the one area where rapid progress could be made is improving communication and collaboration between land-use and city planners, people involved in public health - both research and application, and their connection to ecological science."
Read the full article here.
Affordability is not just about how much we pay for our home. No one shopping for a new mobile phone would sign up for a plan without considering both the upfront costs AND the monthly service costs over the life of the phone. And yet, we do this with houses.
While the cost of operating our home over its lifetime should be an integral part of the affordability equation, we rarely consider lighting, heating, cooling or energy use when we’re doing the sums on our mortgage repayments.
Australians now build the largest new homes in the world – overtaking the Americans in the wake of the global financial crisis. Our typical new home – replete with parents’ retreat, home cinema and triple garage - is now around 215 square metres, up 10 per cent in a decade. The typical new home in America is 202 square metres, and new homes built in the UK are an average of just 76 square metres – almost a third the size of Australian mansions. And the bigger they are, the more they will cost.
At the same time, average household size is decreasing. The Australian Bureau of Statistics predicts that household size will fall to between 2.2 and 2.3 people per household by 2026. While our houses expand and the number of occupants shrink, the amount we spend on running our homes continues to balloon.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics also says that, by 2020, energy consumption in Australia’s residential sector will rise by 12 per cent on 2011 levels, and by 39 per cent above 1990 levels. This will mean significant increases in household energy bills.
But utility costs are just part of the story. When both housing and transport costs are considered, where you live consumes a third of the average household budget. Transport is the second-largest cost to households, and rising petrol prices are felt most acutely in the outer suburbs of cities where car dependency is highest. While this has a significant affect on the affordability of our homes, we rarely factor in the hidden price paid – loss of leisure time, time with families or even just time asleep - while sitting in traffic for hours each day. Today’s traffic gridlock is only going to get worse, with the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council warning that travel times will increase by 25 per cent within the next thirty years.
At the same time, Australia’s housing markets are among the most unaffordable in the world. The 2013 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey found Australia, once a shining example of modestly-priced, high-quality housing, has five of the top 20 most unaffordable housing markets in the English-speaking world.
Of the 337 markets assessed, only Hong Kong and Vancouver were less affordable than Sydney. While the survey considers housing to be affordable when the price-to-income ratio is 3.0, the median house price in Sydney is 8.3 times greater than the median gross annual income. The results are breath-taking: it’s cheaper to buy a home in New York City (which doesn’t even rate in the top 20) than it is in Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie or Wollongong!
So, what’s the solution?
We must change the paradigm so that people understand housing affordability as part of a package.
As a starting point, the long-term costs associated with our homes must be better articulated and understood. The data is clear. Our Value of Green Star research, published earlier this year, found that Green Star buildings consume 66 less electricity and 51 per cent less water than average Australian buildings.
We also know, from countless case studies of Green Star-rated projects, that this translates into operational cost savings. Just one example is the Lilyfield Housing Redevelopment in Sydney, which achieved a 5 Star Green Star – Multi Unit Residential v1 rating in 2009 for Housing NSW. A gas-boosted solar hot water system, 267 square metres of solar panels and a 4 kilowatt photovoltaic system to power common area lighting, deliver a combined annual saving of $19,000 - or $213 per unit - meaning annual electricity bills were slashed by 25 per cent.
A clear scorecard for homes which reports on a range of measures from energy and water consumption to average trip times to local CBDs would help people better understand the long-term costs associated with their most significant purchase, and promote the concept of affordable living.
Of course, efficient, affordable homes cannot exist in isolation, so we must look at the bigger picture of efficient, affordable communities.
The Green Star – Communities sustainability rating tool examines economic prosperity alongside design and placemaking, environmental impacts, liveability and urban governance. For example, the rating tool drives on-the-ground action by rewarding community-level projects which have a percentage of affordable homes.
Green Star – Communities recognises that affordability encompasses a range of factors. As such, it rewards projects that integrate mass transit options- so that people aren’t stuck in their cars for hours each day. It rewards connections to employment and education facilities – so that people may work and learn locally. And it rewards access to local amenities – so that people have a vibrant, liveable and ultimately affordable community at their doorsteps.
