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Kiribati: climate change ground zero?

Is Kiribati ‘ground zero’ for  climate change? 

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After recently visiting Kiribati, a small island in the Pacific, I think it probably is!

I was in the region on a project for SPREP (and UNDP, UNESCO, WMO, SPC), to assess water, climate and hydrological services capacity across 21 countries.  Had some in depth discussions with many countries, but more importantly saw first-hand the nature of water issues and climate change in these small countries. 

I’ve only dipped my toe in the waters here with a short visit, but Kiribati is an equally inspiring and devastating country. Kiribati is picture postcard perfect in many ways. 

But its beauty hides the catastrophic threat climate change poses to these people. It’s a story of what a place looks like when water, energy, food, climate, infrastructure and the people struggle to coexist, and how risky that situation is in this island.

Kiribati is made up of 33 atolls in the Pacific, and is virtually on the equator.  The two largest island atolls (5000 km apart) house most of the people.  South Tarawa, where I visited, is a series of islands connected by one road.  They have 52,000 people living here, some in pretty awful conditions and housing. They are forecasting they could have 100,000 living here within 20 years, as people from the outer island migrate into the ‘urban centre’.  The other is Kiritimati, which is almost closer to South America than Australia, but I wasn’t able to visit that one in my short travels.

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So why is it ground zero?

The first issue is about land and space.  As some of the photos show – Tarawa where I visited is a slither of an island – sometimes connected by just a sand spit and the main two lane road.  The highest place is 3 metres above sea level. 

I think I saw only two soccer pitches.  There literally isn’t space (or width), to fit a field. I worked out the island is probably as dense (population wise) as Hong Kong.  But without a single high rise. 

This island and country is living in a vice. The water is closing in on them from six sides.  From above the climate becomes more variable, more storms, cyclones, more droughts.  From the sides it is coming up the beach and over the sea walls.  But the worst is from below, and the impact on the groundwater.  Their main source of water is groundwater.  When it rains the water infiltrates very quickly and sits in the subsurface of the island, as what we call a groundwater lens.  Like a pocket of freshwater under the surface.  But as the sea rises, this pocket of available freshwater (that can run out in a drought, and is at huge risk of being contaminated by pollution from the people themselves), gets squeezed – or more to the point becomes slightly saltier. 

Now they have a water supply system, but it leaks and is mostly PVC and gets cracked or people just cut into it.  People don’t pay for water, so don’t really have any financial drive to save water.  And because it leaks, it is very expensive to build new water sources, knowing that it will just leak out again.  They are building a desalination plant. But these plants use lots of energy (and energy comes from importing petrol and diesel), to create water, that will flow down pipes and leak. To be fair they are including a big solar farm to offset the energy required for this plant, but I think they will struggle to find enough space to offset all of that energy demand.

Without metering and billing, it is hard to estimate how much the water is leaking.  I.e. is 20% leaking? Is 50%? 

Because it leaks so much, and there is a limited amount in the groundwater, each house gets 2 hours of water every 2 days.  2 out of 48 hours you have running water.  That pretty much rules out any teenagers and their long showers moving to Kiribati.  While your 2 hours is on, people stockpile water.  Containers everywhere.  For washing, cooking, etc etc.  Rainwater tanks are common, but I think mostly as part of larger building works.  Probably too expensive for the ones that need it most.

And sewage.  Well half of main capital and the island have a sewage system. The other half don’t.  They literally go to the toilet on the beach. And fishing is their main source of food. 

Sewage isn’t treated, but pumped out to the edge of the reef, using a saltwater system.  On a windy day and with the wrong tide it would flow back into the beach.  Not filtered at all.  Now they have built a longer outfall, so it isn’t coming back to the beach anymore.  What it does to the nearby marine life and local fish population no yet knows.  Now admittedly most coastal cities do this (e.g. Sydney).  But they filter the sewage first and send it a long way offshore.

Water is connected to several other problems.  Growing food (there is very limited space and no topsoil, as well as risk of salt water intrusion).  Importing food (when I was there it had been 8 weeks since any fresh food was imported – supermarkets look like warehouses – no fresh stuff just tinned, packaged and bottled). And then there is the waste from imported food. Tourism also is connected to these issues.  A lack of infrastructure making to very difficult to increase tourism.  (the main tourism website states “You won't see any fluffy towels and swim-up bars here”).

One day I ventured to North Tarawa.  Got a little boat across the water.  Had lunch and then wanted to go for a swim on the ocean side (where it is just subject to ocean currents, not sewage).  Wondered through a village or two.  Spoke to some boys who showed me the way to the water.  Good little kids. Oldest one was called ‘Oleario’. Thought it was very amusing to see me just walking around (most people are on tours).  Walked back with them and then as I said good bye I saw their local two water wells.  Just horrible.  These guys live in what are referred to as the outer islands.  No running water at all and no sewage.  That well is how they clean and drink and cook every day.  And it will get saltier over time.   But the kids knew about tides and overtopping of the sea water. 

Climate change is forecast raise sea levels by up to 98 cm.  The oceans will be warmer, with more cyclones, the summers hotter, the droughts longer, the floods worse.  It is a wicked trajectory.   And Oleario and his brothers literally can’t live in that village.

Sea walls help (just last weekend they had a king tide that saw many people sand bagging the island), to a point, but don’t insulate you from these issues, especially groundwater problems.

But I said it was inspiring too.  Well to see people live, laugh, and just get on with life is inspiring.  And to also seem them turn up at international meetings and describe the impact of climate change in their country, is also inspiring.

