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Do we really care for the Environment?

edited June 2008 in architecture
I recently sat around a table of over twenty architects and Architects discussing 'green' building ideas, how we should be pushing the envelope, educating the client............ but 80% (I'm being kind) of those around the table drive to work.

How can they take themselves seriously when even they can't see they are part of the problem?


  • edited 3:23AM
    Aren't we all part of the problem? I don't own a car but I get on airplanes, use electricity, and buy imported products. Just because a person can't be green in one facet of their lives, does this mean that they shouldn't be able to contribute elsewhere, and be taken seriously? The planet needs all the help it can get, even from driving architects!
    I do admit to enjoying helping to convert the odd driver over to the joys of cycling, but what to I say to the doctor I know who's job moves to a different distant suburb every 2 months, and who sometimes starts his shifts at 1am? And then there are the people with families...
    The larger the city the less likely you are to live near your job or friends, and public transport's radial routes and limited hours usually don't suit. The smaller the town, the less likely you are to even have public transport or cycle lanes.
    Related... I'm doing some work for a regional council wanting a 'green' building. I gave them a car park based on the car parking calcs in their own planning scheme, which were identical to metro Melbourne's, then suggested they reduce this 20% and substitute some small vehicle parks and bike parking. Reality check time: they looked at me puzzled and said they wanted the building to be green, but the car park couldn't be unfortunately - there would need to be a car park for every one of the 200 commuters plus more for vistors - there is no public transport in the town (catchment 40,000 people) and car pooling didn't work when they tried it. One person cycled. So their car park is twice the size of an equivalent one in the metro suburbs. What to do?
  • edited June 2008
    Oh Peter, how annoying!
    Another forum that I like visiting, "worldchanging" had a great post about buying carbon offsets with a sales speel revolving around trying to make up for the rampant waste of resources that ones children indulge themselves in as they grow up to adulthood. The pitch was buy your College Grad a gigantic carbon offset that'll make up for the lost opportunities of their youth.
    A major bug was the notion that offsetting was a kind of return to the medievil purchase of indulgences that were sold as a 'get out of hell' card and that they were therefore inferior to making the effort in the first place. I argued that any effort, and especially considering that the offset purchase went to capitalising green technology initiatives, was a good effort and should be encouraged as it contributes, full stop. That it also induces the purchaser to think beyond their own comfort zone is more important than the dubious benefit of carbon offsetting.

    Perhaps you could convince your client council to purchase some carbon offsets for every carpark they provide, or they could commit to planting a thousand trees for every parking space they provide.
    I believe that it will take many years and a few generations to make the changes that Mark Melb expected last week from us all, and that is only because of the nature of modern humanity. In that light, I believe even an incremental change is a good one and to be encouraged.
    You may not reduce your clients parking requirments but I am sure that with all the current publicity surrounding carbon offsetting you shouldn't have to much trouble encouraging them to go that way for the time being. If you're still in touch ten years from now, who knows what you may then be in a position to encourage.

    My wife, who just happens to be doing a spot of contract work for the govt, pointed out to me that a lot of work revolves around the computer and then that a lot of office interraction itself is carried out via the computer email. One day I hope that that work itself, because of the possibilities of computers, will be devolved back to the cottage industries of the pre industrial age. When that happens the need to drive, or ride, to work will be greatly diminished in any case.
    Lets look forward and keep a positive out look.
  • edited June 2008
    Ow, come on guys. Argueing that people are permitted one or two aspects of there life to be 'non-green' is all very well. I'm describing people that have never seen the inside of 'public transport'.

    For goodness sake. I'll give you a clear example of how Melburnians don't even recognise a problem when it is staring them in the face. Remember when there was a huge stink when it was revealed that the City of Melbourne was ordering (or was using) quite a number of Ford 4WDs as part of their fleet? This is a council which praises itself for it's 'Green' credentials. They backed down and now spin around in hybrids.