The question we must ask ourselves is: can we afford to continue building, expanding and consuming resources at current rates? Can we afford to live, work and play in communities which are disconnected, poorly designed and unsustainable? Without a radical shift in the way we view our buildings and our communities, the future is looking expensive. Houses will continue to get bigger and more costly to operate. More and more people will live further from their work as our cities expand beyond our capacity to service them efficiently. The financial costs will be large, but the costs to our health, our lifestyles and our environment will be acute. The opportunity to consider affordability in terms of long-term benefits, not just for short term gain, is available now.
As environmental sustainability shifts from voluntary to vital, many companies have applied a green sheen to their marketing and branding efforts to demonstrate they are adopting sustainable business practices. But how can we tell which companies are genuinely green and which ones have applied a generous coat of greenwash?
‘Greenwashing’ (a blend of ‘green’ and ‘whitewashing’) is the practice carried out by companies dishonestly claiming that their products, services or policies are environmentally friendly. The term is generally applied when more money or time is spent in promoting being green, rather than devoting the money and time to actual environmentally sound practices.
In December 2007, Canadian environmental marketing firm TerraChoice released a now-famous study, The Six Sins of Greenwashing, which found that more than 99 per cent of 1,018 common consumer products randomly surveyed for the study were guilty of greenwashing – in fact, just one company was found not guilty of making a false or misleading green marketing claim. TerraChoice subsequently added a seventh sin to its list, and this has been included in order to outline the seven sins of greenwashing in the global green building industry.
Sin #1: The Hidden Trade-off
A claim suggesting that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues. For example, an energy saving device is not necessarily environmentally preferable simply because it claims to save a certain percentage of energy each year. Other important environmental factors involved in the manufacturing, installation or disposal of the product may generate greenhouse gas emissions or toxic substances.
We’ve all heard or read about the debate around energy-saving light bulbs; some of these products may indeed save significant energy over other bulbs, but the materials from which they’re made, or the processes involved in their production, may have a far larger environmental impact. The ‘good’ may be far outweighed by the ‘bad’, once you know more information. The issue of biofuels has also been an interesting one to watch over the past few years; there are advantages to be found in using less fossil fuels, but disadvantages may occur when land is changed from crop to fuel production.
Sin #2: No Proof
An environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification. Making a claim that “the timber used in the product originates from sustainably managed forests”, while certification to a credible forest management certification scheme does not exist, is an example of this greenwashing sin. Forest certification schemes that are accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) International or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) are recognised by the Green Building Council of Australia, and details are provided on the GBCA website at www.gbca.org.au. However, some product suppliers might advertise their environmental credentials, or even claim the ability to ‘gain Green Star points’ without being able to substantiate their claims with the correct documentation. To purge this sin, project teams should ask their supplier the following:
• Has your product received third-party certification, and if so from whom?
• Do you have proof of that certification which you can provide?
Additionally, project teams may wish to consider contractually requiring the supplier to provide the documentation as a condition of purchase.
Sin #3: Vagueness
A claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer. ‘All-natural’ is an example. Arsenic, mercury and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring - and poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’, so people working on Green Star projects should research the claims made by suppliers and manufacturers when compiling their submissions. ‘Locally made’ is another claim which should be questioned, especially when referring to a product sold throughout Australia.
Sin #4: Irrelevance
An environmental claim that may be truthful but which is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally-preferable products. ‘CFC-free’ insulation is one example, as CFCs are now banned by international law. Another example might be the claim that a new building ‘smells’ green. While this might be a nice attribute, and one difficult to measure, it has no discernible environmental impact.
Sin #5: The Lesser of Two Evils
A claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole. Some of the new HVAC systems being installed around the world may use significantly less energy than older models, which is a good outcome, but they may also rely on refrigerants with a global warming potential many times worse than that of carbon. It is important to remember the ‘bigger picture’ when considering issues such as energy or water efficiency; Green Star goes beyond ‘Energy’ and ‘Water’ categories to consider Emissions, Management, Indoor Environment Quality, Transport, Materials and Land Use & Ecology, with additional points available for Innovation, encouraging a more holistic approach and the ability to see such issues in context.
