This morning I read an article in The Conversation that included the word “Green Star” (including the quotes!) It’s badly written AND wrong and I made a comment that I realised would be worth keeping here:
Conflating what’s happening in the commercial and residential sustainability space is a big mistake and is also wrong about the purpose and scope of the tools it’s working so hard to discredit. This article doesn’t meet the standard I expect from this news source.
Yes, residential sustainability tools (NatHERS, Accurate) review only the predicted energy consumption of houses and have no post occupancy auditing/review required. Yes, this needs to be addressed.
However, this article is wrong when it comes to commercial buildings. Commercial buildings using Green Star and the Living Building Challenge (LBC), do include auditing of the building after it’s been occupied to ensure that the building does what it says on the tin and do include requirements for transport and “liveability” – things like daylight, plants material selections etc.
Listing a set of sustainability tools and including NABERS in the list also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the tools and their purpose. The Green Star and LBC tools are used throughout the development of a new commercial building, while NABERS was originally developed to measure and benchmark the energy consumption of existing buildings (not new ones) and is now a collection of tools specifically focused on the performance of existing buildings.
As a sustainability consultant, I use these tools to simplify the choices around sustainability and help my clients answer the question, “what do i need to do to have a sustainable building”? Without them there are too many options and difficult decisions to be made. It’s very easy to say “you’re not being sustainable” or “this is green washing” but much harder to say, “here’s what you should do to be sustainable”, particularly in a world where sustainability is not about finding perfection but really just choosing the least-worst option from a range of possibilities.
When you switch between discussing residential and commercial buildings you suggest an equivalence which isn’t there and lose the message about the tools that do need change to improve the sustainability of our built environment. This article will confuse people and give them the excuse to do nothing – is that what you intended?
Today i got a lovely call from Sam at Ecoresults to ask if i was happy for him to put my name forward for a new project – yes! And while we were chatting, he mentioned that my website was down.
I thought it weird because I usually check my website about once a week, and when I took a quick look it all looked fine. But when I looked a little closer, all of the sub links were broken. I spent a bit of time with Dr Google and finally sorted out how to fix the problem (even if i still don’t understand how the problem happened).
Amusingly, because I took a look at the sub links I noticed how out of date many of them are. So I’ve updated my list of projects, especially my Green Star projects.
A few years ago, when I was still at WSP Built Ecology, I did a presentation at Green Cities. It was called “Getting our shit together – A history of human sanitation and how it might apply to building design in the future”
It was fun, it tapped into my unhealthy obsession with composting toilets, and people remembered it at the dinner the following night.
The biggest message was that the most effective ways of dealing with human waste involve separating the solids from the liquid. It makes dealing with both waste “streams” easier. In fact, most of the waste water treatment that’s done is to deal with the salts associated with urine.
I took the Skybus to the airport on Tuesday and we drove through the backblocks of the airport, past the new freight warehouses. I saw the trucks backed up to the loading docks, like I imagine they would have been at the Goods Shed when the freight trains were loaded and unloaded from the centre of the shed.
The airport infrastructure I saw is all new since the development of eBay and and includes a major change in the nearby roads and airport – there’s a dedicated freight terminal, many new warehouses and some lovely large roads for the trucks. I think it’s a direct result of the stuff we’ve been buying off the internet. Can we use a similar mechanism to influence the development of more sustainable transport options? 
As a child I remember going with my mother to pick up a parcel from the local suburban train station  and now I wonder what we would need to do to replace all of the trucks and vans delivering our internet purchases.
I want more freight to travel by train. I want the freight train system to make enough money to provide the infrastructure so I can catch a train to Adelaide on a service that operates more than twice a week and takes less than 10 hours. I want to be able to nominate a train based freight service when I buy my box of “vegan-friendly” toothbrushes. I wonder if some sort of sharing economy like service would drive the development of the infrastructure we need to make this a reality?