    Have you looked at a map of Melbourne council boundary recently? Not very big is it? Why do they need cars at all? This ' Worlds most Livable City' (when was that?) is well serviced by public transport, isn't it?

    The city contracts out it's street sweeping and parks maintenance. The street sweeping is done using those green machines that appear to run all day long. Would it not be better to employ people to hand out penalties so that, one, the citizens are 'educated' and, two, the need for the machines is reduced? In London the streets are swept by hand. Daily. Including on Sundays. All the way out to Kensington in the west and towards Wapping in the east.

    Whenever I see the Parks being 'maintained' there appears to be a convoy of cars present. If anyone need to get from one side of the park to the other, they drive.............over the green stuff they are supposed to be maintaining. Look at Flagstaff Gardens as an example.

    Carbon offsets?! Bull!
  • edited 3:23AM
    Here's a great site Mark that you might find really interesting. There is a great big debate on carbon off sets in the recent archives that's a pretty good read. I contributed to the thread very late in the piece, hence the last word is mine, which is not what I intended.
    Hope you enjoy it.
  • edited 3:23AM
    I overheard some time ago a conversation in the office about storing and using grey water and stormwater. Someone had picked up a 'kit' that allows you to divert water from a downpipe into a wheelie bin so you can use the water on the garden. I first asked how do you get the wheelie bin..."Ring up Council and say your has been pinched and they will deliver a new one". Fair enough, you do pay rates!
    Next I asked how much the kit was. I don't remember the figure but I did get the vapours. I asked why they just did not use the water out of the tap. "Water restrictions". But you can still use the water and it is virtually free.

    All were horrified that I said that we have two slightly dripping taps that have been that way for over 3 years. What incentive is there to replace the washers at great expence (plumber) when the payback period would be 10s of years.

    I was at a dinner party recently and one of the guests said that they had 'done the right thing' and put in a $2000 water tank some time back and it has been full from the first week because they ran a hose to it to fill it up but it has never been used. They said that the only saving they had made was about $150 worth of fence as it was marketed as an alternative to a boundary fence.
  • edited 3:23AM
    Am I supposed to believe that you can't change the washer on a tap ?!!!???

    Can you change change the wheel on a bicycle? It's even easier to replace a tap washer. Google "How it works".
  • edited 3:23AM
    Yes, I do know how to change a washer, but I'm not a licenced plumber as required by my local water supply authority. I can size a lintol (lintel, if you like) but not permitted. Change a wheel? Hmmmmmmmmm, no. A wheel requires re-dishing and I don't have the tools to change the 9 speed cassette over from a Shimano to a Mavic. A bike tyre, yes.
    I bet my plumber can also 'Google' 'How do I design a house, carport...........'.
  • edited June 2008
    A licenced plumber to change a washer!? Do you live in the same building as the master builders asscociation or something. Unless your watermain tap has a seal on it, I am sure it would be no more difficult to fix a leak than it would be to defraud your local council over a wheelie bin.
    The point is, your reason for not fixing the leak, that it is not cost effective TO YOU is tantamount to saying that the leak's cost in terms of wasted resources FOR OTHERS is not worth taking into account. Over three years would work out to about 2 olympic swimming pools, but what the heck!. I suspect that what your friends were horrified at was the apparent hypocrisy of your underlying reasons for not fixing the leak, layered with astonishment at your excuse for not fixing it.
    So, do we really care for the enviroment?
  • edited June 2008
    ............I almost felt guilty until I did the sums. Correct me if I'm wrong.
    An Olympic pool is 50m x 25m x 2m (one without a deep/shallow end). So 500 (decimetres) x 250 x 20 equates to 2,500,000 litres x 2 pools = 5,000,000 litres.
    Divide that by 3 x 365 days that would be 4566 litres a day, 190 litres an hour or 3.17 litres a minute.
    In water and disposal costs alone, that is about $13,500 per year. I have not checked my latest bill but the previous quarterly bill was $125. About $12 of which were service charges. So someone, somewhere has made a mistake...........or I'm in for a big shock.
  • edited 3:23AM
    By the way. Did you realise that it takes 2 Melbourne council 1 tonne utes and two workers to prune a rose bed?
  • edited June 2008
    Well councils are made up of more than the average number of infaliabilities.
  • edited June 2008
    Sorry to make you feel almost guilty! Perhaps I exaggerated by a pool, but if you really want to check, place a one litre container under the drip and time how long it takes to fill up. Both drips at the same time. OR easier still, time exactly one hour and multiply the collected volume of both drips. That way your sums will be spot on. Let us know what you come up with and I'll eat my hat if I am substantialy wrong. I think you might be a little surprised.
  • edited June 2008
    Sorry Simon, but there is (at least in my mind) no winner in this argument. Is that what it's about?

