Your windows are too big

Last week I got one of those phone calls…”How quickly can you do a JV3 model?”

Yep, no one had checked that the windows complied with the NCC and now they needed a building permit – today!

I was pretty blunt and told them that I needed 2 weeks, but I also took a look at their drawings;  they had enormous windows in the East and West facades. I told them that if they wanted a building permit asap, they should look at redesigning their windows to comply with the Deemed to Satisfy requirements.

How many times have we ESD consultants had this conversation?  It’s such a familiar one that a few years ago I made a tool so that I could send architects away to investigate the options for window areas and window types on their own.  With the changes to the NCC next year, it won’t be useful for much longer.  So I’m sharing it with you now.

Check out my glazing area calculator.

That community open air stage!

My community open air stage project is now live on Pick my Project.  If you live within 5km of my project, you can vote for it!

Voting is quick and simple, and open until 5pm, Monday 17 September:

  1. Go to Pick My Project and sign in.
  2. Select your local community by entering your postcode. You can then browse the project ideas in your local community – our project is called ‘Open Air Stage‘.
  3. Pick your three favourite project ideas from your shortlist and verify your mobile number. You’ll then be able to submit your vote.

Help me make this underused space on the Richmond Estate into a community and arts hub for the whole community.

I’m working on this project with Belgium Avenue Neighborhood House, an organisation that supports the local community through events, the arts and food.

Help me build a community stage

One of the things I enjoy about working for myself is being able to make the time for involvement in my local community.  A few years ago I spent some time singing in a local community band.  We would occasionally perform at local community events, usually on the Richmond or Collingwood Housing Estates.  While we were doing that, my husband, James Brown (yes, really) was also doing regular gigs in his various african bands (shameless plug).  We thought, “wouldn’t it be great if there was a stage/performance space on the Richmond Estate.”

Now that Pick My Project is available, we’re thinking that it would be great to get the government to build that stage.  An open air stage could have music on Friday nights, local events like the Moon Lantern Festival could avoid hiring a stage and the local kids could include performances in their imaginative play.  That community band I used to sing with could also use it for open mic nights in summer.

We think this space between 108 and 110 Elizabeth St is a pretty good location.  It’s near the bbq’s and the North Richmond Community Health Centre and the local space is a bit of a natural amphitheater.  It’s currently a bit of a wasteland too.between 108 and 110 Elizabeth St Richmond

The stage will need to be pretty bullet proof, and include power and somewhere to hang lights and speakers.

To nominate the project, I need to have a pretty picture and an estimate of the likely costs.  I already have an auspicing organisation and I’m the local person – I live about 100m away.  I’ll have a red hot go at the pretty picture, but I’d really like someone to give me a hand with estimating the likely costs.  Can you help with estimating or drawing pretty pictures?



Construction waste – what to do?

We’ve all heard about the “recycling crisis” but I haven’t heard much more about how it affects the projects we’re working on. So this article in The Age today is a bit of a prompt to find out more.

Since C & D Recycling opened in Lara less than two years ago, it has collected so much industrial material – mostly refuse from construction and demolition work – that the pile now exceeds the legal nine-metre height limit and spills outside the permitted storage area.

Climate adaptation plans for Green Star

Each time I get a new Green Star project I look at the climate adaptation credit and think about doing it myself.  How hard could it be?  The Green Star submission guideline has a good instructions on what’s required and all the reference documents are pretty accessible.  I’ve even read a few that other people have prepared.

How hard can it be to run a workshop, grab some climate change scenarios, make some recommendations and write a report?

But then I get realistic about how many hours there are in the day and decide that I should just get someone else to do it.  Can you help me?

Wrong! on the Internet!

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?

Good to see that someone else has also spoken up.

Good on me!

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.

Recently, a friend posted a great link to a Smithsonian magazine article discussing the historic uses of urine.

Maybe we could be inspired to find some way to include urine diversion in our projects and set up some social enterprise to make good use of the urine?


Saving the planet with trains

goods-shedI 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.


Forklift loading AusPost truckThe 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? [1]

As a child I remember going with my mother to pick up a parcel from the local suburban train station [2] 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?

Train passengersWhat 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.

[1] I’ve assumed that  trains are more sustainable/use less resources than planes and trucks and certainly the fuel usage backs that up  –

[2]  It is likely that parcel went through the Goods Shed – the Goods Shed stopped operating in the 1990’s


Today’s Green Star lesson – construction waste

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.