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.

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?”

 

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

Change in work style/practice

Yesterday I spent some time catching up on Twitter (what else do you do when you’re feeling sick and tired with a horrid head cold?) and found a friend’s suggestion of toggl.

It’s a timer tool and let’s me keep track of work, projects and tags.  I’ve been meaning to do something like this for a while – I need a 4 week diary to claim home office expenses, and my big project has the potential to eat my life if I let it (it may also get ignored for too long at a time).  I’m also interested to know how much time I’m spending on that project – I think I have a bit of imposter syndrome with it and I’m underestimating what I’m really doing and playing it down when I talk to people.

Anyway, I seem to work in bigger chunks when I’m timing myself and I’m more decisive about when I’m taking a break and for how long, despite feeling a bit miserable with this cold.  Let’s see how long it lasts…

Open plan offices

I’ve been confused by a bunch of articles my friends have been quoting, which talk about how bad open plan work spaces are for productivity, and haven’t really understood their problem.

I really love the noises that people in a group make.  As a 4 year old I regularly fell asleep to the sounds of meetings in our loungeroom and I have enjoyed working at the swimming pool and in cafes and in the babble of the Hub. But then I realised; In all of these open plan, busy space I don’t have to worry about being interrupted, and what people are saying is very unlikely to relate to something that I’m working on.  My well being isn’t on the line here and I’m not going to miss something important if I tune out to my surroundings.

I think open plan will work in a work culture where people are supported and comfortable and in control of their surroundings.  But, as seems usual, if you stress people they won’t be happy and their productivity will be poor. You can blame it on the interruptions and noise if you like, but I”m not convinced.

So I’ll keep working at Elsie and Betty, in the cafe opposite Kathmandu, at Hub Melbourne (when the price is right), at the Village, and also, in bed and in front of the heater at home.

Weeding

A long time ago I set up a wiki for the company I was working for.  We used it to record our processes and included links to the documents we used every day.  It was really handy for Green Star references, but we also had a couple of fun pages including reviews of good lunch spots.

It was while working on the wiki that I learned to call the minor updates and tweaks to a website, “weeding”.  They’re really important to keep things organised, fresh and useful.

Today I finally got to some of the weeding that’s needed doing around here.  I’ve updated my NABERS page and the “free” NABERS assessments pages to include the revised NABERS Admin fees for Cityswitch signatories.  It’s a bit sad,  NABERS have decided to charge small tenants for their assessments and it won’t be as easy to persuade small tenants to let me give them a free energy assessment. Also, I quite like meeting new people and seeing the different ways people and their buildings work.  You have until 1 July 2014 to get it all organised at the old (free) rate for tenancies under 1000m2.

On the other hand, I’ve been pretty focused on Kathmandu and their Green Star Interiors PILOT rating for the last few months and I would prefer to be using my fabulous Green Star knowledge and experience on that and other great projects. 🙂

 

Woot! That’s my project!

Kathmandu have finally announced to the world that they’ve signed up for Green Star and now I can tell you (with bonus fizzes of sparklers and fireworks) that I’m their ESD consultant.

It’s pretty exciting and has been for about 6 months as we did all the negotiating and client meetings getting them comfortable with the process and costs :).  Now we’re in the doing phase and I have my head deep in the submission guideline and setting up spreadsheets and project plans. Also learning heaps about retail projects.

I’m working on the project with Elsie + Betty and one of the nicest things has been arranging to spend one day a week working at an empty desk in their office.  When I’m here (mostly Tuesdays) we can talk about the project anytime, and I can be reminded of what it’s like to work in an office.  I love how productive I am sitting at a desk, and then I’m pleased to work at home again.

If you’re also working on the Green Star Interiors Pilot tool I’d be keen to share experiences and suggestions – contact me!

 

Bicycle Parking

This morning I lodged an objection to a planning application for a change of use to a gymnasium at my local shopping centre.  Wow!  The planning scheme only requires that the gym have 2 bike parking spaces for visitors and 2 for employees, even though the peak usage expects 50 patrons and 7 staff members.

The town planning report says that 50% of patrons are likely to live within 2km of the gym and the City of Yarra says that 80% of trips to work are by bicycle.  I think that means that about 20 bicycles will need parking for about an hour during the peak time.  And if they don’t, then the people attending the gym are dumb.

Here’s a photo I took of the local bike parking (council provided) at 6pm on a weeknight;full bike parking at the Hive

The 5 hoops are full, the nearby hoops are full and someone has locked their bike to a parking pole.  There’s no room for 4 more bikes, and especially not 20 more.

The stuff I couldn’t put into my letter, because it doesn’t obviously impact on me, is that I would hope that staff at a gym are even more likely to ride to work than the patrons.  What advice are consultants providing when they don’t include somewhere for gym junkies to park their expensive bikes?

It wouldn’t even be expensive or difficult to provide great bike parking for that gym.  There’s plenty of lovely secure space for bicycle parking in the foyer of the stairs to the gym.  Sillies!

When the shopping centre opened there was no bike parking provided and now there is none in the centre.  There doesn’t even seem to be employee parking.  But I’m sure the Yarra Planning scheme required them when the centre was built.  I guess this is another example of sustainability reports that don’t get followed through to construction.  What are we going to do about this?