    Some of us in the city have not been conned by years of propaganda by the Agrarian Socialists (National Party).

    I'll do it an easier way. While brushing my teeth (with an electric toothbrush/two minute cycle/brown coal), I counted 7 - 8 drips. So 4 drips per minute max. I believe there are 20,000 drips (minims I think they are called) in a litre. 5000 mins. per litre/83 hours per litre/3.472 days per litre.
    I understand that it takes about 200 litres of water to produce 125 grams of grain fed beef. So that would be 694.44 days or 1.9 years worth of drips from one of my taps to produce that meat.

    Next time I'm at the Vue de Monde, I'll order fish. Happy?!

    I get my water (and disposal) for around $1.90 per 1000 litres. I'd say that is too cheap, but I also believe petrol is too cheap by about 50 - 75 cents a litre. But as I use public transport to get to work and walk to the supermarket 95% of the time, I don't give a rats about the cost of petrol. Although last year in Sardinia and Sicily it seemed expensive but in a 1.4 litre diesel we could get 900k out of a tank without running to A/C, about 550k with A/C.

    You can work out how many years worth of drips it would take to pay for the replacement washer. Just the washer alone must be around 10 years of that tap dripping.

    Our friends on the border in a 'drought ravaged' area (I call it a desert, and why would you choose to run dairy cattle and pigs I don't know) get a water allocation. As a resident they are meant to still abide by the water restrictions, which means not filling pools or spa pools and the like. Guess what?! They have both, full and used. They, and their neighbours, also have the greenest lawns you have seen since I was in Ireland and when we rocked up there on a Saturday around midday the sprinklers were running. At least they recognise that only 10% of the state’s water is used for domestic purposes.

    Sure us townies get the benefit of rural and industrial use but, as I say, I’ll order the fish with winter vegetables if it makes you happier.
  • edited 3:23AM
    You use an electric toothbrush!

    Obsfucationist statistics.
  • edited July 2008
    Whatever! If thats the correct surley 'gen y' comment to the above.
    On a similar water related matter, I was in London in Jan/Feb this year and I happened to be doing my Sunday shop up on the top floor of Harvey Nichols - the food part and cornering on of the aisles I spotted  Latitude 40 Pure Tasmanian Spring Water in the 750ml green glass bottles. I thought "this will be interesting".
    When I looked at the price it was 0.99p per bottle. At the exchange rate at the time it worked out to be about $2.15 a bottle. I grabbed two bottles. Simon, I really did feel guilty.
    At Prahran market the other weekend, the Organic shop was selling the same for $4.20 a bottle. I'll stick with the San Pellegrino at $1.99
    If you check the wholesalers around Australia, $3.30 is what you would pay if you were buying a case.
  • edited 3:23AM
    Yes we really do care for the enviroment and especially if we care enough to talk about 'green' building design.
    It really doesn't matter to what degree, be it riding bicycles as a point of honour or fixing our leaking taps as a point of economics or discussing 'green design' with our clients as a point of passionate belief.
    If you care, you think about it at the least and thence discuss and disseminate and do what you can within your means and abilities. I burn wood to keep warm but I don't let a single rabbit go past me without a lecture on the virtues of green design. Sure I am a bore to some but they can go get ...
    The future is green. Whether you care for it or not is simply a measure of your engagement with the future.
  • edited 3:23AM
    was watching qanda on the abc the other night and witnessed a similar bleating conversation about 'da environment'.