Sin # 6: Overselling
Sometimes, in their enthusiasm to promote their green credentials, projects will stretch the truth. Claiming a ‘first’ for Green Star is a regular occurrence, and should be encouraged; such green projects should be rewarded and celebrated. However the Green Star team receives requests from project teams asking to verify that they’ll be the “first 5 Star Green Star project in Sydney in a heritage building older than 100 years” or the “first 4 Star Green Star project in Victoria in a regional area without public transport” or “the first 4 Star Green Star project in Brisbane in a street with a 'z' in the name”. Green buildings should be first celebrated for their attributes and their valuable role in tackling Australia’s environmental impacts, not simply for their ‘sales position’ or marketing quirks.
Sin #7: The outright lie
Environmental claims that are simply false. The most common example is projects falsely claiming to be Green Star registered, Green Star certified or NABERS rated. Product manufacturers may also be guilty of the outright lie; on some occasions advertisements have carried the line ‘GBCA-approved’, which is both false and misleading. Any product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists is guilty of this sin. Similarly, there have been many examples of buildings advertising a rating which they have not achieved; in some cases this may be a result of miscommunication between project team and marketing department or advertising agency, but in others it is quite simply a false claim made to impress the market.
So, what can you do about greenwashing? The Australian Trade Practices Act has been modified to include punishment of companies that provide misleading environmental claims. Any organisation found guilty of such conduct could face up $1.1 million in fines. In addition, the guilty party must pay for all expenses incurred while setting the record straight about their product or company’s actual environmental impact.
The GBCA has always been prepared to work with industry stakeholders to clarify their messages, check on facts or help reward and encourage sustainable building methods, approaches or products. It makes the whole process easier for us, for the consumer, and for you!
So many Australians deal with the consequences of poor urban planning every day of their lives: traffic congestion, noise and air pollution, inadequate public transport networks, urban sprawl, lack of access to shops and services … the list goes on.
A ‘trial and error’ approach to urban development – in which long-term objectives made way for fast-tracked, short-term results – has delivered cities with a host of environmental and social problems with a real economic cost.
If, as Albert Einstein once said, insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, then the rational approach is to create a new blueprint for best practice.
That’s what the development industry did. In collaboration with all tiers of government, industry associations, academia and the community, the Green Building Council of Australia developed a rating tool to guide the development of sustainable, liveable, efficient and productive communities. That rating tool is called Green Star – Communities.
Around Australia, dozens of developments, from small inner-city infills to large-scale projects that will one day have their own postcodes, are being guided by the Green Star – Communities rating tool to ensure they meet best practice benchmarks for governance, design, environment, liveability, financial prosperity and innovation.
And yet, sadly, a project which the Victorian Government claims is “Australia’s most significant urban renewal project” is not.
This week, Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy approved the final master plan for the development of the 250 hectare Fishermans Bend project – a 40-year development that is expected to generate 40,000 jobs, create billions of dollars in economic benefit and provide homes for at least 80,000 residents.
How we plan, design and build a precinct of this size – one that will double the size of central Melbourne – will have an enormous impact on the Victorian economy. It will also have an enormous impact on the environment and on people’s lives, health and wellbeing.
In the fastest-growing part of Australia – South East Queensland – sustainability is at the heart of some of the largest new developments. Caloundra South, for instance, spans 2310 hectares and will one day be home to more than 120,000 people, while Ecco Ripley just outside Ipswich will house 10,000 people over 40 hectares. Both are applying the Green Star – Communities principles to ensure they achieve long-term sustainable outcomes. In Sydney, the $1.6 billion Parramatta Square project and the $6 billion Barangaroo South project are both on track for Green Star – Communities ratings. The University of Melbourne has made a campus-wide commitment to sustainability by registering to achieve Green Star – Communities ratings, as have Bowden and Tonsley in Adelaide, and Alkimos Beach and Waterbank in Perth.
So, without meeting nationally recognised benchmarks, how will the people of Victoria know that their community – one that will one day be home to tens of thousands of people – is efficient, healthy, productive and sustainable?
