Save the environment! Clean ponds!

It started so well, “Helping the environment needs a realistic approach”.  That seems like a really sensible aim.

It went on to talk about the ACT government plans for renewable energy – 90% renewable energy by 2020 and 40% emissions reductions.  Again, I say woot! somebody is taking this energy thing seriously.

And then she said that the new solar farm is so woefully inadequate and building more farms such an unrealistic pathway that the only solution will be to have the electorate pay unreasonably high premiums to import green power from interstate.  Certainly, just relying on solar farms might not achieve the target – but the emissions target included in the plan will certainly help. [1]

But I started laughing when her suggestions of “better, more achievable and practical pathways” were ” planting trees or keeping local ponds clean and viable”.

Read it and laugh for yourself here.

[1] A number of years ago I was really tempted by the solar PV panel deals that were available.  Then I looked at my electricity bill and thought that 17kWh/day was pretty high for our then family of five and would make the panels just a drop in the ocean.  I did an energy audit and reduced our consumption to 10kWh/day.  7kWh/day is a very good output from solar panels, but I didn’t have to install them. We had the same impact on the environment as installing PV panels might have done, but it saved me the cost of both the panels and the electricity.


Transport privilege

I’m procrastinating about a fee proposal, so have a blog post instead;

I live in the inner city.  I walk or ride a tricycle (my own) to do the local market and supermarket shopping (truthfully, my husband mostly does it).  I also ride the Food Know How tricycle between local cafes and the Collingwood Children’s Farm.  My daughter walks the 100m to school.  I can ride my bicycle to get almost anywhere and, around here, people of every socio-economic group can be seen riding their bicycles because that’s one of the easiest ways to get around.  When I’m feeling lazy and don’t feel like cycling I take the tram or the train into the city.

I live in a place where public transport, walking and cycling is easy (just as well, I’ll be car free in two weeks), and I have a very different view of life from people who live in places where the cars go fast and the distances to supermarkets, libraries and sports facilities are longer.

In my head, gyms, swimming pools and basketball courts serve locals who can walk or cycle there.  Schools, libraries and child care centres similarly.  Aged Care facilities should be staffed by locals.  Obviously, you would keep disabled parking spaces but how do you provide for people who don’t have disabled parking permits, but still need to use a car as a motorised mobility device? People like me when I was 7 months pregnant, or when I tore my calf muscle playing netball. I’ll keep thinking about that…

Anyway, this is just a long way of saying that it’s probably wrong of me to look at every project I work on and ask, “do we really need to include car parking?” and “What would we have to do to make that happen?”  I still do it though and then remind myself of my transport privilege and prejudice.

I will say though, that the child care centre in the heart of the City of Yarra (highest proportion of people who cycle to work in Australia) is a possible exception. I found it difficult to believe that the centre needed parking for so many cars – imagine how much more play space they could have had?  I certainly argued for generous bike parking, to accommodate all the ways people are carry children on their bikes these days.  And now, every time I walk past the site, I imagine working with the enrolling families to make sure that they don’t drive to get there – one way to deal with long waiting lists :-).

bakfiets to carry childrenBicycle trailer

What prejudices do you bring to your sustainability problem solving?


Has it really been a year?

Ooops, long time no blog.

It hasn’t been a year, it’s been a year and a month or so.  It appears that I’m still paying the mortgage and eating, so it’s been moderately successful.

I’ve also found time to get gardening done and make stuff and start volunteering with Food Know How.

Each week i jump on a cargo trike, ride to two or three cafes, collect their food waste and empty the bins at the nearest composting hub. It takes about 2 hours and I get to ride a bike like this!

Food Know How cargo trikeIt’s great to get so personal with a sustainability measure I’ve spent so much time and effort advocating for.

In exchange for my time, each cafe I visit gives me a credit.  I currently have enough credit to take someone for coffee at Proud Mary.  Are you , or do you know an architect in that area of Collingwood? (there are lots!).  Cheers!


Lately I’ve been noticing expressions of power, the way people interact and behave and how it manifests in getting stuff done and how easy or hard it might be.  Look, they might just be coincidences, but I guess I experience a bit of a double whammy when it comes to having to assert my power in situations – I’m both a woman and an ESD Consultant.