    couldnt help thinking that the wrong people were sitting round the table politiking and the incremental change by the good willing 'general public' (mr seasons i prefer 'layperson' as a description of nonarchitect) is bloody pointless when you look at the stats.

    big business is primarily buggering the planet (and australia) but the 'sun reading masses' (referring to the BC demographic majority who read the herald sun newspaper in melbourne) refuse to acknowledge this fact and are being fed a diet of 'its ok we can fix it if we dont use plastic bags'. bollocks.

    78% of emissions are from business, and as far as we are directly concerned concrete and aluminium production are MASSIVE consumers of energy and builders waste makes up 43% of landfill (a crazy stat when you think about it).

    our friends under the maple offer this interesting table to the world

    appreciate the discussion. but i'm sorry mr seasons but rhetoric like 'the future is green' dont help much. i am not sure that the actions of many can influence the few but the mentality of the media (not to mention our past president) to feed inappropriate debate is the most frustrating aspect of this crisis. get the big boys to drop the greenwash and take some serious responsibility.

    boral green concrete....
    fucking nonsense.
  • edited 3:23AM
    Nonsense? There is no fucking choice, Miles. "The future is green" is not a rhetorical statement, If it is not green, then there is no future. Don't you get it.  Your bravado sustains nothing.
  • edited 3:23AM
    mr seasons, again you miss my wit. i feel we agree (once more). contrary to your assertion i do in fact 'get it'. my bravado is borne from frustration with the lack of accountablity of big business (notably in the construction industry) whilst we are all doing 'our bit'. the idea that boral might rebrand their concrete as 'green' by painting the side of a cement mixer with flowers is appalling.
  • edited 3:23AM
    Apologies if I misunderstood you Miles. I too get frustrated, and I am glad to find I do largely agree with you.
    About "the future is green". I don't think it is any less help than the rest of the consciousness raising that occurs in the boardrooms of Boral when It decides to paint flowers on the sides of its cement mixers. Visy has had deep rainforest scenes printed on the canvas sides of their trucks for years. It simply reflects a forward thinking investment decision. Hippies are at last hip it seems, and with that goes a heck of a lot of wishy washyness
    It might take years until those companies invoved in cynical 'green washing' are trampled in the stampede to truelly engage with the enviroment but that really shouldn't be of much concern compared to the level of true acceptance by the end consumer of products, primarily for us, those who commission building from architects. It is they who will float or sink such companies and not their marketeers.
    I am not proposing to help by making the statement, I am merely stating what is increasingly obvious. Just yesterday I went on a tour of the 60L building and I was both heartened and dissillusioned to find the level of 'experimentation' that is involved in that structure. When realising that the quality of architectural imput and worse, the level of building quality that was put into that project, then my statement that 'being green is in the future' rings sadly true, at least in this country.
    That building was comissioned as an experiment by an ethical investment fund company to show that a truelly commercial commision could make money and be reasonably cheap to construct. Despite what I could see of substandard joinery and a rather unplanned and done on the run 'recycle' reticulation system the building is fully tenanted and cost approximately 5% more to construct than a comparable floor area conventional office block.
    When this structure, or at least a more worked out and thouroughly developed model of this structure, is regarded as conventional then that green future will have arrived.
    What I could see of that building was that the main problem was finding a decent architect prepared and knowlegeable enough to fufill the brief they were given. The detailing was obviously awful and the builder seems not to have had either a fair go from the architect or their heart wasn't in it either. Neither of those problems are insurmountable unless the realisation that the future is green is not taken seriously by more architects.
    I note that in the Melbourne International Design Festival flyer (a piece of appaling design layout ironically) that a lot of architects are involved in discussing 'green' initiatives in design.What I'd like to know is where have all the architects been for years who were deaf to people like Glenn Murcutt and who now congratulate themselves on how cutting edge they are becoming interested in green architecture. Science faculties at every university in the world that presumably also have architecture faculties, have been raising the topic for twenty five years. It may be that as far as green issues go, architects, as a whole, are playing catch up. Is this a case of historically client driven building development leaving the professional in a position of embarresment. Ironically more and more clients are going to demand 'green' architecture and I wonder if architects aren't going to be left in a difficult position to deliver the goods.