Meeting best practice sustainability benchmarks does not need to cost more, as many of the ‘male, pale and stale brigade’ claim it might, but sustainability will deliver massive long-term benefits. And that’s what is at stake: the long-term value of a well-designed precinct that is both economically and environmentally sustainable; the long-term health and wellbeing of Fishermans Bend residents and workers; the long-term prosperity of businesses that set up shop; and the long-term financial returns for the Victorian tax payer.
In the short-term, the Victorian Government may gain political capital from its announcement – but building communities that are resilient, efficient and sustainable won’t be achieved in a three-year electoral cycle. Fishermans Bend will take 40 years to complete – in which time governments will fall in and out of favour, philosophies will be embraced and abandoned, and new generations of Australians will be born.
Building an Australia that is efficient and productive, that can expand to meet a growing and diverse population, that is resilient and adaptable to climate change is not a quick win. A strategic, sustainable approach to building communities requires an eye firmly fixed on the long game.
This is not to deny the short-term financial realities and responsibilities that guide government decision-making. However, long-term planning, governance, design and innovation are essential to ensure short-term budgets remain in balance. A short-term decision can have disastrous long-term financial consequences. Building cheap now may make a place unaffordable in years to come.
To those who are quick to point out that we have ‘an interest’ in whether projects use the Green Star – Communities tool, I’d say “of course we do – we developed it”. But we’re a not-for-profit and our ‘interest’ is in achieving sustainable places for everyone.
The Victorian Government has the opportunity to lead the way in setting world-leading social, economic and environmental benchmarks at Fishermans Bend – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we cannot afford to waste
Article first published on 30 JUL 2014, 9:15 PM
When many people hear the phrase ‘green building’ they immediately think high-tech features and high-spec finishes. They picture advanced low-e glass, blinds that automatically adjust to shield the sun’s rays, blackwater recycling systems, geothermal heating and smart meters that track energy usage.
While green building does embrace and encourage new technologies, new designs and new approaches, many new green buildings are emulating the old designs, the old approaches, the old techniques and nature’s ‘technologies’ to get better, greener outcomes.
Take a simple concept like solar orientation. We have archaeological evidence that the ancient Greeks were building their homes in grid patterns to best access the heat and light of the sun in the fifth century BC. “In houses that look toward the south, the sun penetrates the portico in winter, while in summer the path of the sun is right over our heads and above the roof so that there is shade,” the philosopher Socrates observed, talking about the Northern Hemisphere’s early green buildings.
Greek playwright Aeschylus took his admiration of passive solar design a step further, noting that only primitives “lacked knowledge of houses turned to face the winter sun, dwelling beneath the ground like swarming ants in sunless caves.”
The Ancient Romans developed the first solar-heated bath-houses and access to the sun was made a legal right under the Justinian Code of Law adopted in the sixth century AD. The earliest green roofs, such as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in what is now Iraq, date back to biblical times.
Sustainable design is not just a feature of the classics, however. Many cultures followed simple principles of sustainable design that remain as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. Nepalese homes, with their passive solar orientation and shading, high-insulation roofing and rock walls with high thermal mass, have changed little for centuries. The Cappadoccians in Turkey built thermally-efficient homes by hollowing out soft volcanic rock, in much the way the people of Coober Pedy do today. In America, the Pueblo Indians built their dwellings with south-facing adobe walls which absorbed the sun’s heat during the day and then warmed the home’s interior at night.
Indigenous Australians used simple, passive design principles to ensure they gained shelter from our nation’s blazing sun while still allowing air flow, while early colonial buildings integrated elements of passive design. The magnetic termite mounds of the Northern Territory are miniature ‘termite cities’ aligned north to south to minimise exposure to the heat of the sun, with structures that keep temperatures stable within the mound, allow air flow, and help shed excess rainwater without being washed away. Recall the old Queenslanders perched on stilts to improve air flow, inner-Sydney terrace houses pushed up against each other to provide good thermal mass, and the shade and shelter gained from the ubiquitous verandah.
