Urine!

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  –  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_efficiency_in_transportation#US_Freight_transportation

[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.

Contractor Education – for dummies?

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;

  1. Deliver training on the core concepts of global warming, climate change and the health impacts of minimum building practices.
  2. 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;

New phase

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…

But the rest of the time will be mine!!!

Sustainable Living Festival

Today I fell down the rabbit hole of the events that are on as a part of the Sustainable Living Festival.

Here’s what I’m interested in;

One morning at 11am
The Degraves Shared Recycling Project services the Degraves and Centre Place cafe precincts by receiving and recycling all cardboard, mixed and organic waste and diverting it from landfill.

Tuesday, February 17 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Emeritus Professor Robert Manne delves deep into the psychology of climate change with visiting climate specialist George Marshall. Don’t miss these two leading thinkers explore how we might overcome the psychology barriers to climate denial and much more.

Wednesday, February 11 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The Australian Passive House Association will host this special presentation as part of their Expert Series. The talk will explore some of the technical aspects of delivering a Passivhaus project. The Expert Series delves deeper into the finer details of what is required to achieve a Passivhaus, as told by the experts. The presentation will cover a range of topics, from glazing to ventilation, and much more in between! Bookings for this one seem weird.

and Wednesday, February 11 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Greening the space with Vertical Gardens

I don’t think I’ll make it to the last two – I’ll be at an all day One Planet Training Course

Getting sustainability professionals together to rant

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 [1].  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.

[1] Sustainability drinks is great, but too broad.  The funnier conversations start with “what sort of sustainability consultant are you?”

 

Pedantic!

I am a pendant pedant and I saw this and laughed.  Putting it here so you can laugh with me.

illegible vs eligible

It’s the Greenhouse Gas Emissions credit in the new Design and As-Built tool.  I think they meant eligible…

Belated update

I’m busy and stressed, so I’ve re-arranged this website and now I’m updating here.

I’m planning to get the first round of Kathmandu’s volume certification submission off my to do list by Tuesday next week, in time for celebratory drinks.

Sigh, better get back to it I suppose.

PS. If you have clicked, check out my new resources and links page.  I’m going to keep adding stuff here, so suggestions would be welcome.

Can we use this to save the planet?

As a parent, I’ve known for a long time that the most effective way to get a child to do what you want them to do is to clearly state what you do want them to do and avoid telling what you don’t want them to do, eg; “walk on the footpath”, rather than “don’t walk on the road”.

It’s a bit similar to an article I was linked to today which described how people like to do what other people are doing and are strongly influenced by the way messages are expressed, in particular

… people were actually more likely to steal wood from the forest when they saw the sign telling them how many people tend to do it themselves, even though the very next sentence was asking them to refrain. But when the researchers simply tweaked the message to read that “the vast majority of past visitors have left the petrified wood in the park, helping to preserve the natural state of the Petrified Forest,” the thievery plummeted.

We don’t really care so much about what we should do. We care about what other people do. And then we really, really care about not being different.

It’s a shame really. I hate telling people that “all the cool kids are doing it”,  but that’s human nature and it’s how we got improved water efficiency during the long drought and 14% of homes with solar panels and increases in cycling commuter numbers.

<Sigh>, but I’ll use it when I’m describing possible sustainability measures in a building to a client, if it means that I can do my bit to save the planet.

XKCD bridge comic