    I keep saying it, but the wisdom is out there allready. It just needs a concerted effort by more faculties to overcome the emphasis on egotism in architecture carriculums because if the 60L experiance is anything to go by, real nuts and bolt teaching of 'green' principles coupled with a rigorous adherance to proper detailing, has a long way to go.
    So I am correct I think to say the the future is green for architects because the present standard of knowlege isn't nearly  green enough yet. In this situation I am not just stating the obvious, I am posting a warning and I am far from the first to do so.
  • edited 3:23AM
    I add that the AusIA website contains a vast resource of information on designing 'green'. How many architects use It?
  • edited 3:23AM
    This article might be of interest.
    That Buzz in Your Ear May Be Green Noise
    Basically, carrying a hessian bags in your 4WD so that when you go to the shops you don't need to use plastic won't change anything.
    Printing reams and reams of paper brochures for Mr Herald and Mrs Sun to put in the recycling won't either.
    Whacking up the price of fuel and water will. We will be demanding change. Even if it meant that the asparagus from Thailand or Peru would be too expensive to be seen on the supermarket shelves. Or the lattes would be $5 instead of $3.10.
  • edited July 2008
    It's easy to agree with you Mark on those points but you should add that the high price of fuel and water is something that Australia and America have been largely quarentined from, until now. And miles the culpability of large corporations is scandelous but a lot are actually shifting over. It is the demandd of ordinary people that needs to be influenced.
    Germany has been paying upwards of $2:00 a litre for petrol for about ten years and the latest I have heard (two days ago) is that it is now over $3:00 a litre in Hamburg. Germany also has the highest uptake in Europe of alternative energy sources and blah, blah, blah. Many people know that 'it' is coming but change never seems to happen en masse until 'it' has come.
    I just sat through a presentation from a big electrician who does work, lots of work, for stupid rich people. The latest round of gadgets he installed was a huge airconditioning unit to cool an OUTDOOR patio seating area, ten mega TV's including one for the outdoor patio area, an entire home cinema with ten electronically controlled lounge chairs/adjustable dentist's chairs in soft black leather and about $4000 bucks worth of lightbulbs in this one room plus mood lighting outside the room so that late guests and the kids know where to find them, FIVE refrigerators and stacks more including all the usual lighting requirements times two in case they want a differant mood and times three in some parts of the house so that they can change the colours all day long, piped music that automatically comes on throughout the house when the key is turned in the lock and about $15000 worth of outdoor lighting to make the house and garden look good and (this was in the brief) to show off to the neighbours.
    Piss them off more like it. As architects and designers we have a moral obligation I think to tell such people to go and stick their ego's up their .... But you know what they do. They go and find a designer and a builder and an electrician who barely bats an eyelid.
    We don't just need high fuel prices. We need legislation that reasonably rations power sourced from fossil fuels so that waste and style abuse on that really ugly scale is completely discouraged. How do we do that?
  • edited July 2008
    ................what do you mean by "...........until now"? Let me say this twice. PETROL IN AUSTRALIA IS CHEAP!
    If you do the figures taking into account the increased efficiency of todays cars, it is cheaper to get from A to B in a car than it was twenty years ago. Petrol needs to be at least 55-75 cents a litre more that now to be regarded a 'more expensive'.
    My partners US built 2.6l V6  is far more efficient than my old 1.5l 1985 Mazda 323. And the service intervals are double the ks.
    I would love to see the figures to undertake this little exercise.
    What a load of missinformation. benefits flow to the plumbing industry.
  • edited 3:23AM
    Now I feel like Miles does when he  puts up with me!
    I know petrol is cheap, that's what I wrote. Until now means that the price is increasing.
  • edited 3:23AM
    ................we are quarentined from high prices because we have the public, media, road lobby groups, transport operators very vocal in telling everyone that a 1 cent this and a 2 cent that is a price hike and will greatly affect our standard of living. We will always be quarentined.
    Meanwhile we build houses on perfectly good farmland out in the sticks and move the farmland to the desert and expect the cost of everything to remain at 60s prices.
    The fuel price is increasing relative to its worth and are my Woodside shares.
    Airfares are cheaper now than ever and as soon as an airline wants to add a fuel surcharge, someone claims it is a 'price hike'.
  • edited 3:23AM
    ahhh...i can hear the lambs now on mr seasons country idle...(yes that was deliberate before you start correcting the youth of today for poor grammer and splng). i suppose you havent felt the increase in a rack of the little bleater? he does look tasty. as for petrol next minute you two will be weighing into the biofuel vs cost of grapes argument.