As these examples demonstrate, until fairly recently human beings were adept at living in harmony with our climate and our environment. Where did it all go wrong? The post-war boom required as many homes to be built as quickly as possible. Later, a focus on minimising costs resulted in suburb-upon-suburb of sealed brick boxes – each designed in a way that ensured they would trap the heat in summer and block out the sun in winter, requiring mechanical air conditioning to assure thermal comfort. In fact, the invention and commercialisation of air-conditioning led us to lose touch with the concept of building our shelter around the seasons. When the same building design could be applied everywhere from the Top End to Tasmania, little thought was given to the local climate and ecosystem, not to mention the aesthetics of the suburban landscape. Air conditioning remains a valuable part of indoor environment quality, but should be used to complement good passive design, rather than the starting point of architecture.
So, the shift to sustainable building is not really a progression – more a return to simple, common sense methods of good, green passive design.
Take Australia’s first Green Star-rated residential development, The Summer in Perth, as an example. The Summer has integrated simple design features that use the ocean breeze and regulate the heat generated by the sun. The result is a development that has eliminated the need for mechanical air-conditioning, and is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 88 per cent.
Through passive design strategies, over 90 per cent of units have open floor plans and provide dual aspects to allow for natural cross-ventilation, recirculating air throughout the units and common spaces. The building also incorporates moveable screens on balconies to provide solar shading in the warmer months.
The design principles applied at The Summer evoke the Queenslanders of yesteryear – demonstrating that everything old can be new again.
Here's a short video about Australia's experience and capability in the Green Building sector.
The true cost of waste is getting harder to ignore. While landfill charges differ across Australia - varying from dirt cheap in some states to expensive in others - the true financial, social and environmental cost of sending rubbish to landfill is astronomical.
In 2009, the Australian Government commissioned The full cost of landfill disposal in Australia, which found that the financial cost of dumping our rubbish is between $42 to $102 per tonne, depending on the size of the landfill, level of management controls and prevailing climate.
Astoundingly, this doesn’t take into consideration external costs such as greenhouse gas emissions, compromised air quality or leachate. Nor does it consider the dis-amenity costs for people living near large piles of rubbish. This ‘damage cost’ amounts to between $20 and $60 per tonne.
So, imagine if landfill costs were to rise to the upper estimate of $162 a tonne. Would this price increase alone change people’s habits? Each Australian generates 2.08 tonnes of waste each year. Would a family of five, say, be prepared to pay an addition $1,685 a year just to dump their rubbish? Or would that family be more likely to recycle their rubbish or, better still, reconsider their consumption in the first place? Would you be more likely to increase the amount that you put into the recycle bin or compost bin if you knew how much it would cost you to send the same material to landfill instead?
Any conversation about waste must involve an examination of the environmental, social and economic issues. As energy, water and petrol prices rise, we can expect landfill costs to increase as well - especially as our cities grow at breakneck speed.
The National Waste Report (2010) found that construction and demolition waste accounts for 38 per cent of the total waste sent to landfill. At the same time, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in practices in some sections of the industry, with the market leaders achieving impressive recycling rates on Green Star projects.
At Trevor Pearcey House in Canberra, which achieved a 6 Star Green Star - Office Design v2 for its retrofit, careful demolition work resulted in 80 per cent of construction and demolition waste being either reused or recycled. Innovative uses for reused materials included using shading panels, steel mesh and support frames from the existing mechanical services to make a bicycle enclosure, while the old metal-backed computer floor tiles were used to create artworks around the building.
Materials that couldn’t be reused onsite were used elsewhere. Five tonnes of carpet was reused in local houses and a motel, two tonnes of workstation partitions and one tonne of light fittings were resold through a second hand dealer, more than one tonne of plasterboard was reused in a shed and one and half tonnes of ductwork were recycled as scrap metal. Trevor Pearcey House is a practical demonstration of making more with less.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
In Adelaide, Built Environs achieved a 5 Star Green Star – Office Interiors v1.1 rating for the retrofit of its head office at 100 Hutt Street. The refurbishment of the two-storey 1980s office block almost entirely eliminated construction waste reaching landfill. The project team managed to either recycle or reuse around 97 per cent of all construction waste by weight. This was such an impressive achievement that the federal government’s Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has developed a case study on the team’s waste management plan.