What if we had parcel boxes at train stations? Could we start a social movement (no pun intended) carrying our neighbor’s parcels from the city train stations to the suburbs? Could people carry an extra suitcase of stuff when they take the train from Sydney to Melbourne? Would it catch on to the point where people are deliberately catching trains to deliver parcels? And then would big biz notice and start building train based freight infrastructure like the warehousing, terminal expansion and the extra (freight only) runway at the airport?
Whatever the future holds, we need to identify and promote the small things that will move the status quo to the world we want to have.
On Friday I received a frantic call from the head contractor, “the site is buried in waste and we can’t find a waste collection service that can comply with the Green Star requirements”.
The new Green Star tools (Interiors PILOT, Interiors V1 and Design and As-Built) have introduced a new wrinkle on the way we’ve been addressing construction waste for the past 12 years. Now, the waste contractors need to , “hold third-party verification of compliance with the Green Star Construction and Demolition Waste Operational and Reporting Criteria, as issued by a Suitably Qualified Auditor“. Mohammad says that he had spent 3 days calling Melbourne waste contractors trying to find someone and none of them have the required 3rd party verification, or any idea of what’s required. So I put in a call to the GBCA and here’s the skinny;
Waste contractor’s don’t need to have completed the process required to get the 3rd party verification. They need to provide a statement that says how much of the criteria they have implemented and the expected timeline for implementation. Here’s the GBCA statement.
I need to submit a CIR to allow my project to use this method of compliance and then we’re good to go.
On Friday I found a waste contractor who was familiar with the old Green Star reporting requirements and this morning I explained this modification to them. They’re happy and surprised that the other project they’re working on that has the same problem hasn’t taken this approach. So I thought I’d share.
The waste contractor is still looking for an auditing company who is taking this on, so your suggestions are welcome.
We’ve got approval to use the Contractor Education innovation credit for the Kathmandu project and I’m working on it this morning.
To get the credit we need to;
Deliver training on the core concepts of global warming, climate change and the health impacts of minimum building practices.
And a bunch of other good stuff.
I’m intrigued with the first item. There’s an assumption that the people working on the project have no idea what global warming and climate change is, and yet this morning the Climate Institute released a report saying that 70% of Australians believe that climate change is occurring and 48% believe that humans are at least partially responsible.
I’ve been unhappy with the climate change talk beginning for a while now, it means that we start with the bad news that everyone already knows, which is both boring and depressing. How do you keep an audience interested and engaged when you do that? I’m certainly not going to use my own words – this is a message that lots of people have already worked on.
Have a couple of videos, I like the tetris one, but I prefer the Australian accent;
I’ve worked at home for 2 and a half years and every six months or so I’ve changed the way I work. I started by diligently working at the kitchen table, and experimented with a standing desk at the laundry bench. Then I went for the couch and then the bed (still one of my favourite places to work). About a year ago, I got a desk and real office chair which was very popular for a while, and then it became just one of the places I work – depending on the weather and how I’m feeling.
Each time I’ve changed location and work style, it’s because of a difficulty with making myself work. Lately it’s been worse than ever – . It’s been taking me 5 days to get 3 days of work done and I’ve got no time for the other stuff I enjoy doing – woodwork, sewing and fixing my house. So I’ve just made a change.
I’ll be working at HubMelbourne 2 days a week, and will aim to work only one day a week at home. I will, of course, be checking my email as compulsively as ever and going to meetings and meeting deadlines…
For nearly 2 years I’ve been meeting up with the MicroESD peeps. MicroESD’ers are people like me: small, startup ESD people in Melbourne, and we chat over drinks every 2 months (or so). There are usually 5-8 people and while there are a core group, there is often someone new and we talk about the stuff that we do, our frustrations and our recent wins.
If it became bigger and included all ESD people in Melbourne, not just the small companies, it could be a more useful version of Sustainability Drinks . As I daydreamed about that, I wondered about how you do speakers or relevant talks. I think I have it:
Soapbox Rants – Provide a milk crate and encourage people to get up for 5-10 min to either complain, boast or expound their great idea. No pictures allowed.
 Sustainability drinks is great, but too broad. The funnier conversations start with “what sort of sustainability consultant are you?”