Here are a couple of power interactions I’ve had recently;

  • I went to a conference and ended up talking about babies or my holidays instead of the conference topic.
  • I sat on the edge of a meeting instead of at the centre (a common trait amongst women)
  • I offered to go last at a meeting and then missed out on discussing my report with the decision makers because they left to head to another meeting (that’s powerful, “we’re too important to stay to the end of this meeting”) – I’m not doing that again!
  • I handed out business cards, but some of the other attendees didn’t reciprocate.
  • I missed out on car-pooling with a decision maker when 2 cars were needed and I offered to keep the other driver company. ( I like to think that mostly means I’m not an arsehole)

I’m not complaining, I’m thinking about it so I can be more aware of the power stuff that might be going on – so I can choose a response that works best for me while maintaining my values.

I’m off on holiday tomorrow.  See you after Easter.




Climate adaptation – what are you doing?

Prompted by this string of articles and today’s weather, I’m thinking about climate adaptation – my own, yours and our clients.

Actually, I started last night when I pre-cooled the house by leaving the doors and windows open.  Today the doors were closed when I notice the incoming temperature (estimated from the ground level thermometer I have in our major cross draft) started rising. And now that the north facing family room and kitchen is getting warm I’ve withdrawn to the south side of the house where the curtains are all closed.  When it starts getting too hot in here I’ll turn on the fan.  Obviously, I’m already dressed for the weather (one of the joys of working from home).

I don’t need to modify my behaviour very much today, although I won’t go out and garden or do any outside work this afternoon.  Last week when it was forecast to be hot I re-arranged a meeting time to the morning so that it was cool enough for me to ride my bike there.

Actually, I don’t need to consciously modify my behaviour in the heat.  The first article talks about lethargy:

Lethargy is another physiological response to avoid overheating, acting as a disincentive to maintain physical activity.

Yep! I get that!

I once worked in an office without airconditioning.  In the three years I was there, there was only one day where the ceiling fan was inadequate and I went home.  Even then, I’d worked most of the day, so really it was only a few hours lost to the heat.

Using that nifty climate analysis tool Noy showed me the other day,  (although I’ve done it other ways too)  Melbourne’s historical weather data shows that the temperature is above 27o C only 4% of the time.  I know that our buildings are often hotter than the outside temperature, but I reckon we should be able to modify our work behaviour so that we don’t need artificial cooling.  Things like;

  • changing work hours – start early, nap in the heat, then work some more
  • doing quiet work when it’s hot and active work when it’s not
  • finding naturally cooler spaces to hang out
  • wearing climate appropriate clothing
  • using fans, wet cloths and showers

How do you adapt to the weather? How can we persuade clients to adapt their behaviour, rather than their environment?

Is it Wednesday already?


Friday afternoon was great.  I knocked on some doors and people were willing to hear what I was suggesting and now I’m “frantically” putting together the information packs I promised them so that I can do some work for real money.

Except frantically is a bit hard this week.  I was sick on Monday, and TV was about all I could manage.  On Tuesday I got some good stuff done, but it’s not finished and then I spent the afternoon with my son.

I suspect I’m not going to get much work done in the next few days. My son is getting married on Saturday and we spent yesterday shopping for fabric and it looks like today will be spent sewing his jacket, tomorrow I’ll make my dress and the Friday will be a whirlwind of shopping, preparation for making breakfast for 50 or so guests on Sunday morning and heading out to the wedding site to drop things off and participate in the rehearsal.

If I were being paid by someone else to work, I guess I would be working during the day, sewing in the evening, taking Friday off work and saying “no” more often.  But I’m not, so I’ll enjoy the opportunity to participate in family life and squeeze the work into the edges.

Ooh!  But have a look at this amazing video, showing a global map of atmospheric aerosols for the period 2007 – 2007 put together into an animation.  There’s a legend at the bottom of the screen.  There’s also more info in this article.

I was interested to see the sulphur particulates associated with burning coal.


Doesn’t Shouldn’t really apply when you work at home, but I do tend to put away the pressure to work on the weekend, and Friday does have a different, more relaxed quality too.

This morning’s task was sorting out backups.  The good thing that has come out of the hacker kerfuffle was getting a much better understanding of what goes into making WordPress (which I use to make this site) work.  And that meant that this time when I read about wordpress backups, I understood it and managed to do the backup process I’ve been meaning to do all week in less than 10 minutes, instead of the hour I had allocated to reading, fiddling and doing.  Now I’ll copy all of those files, and my other work files on to my enormous usb stick and chuck it into my wallet for safekeeping.  On the list for “sometime” is giving the stick to a friend to keep off-site, and getting another for in my wallet.