Built Environs achieved this impressive result in part through the re-use of materials. Many items were given a new functional purpose and diverted from landfill, including 44 gallon drums, sourced from the company’s plant yard, which are now used as bench seating bases; recycled hardwood palettes have been used as external cladding around the appropriately named ‘Palette Room’; and spiral mechanical ductwork has been used as indoor plant surrounds.
Some iconic refurbishment projects, such as Westfield Sydney, are also achieving outstanding recycling rates. More than 90 per cent of all demolition and construction waste was recycled, which contributed to Westfield Sydney’s 5 Star Green Star – Retail Centre v1 rating. A focus on reuse and recycling minimised the project’s demand for raw materials such as aggregate and cement. This was achieved by retaining 49 per cent of the existing structure, by volume, and specifying concrete containing recycled aggregate. Westfield estimates that this reduced demand for new materials by more than 28,500 tonnes.
Another way in which waste can be diverted from landfill during the retrofit process is by negotiating sensible and sustainable ‘make good’ clauses. This contract clause refers to the process at the end of a commercial property lease whereby the tenant is required to hand back the premises they are vacating in a particular condition that is established by the terms of the lease. ‘Make good’ clauses in leases often lead to significant wastage of materials such as carpets, light fittings and furnishings. Instead, identifying opportunities for fixtures and furnishings to remain for future tenants can result in significant savings for tenants, landlords and the environment.
Looking at the lifecycle
Today, the bar is being raised even higher, as the GBCA looks to review its ‘Waste Management’ credit to drive holistic, lifecycle considerations of construction and demolition waste, and improve waste management practices through the introduction of operational and reporting criteria for the waste industry.
The Green Star Construction and Demolition Waste Reference Group, which is comprised of experts in the waste management industry from 47 organisations across the country, has contributed advice and expertise to the development of construction and demolition waste management ‘Operational and Reporting Criteria’ which is currently being assessed by industry.
The GBCA’s Construction and Demolition Waste review heralds the next challenge for our industry: ‘cradle-to-cradle’ thinking, where material purchases are made based on both their first and second lives.
Take Interface, which has implemented a ‘take back’ program to ensure its products have a useful ‘second life’. The environmental impact of carpet yarn and backing can be significantly reduced by recycling carpet at the end of its consumer use. Interface has developed the technology to do this through its ReEntry program, which is the world’s first carpet tile recycling program.
In Australia, Interface has been diverting used carpet tiles from landfills and harvesting their raw materials since 1997. Processing used carpet is undertaken at a recycling facility in Georgia, USA. As the facility is powered by methane gas from a neighbouring landfill site, the CO2 emissions associated with shipping the used carpet tiles is offset by energy and raw material savings.
ReEntry also accepts carpet tiles from other manufacturers. Most vinyl-backed tiles are eligible for recycling into new carpet tiles. Used carpet tiles with bitumen and other types of backing are reconditioned and reused in the second hand carpet market. Interface, globally, has diverted almost 115,000 tonnes of waste tiles from landfill.
The ReEntry program is inspiring for many reasons, not the least because it is engendering a shift in the way we think about materials. As Interface takes back the ReEntry product at end of use, it is fair to say that Interface customers are not buying, but renting their carpets. In the future, we’ll see more people and organisations leasing carpets, blinds or light fittings from a supplier for just a set time period, before they are removed at the end of their working life to be turned back into new resources once more. And we’ll be looking at how we reduce, reuse and recycle because the cost of waste - financial, social and environmental - will be too hard to ignore.
The buildings that we construct may be able to stand the test of time, but are they necessarily suitable for a lifetime?
I was raised in a house in South East England that is now about 410 years old. It was built centuries before Captain Cook sailed to Australia or before the American War of Independence; before either of the World Wars, the Crimean War, or the Battle of Waterloo; before human beings had seen skyscrapers, railways or even iron bridges.
With a simple timber frame, plaster walls and a tiled roof, it has remained standing through frost, snow, storms and blizzards, despite blinding sun, heatwaves and water shortages. To me, this represents true resilience.