    it costs me an extra $10 a month in petrol since the start of the year. get over it. ps have you noticed that if you do that extra 2 cents a litre off at shell always costs the same as a mars bar. so effectively why dont they just hand out free mars bars with every tank of fuel!! i'd do that.
  • edited 3:23AM
    miles............don't start me on livestock! Or Mars bars! Do you know how much water has gone into that 'fun size' empty calorie bar?!........
  • edited 3:23AM
    The Age reports that the Vic State Government has done a survey of homeowners and discovered that most would support a higher mandatory green rating than the current five star one. Apparently our climate dictates that we would require 7 stars if we were to follow the minimum average in developed nations. The government didn't release the report - The Age found it using an FOI request.
    The Master Builders aren't to happy with the idea of boosting to 6 stars as this would affect housing affordability slightly. "Six stars was explained as better insulation and orientation of the house on the block. The groups were told this would add 1-2% to building costs but reduce demand for heating and cooling by 24%." The survey even backed 7 stars, which would require crazy stuff like eaves on windows and no big windows facing West. Eight stars requires "careful design and orientation".
    Maybe the crewcut McMansion stuffed onto a small block is finally under threat! 04.08.08
  • edited 3:23AM
    Yi haa! The demise of the Mc Mansion can't come soon enough. Death to mediocrity and conservatism.
    Eight stars or "careful design and orientation" should be a bare minimum, as it is already in parts of Europe. The AusIA award categories have dropped "Best Green" categories precisely because it should be a mandatory consideration for all new buildings and the category would have become nonsensical as a "least leaky roof" category.
    I can't understand why the cost factor to build such 7 and 8 star rated houses is waved about like a red flag by who ever the vested interests are, especially considering that the above survey shows that homeowners care much less about this factor than is made out, and double especially when the potential savings from future out of pocket expenses to maintain the house will outwiegh the initial investment by a factor of ten to one or more over the usual life of a building.
    Not to mention resale considerations, which have been mentioned to me as a reason real estate agents give to builders and prospective speculative builders to discourage building of ESDesigned houses. Apparently in estate agents views an ESDesigned house means ugly, out of place, wierd, f'n hippie affectation, debauchery even, anything but a cheap, practical and sensible construction. This is of course and always was bullshit.
    If enough designers and architects educate and get educated and just do it and nothing else, then any design will do as long as its green. Just as in all the arts. Relevance and modernism are not incompatible with sympathy to an ideal existance whose time has come with a vengence.
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