Anyway, the work to-do list is complete and I have some appointments this arvo, so right now, I’m going to do some work on my sewing project.

Except I first had to read my fb feed, and then I had to watch this awesome Water Sensitive Urban Design video and then I had to tweet it to my old employer to include on a project I worked on and should be starting up again soon and then I had to tell you.

Free Water | Andrew Brown from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.



celebrating the small successes

Hooray!  I went and knocked on 5 whole doors yesterday.  I left my business card with 4 of them.  (Hi! if you’re one of them).

Melbourne Forum was quite good, the speakers talked about projects I’ve heard of before, but that have now adopted the One Planet Living framework to talk about their sustainability credentials.

Mike Hill talked about Westwyck.  I’d love to do what they’ve done – buy an interesting building and make a place that has the stuff I want in a home, and then fill it with interesting people who want similar things.  Even though the project started about 15 years ago, and the townhouses were built 5-10 years ago they have been recognised as fulfilling all the requirements of the One Planet Living assessment framework – that’s pretty cool!

The Commons is another project I wish I could do!  A group of friends bought an old factory/warehouse and then Breathe Architecture did a lot of work to have the site re-zoned for residential development.  Then they designed a highly sustainable building and persuaded a developer (Small Giants) to fund and take the running on the project.  I love that the sales brochure for the apartments included a 30 page booklet on sustainability AND that potential buyers read the booklet cover to cover and came back to Small Giants with lots of questions.  It suggests that buyers will take sustainability seriously and is a beautiful story to use when I’m discussing sustainability measures with a developer or architect for a crappy commercially driven residential development.

The last project is a funny one.  It’s a pre-fabricated, tiny townhouse that has a footprint of only 5m x 4m.  It’s 3 stories high so it’s a total of 60m2. They’re using the OPL framework and the ESD consultant sounds like they’re having a fun time with a very motivated client.  Complete with all the compromises that come with that. Again, I notice that the value of having an external framework for sustainability is in getting clients to consider and take on stuff they may not have though about before.  This client has pledged to reduce his steak intake to once per 1-2 weeks, instead of his current, more frequent, practise.  It’s also pushing the ESD consultant – they have to work out how to include a lift in the energy budget for the building.

The project is to be built only 4 blocks or so from where I live (in the posh area) and I was amused to see that the list of “local food locations” didn’t include the Victoria Street butchers, fishmongers, bakers and vegetable shops, but did include “Richmond Markets” (which I think means the Gleadell St Market) and the Abbotsford Convent, but not the market at Collingwood Children’s Farm.


Here are the principles for the One Planet Living, why don’t you go and work out your personal action plan?

I’ll work out mine and report tomorrow, but now I’ll stop procrastinating, and go and write that thing.

the dreaded third album

Hopefully you can see a bunch of new pages.  I’ve spent the past few days getting things a bit more squared away.  If you find any typos, please let me know.  Here’s what’s new;

I finally paid my NABERS fee, and my name is now back on the website – phew!  Today I plan to put on my glad rags and go and knock on some doors.  There’s a couple of  architects around the corner, and a couple of consultants in a nearby street.  I thought I’d start with them.

I have to put on the glad rags anyway, I’m off for free food and drink and a chat (and maybe an interesting topic) this evening.


Monday morning

My husband says, “anything you get done on a Monday is a bonus”.

I just registered to attend the public lecture for One Planet Living Australia on Friday night. Then I realised that it’s one of the topics at the Melbourne Forum  on Wednesday, and I’m definitely going to that. I think I’ll decide on Wednesday if I’m also going on Friday.

This one planet living thing looks quite good.  I’m keen to find out more about the open source tool they’re setting up. It looks like a bunch of things I’ve had in my head about Green Star and sharing some of the tools we use.

I enjoy heading to the Melbourne Forum, working on my own I find it’s great to get out and meet up with people who know what I do and can give me great ideas for new stuff. I’m an extrovert.  Just being in other people’s company gives me new ideas, even if what they’re saying has nothing to do with it.  Watch out.

Today I need to do a bit more website recovery (including sorting out comments) and then I’ll get started on the rhubarb champagne and dress I’m making for my son’s wedding in a fortnight.