410 year old home in South East England
And yet, while my family home has stood the test of time, its narrow hallways and steep stairs, uneven floors and tiny bathroom now make it unliveable for my mother as she gets older. In this house, ‘ageing in place’ is not an option.
Robin Mellon's old home does not support 'ageing in place'
In Australia, the number of people aged 75 years and over is expected to increase by about four million between 2012 and 2060 — an increase roughly equivalent to the current population of Melbourne.
An even more startling illustration of the ageing population is the number of people who will survive past 100 years of age. The Productivity Commission’s An Ageing Australia: Preparing for the Future (November 2013) states that in 2012 there was roughly one person aged 100 years old or more to every 100 babies.
By 2060, there will be around 25 centenarians for every 100 babies, and with continued small increases in longevity, by 2100, there will be more people aged 100 or more years than babies born in that year.
So will the homes we are building now be suitable to house this growing group of centenarians?
The nature of our ageing population will also have many policy implications – from how governments manage age pensions and health budgets to how we plan, design and build our homes, our communities and our cities. As National Seniors Australia has observed, “the residential environment is closely linked to an older person’s capacity to remain independent, participate in community activities and feel secure and in control of their daily activities.”
Livable Housing Australia is driving a paradigm shift in the way the residential development industry designs and builds modern homes. The Livable Housing Design Guidelines support the design and construction of homes that can adapt as people age. And in turn, the Green Star – Communities rating tool’s ‘Accessibility and Adaptability’ credit awards points based on the percentage of dwellings compliant with LHA’s Guidelines. Other GBCA members are committed to creating residential communities that deliver sustainable solutions that save money and ensure good quality of life.
I’ve been inspired by Whiddon Group’s clever idea to install trickling showerheads with aerators. The water-saving showerheads use just nine litres of water a minute, but the aerators create lots of air bubbles so residents feel they’re not missing out on a hot shower. The feeling of luxury is there, but it is balanced by efficiency – and retrofits of their properties provide a long-term solution rather than a short-term ‘fix’. Stockland achieved the first Green Star rating for a retirement village last year, for Selandra Rise in Victoria, and has two more projects registered to achieve ratings.
The Green Building Council of Australia worked with Stockland to assess the design, construction and ongoing sustainability of 202 homes, 12 apartments and the community centre, as well as the practical and effective use of open space and residents’ proximity to shops, medical facilities and public transport. Stockland has estimated that the sustainability features will save residents at Selandra Rise an average of $700 each year on their water and energy bills.
These savings are another measure of resilience, and one which will become increasingly important as energy bills rise and pensions remain static. Financial resilience is an essential part of the overall resilience conversation – our ability to withstand climate extremes is vital but must be considered around long-term economic and social planning. While an ageing population presents challenges, it’s also a blessing.
After all, it’s the result of people living longer. It’s up to us to ensure we create built environments that are resilient in retirement.
Article first published on http://sourceable.net
28 November 2014
For most people, sustainability in the hotel industry translates into a card on the bed spelling out the frequency of sheet changes and a swing tag in the bathroom asking you to recycle your towels.
Increasingly, though, leading hoteliers are beginning to recognise that cutting through the greenwash and aiming for truly sustainable practices can payr dividends – from reduced operating costs and higher profit margins to improved staff productivity, better guest experiences and better brand equity.
The Scandic Marski hotel in Helsinki, where I stayed in mid-April, is just one of a number of hotels introducing multiple sustainability and recycling initiatives. Every room has bins for four different waste streams: bottles, plastics, glass and cans in one, paper and cardboard in another, compostable material and food waste in a third, and a fourth for waste to landfill. Even the room keys are made of 80 per cent local, Nordic wood, with just a thin veneer to help them last.
The usual notices about towels and sheets hang in the bathroom and beside the bed, but the showers and taps are fitted with flow-reducers that still provide a good experience without wasting valuable resources. Toiletries are locally made, in biodegradable containers, and filled with organic products.
At One Aldwych in London, creating a hotel out of a heritage-listed bank building was the perfect opportunity for a guest experience that is both luxurious and sustainable. The hotel has embraced sustainable tourism while continuing to provide the high level of service expected in one of the world’s best five star hotels.
Environmental initiatives include a comprehensive recycling scheme that even recycles cooking oil, eco-friendly bathroom amenities with biodegradable packaging, and a ‘no bleach’ policy which prevents harsh chemicals from being released into the water system and protects employees’ hands.
Food waste is taken away to a biogas generator that, in turn, helps produce low-emissions energy. A highly efficient EVAC vacuum drainage system, the same as that used in Grocon’s Pixel building in Melbourne, uses 80 per cent less water than conventional flushing systems, with toilets using just one litre of water per flush. Other ‘smarts’ in the building include an excellent Building Management System (BMS) and heat reclaim coils in the basement.
The subterranean pool area with its relaxing colours, ambiance, temperature control, chlorine-free water and underwater music once cost £7,000 a year to light. Today, it costs the hotel around £700 a year while also enhancing the guest experience. A feature wall at one end of the pool with a beautifully-lit (but energy- and water-intensive) waterfall has been replaced with a simple surface, lit by a discrete LED projector which can screen any number of images and moving pictures.
While I was staying there, ‘Blue Planet’-type footage was screening, from whales and dugongs to turtles, including (rather alarmingly as I surfaced doing breaststroke) a shark feeding-frenzy. This not only enhances the guest experience but reinforces the environmental message – that there is a good reason for conserving resources, not wasting or polluting water, and the reason is right in front of guests.
Hotel Union Square, owned and operated by Personality Hotels, offers the authentic San Francisco experience – a highly individual hotel and the chance to wake up to the sound of ringing cable car bells. Yvonne Lembi-Detert, President and CEO Personality Hotels, says sustainable thinking begins when she takes over an old property.
“Recycling an old building is just the start,” she said. “We don’t knock down the building, we try to reuse it and save – and savour – as much as we can, and support local craftsmen and designers.”
The hotel is filled with reused and recycled elements of San Francisco’s past – and the hotel’s heritage. Lembi-Detert’s favourite thing about the hotel is the striking wooden mermaid suspended from the ceiling at the top of the central staircase.
“The mermaid came from the façade of Bernstein’s Fish Grotto, which used to be on the other side of the road,” she noted. “When the Grotto was torn down we rescued the mermaid, sailed across the street with her, and she now has a new life adding to the character of the hotel.”
Other elements of heritage and reuse include the artwork brought from other buildings around the city, the original red tiles of the lobby still visible beside the concierge desk, and the original structural brick walls of the interior that add warmth and character.
At Hotel Union Square, towels and linen can be washed less often, and recycling bins with different streams are found in each room. LED lighting is being introduced throughout the hotel to make for a better, more energy-efficient guest experience. Showers have low-flow devices, and despite it being an old building, water-efficient toilets have been installed in some rooms, although the plumbing doesn’t always ‘jive’ with the new fixtures. Lights and air-conditioning units are on sensors, reducing waste where possible.
Sustainability is not just something for the luxury end of the market. Some new international hotel designs consider not just budget rooms, but budget sizes, budget construction, and use of existing and pre-fabricated materials, such as the shipping container design pioneered by Hong Kong-based OVA Studio.
New York Pod Hotels offer clever, compact rooms with “everything you need and nothing you don’t.” These rooms are both environmentally sustainable (using less space, fewer materials and less energy to operate) but also financially sustainable. For the slightly braver, the Tokyo Capsule Hotel provides sleeping capsules that are super cheap, but include access to bathhouses, 24-hour restaurants, massages and WiFi.
The bottom line is simple: smart hoteliers understand that sustainability is simply good business, and that luxury need not be sacrificed for more sustainable outcomes.
- See more at: http://sourceable.net/more-than-a-card-on-the-bed-sustainability-in-the-hotel-industry/#sthash.zMIJdOKB.dpuf
Robin Mellon is one of Australia’s experts on sustainability in the built environment and is determined to leave the planet in a better shape than it was when he found it. Robin believes in a Better Sydney – better buildings, better communities and a better quality of life.