So in the spirit of helping these guys, and to reduce the severity of climate change, I think it is worth doing everything you can.  Reduce emissions, buy or generate clean energy, create less waste, eat less meat, don’t fly or offset your flights.  Every bit counts.   

Hope to post a blog on the SPREP project in a month or so.

Supporting the change makers

Very excited to say we are supporting some great organisations this year, and hope you can too!

  • WaterAid are doing great work across many countries - including helping mothers get access to clean water and save them from walking many kilometres to get access to clean water. See their work here - https://www.wateraid.org

  • ASRC do amazing work in Australia helping those that seek asylum. See their work here - https://www.asrc.org.au/

  • And finally Renew have been raising money for more clean and renewable energy for communities in TImor Leste. See their site - https://renew.org.au/

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Wave newsletters now live

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Subscribe to future newsletters with this link.

Thanks and enjoy reading what we are doing and thinking about.

Heat pump hydronic heating & all electric homes

This is a story of how to retrofit heating in a Victorian weatherboard house as part of an all-electric home.

Heating and cooling accounts for around 40% of energy consumption at home. It is a big deal and has a significant impact on our comfort at home. And in Melbourne, heating is a bigger factor than cooling, with up to 5 times as much energy used to keep a home warm in winter, as is used to keep a home cool in summer.

This blog documents how we transitioned from a gas ducted heating system to a hydronic heat pump system at our place, to maximise use of our solar and battery system and help us move towards a zero emissions house.

Why change and why hydronic?

There are a lot of different types of heating and cooling systems on the market. The operation and capital cost of these systems isn’t cheap. You’ll spend far more on your heating and cooling (the appliances and in running them), than you will on your fridge, oven or tv.

We had a gas ducted heating system and decided to change the gas ducted system due to the following issues:

  • The ducts were decaying (you only know that after crawling around under the house) which means you are essentially heating the air under the floorboards

  • It uses gas – a fossil fuel – which we know we need to stop burning for climate reasons

  • It blows small particulates through the vents – so not a great indoor air quality outcome

  • The fan uses quite a bit of electricity (so gas and electricity use both peaked in winter)

  • It is hard to zone or scale. While you can close vents in some rooms, that actually increases the pressure on the underfloor duct system, as the pressure remains the same but there are less locations for the hot air to flow into the house

  • By not using any gas at all (meaning we are not using gas for hot water heating or kitchen cook tops) we could save $400 a year just through not paying for the connection fee.

Some say gas is cheap to run. I disagree. I distinctly remember getting a $600 winter gas bill for just a two month period when gas was cheap (which doesn’t factor in the increased electricity bill that month too).

We chose hydronic to replace the heating system on the basis that it provides a nice comfortable (silent) heat, and with a heat pump system can be achieved very (energy) efficiently, and doesn’t require lots of heads to be located high in each room. I am not against reverse cycle air con (we actually have one in our lounge room to use on most days instead of the evaporative system), but this is a more comfortable heating system.

We chose a wall mounted hydronic system, meaning the heat travels through a dedicated (and closed loop) pipe network under the floor, to each panel in each room, with cooler return flow water flowing back to the buffer tank. This is a different solution to a hydronic in-slab system, which wasn’t possible unless you can rip the flooring up and lay a new concrete slab with hydronic coils running through it!

The system design

We considered several systems and chose a Stiebel air to water heat pump system, purchased through Hydrosol. We needed 10 outlets: 8 rooms with wall mounted panels and 2 towel rails in bathrooms. We estimated the heat load based on a thermally efficient house. We found that most suppliers tend to overestimate the load, and are more interested in the load of the panel- not the appropriate temperature of the room or how to reduce the overall energy demand to achieve a comfortable house.

We selected a Stiebel Eltron WPL 17 ACS classic, with an output of 8.5 kW, and a Coefficient of Performance of 4.86 (which is the eratio of energy inputed to energy generated – more than 1 is good!). The system includes:

· 1 x Air to Water heat pump WPL 17 ACS Classic

· 1 x Hydraulic module HM Trend

· 1 x FEK Relative humidity remote control unit

· 1 x Safety temperature controller STB-FB

· 1 x Buffer cylinder SBP 100 E

· 1 x Internet-Service Gateway ISG web

As this is a heat pump, it can heat and cool in reverse cycle. More on cooling below.

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There is a difference between using a heat pump boiler compared to a gas boiler. A gas boiler will produce hot water at 70 to 80 degrees, that then circulates through the panels. Heat pumps produce hot water at 50 to 55 degrees, and some suppliers therefore look to upsize the wall mounted panels to provide the equivalent radiation. I think instead it requires better thermal efficiency in the room and / or accepting that the system may take longer to heat the room. With an automatic controller, I set the system to start heating at 6am – whereas with a gas system I may have delayed this to be 6:30 or 7am.

We have designed this system with 6 out of the 10 panels to include a thermostatic head – meaning they regulate flow and heating (and turn off) at the individual panel and room scale. With a buffer tank the heat pump then regulates (i.e. scales up or down) how much hot water is required.

We installed a small (single fan 600mm) hydronic panel in the laundry, enabling us to hang clothes in that room in winter, and avoid the need to purchase a dryer.

The system is set up to run cold water through the panels in summer, creating a cold thermal mass in each room. While there is no fan forced element to circulate cool air, it does have a small impact on cooling each room, and is very nice to touch on a hot day. As this is running off our solar and battery system, I’m not concerned about additional energy loads in the house. You do have to be conscious of not setting the temperature set point too low in summer, to prevent condensation from forming on the panels, and that condensed water then dropping on to the floor. The Stiebel Eltron heat pump does have a humidity control feature which can manage this issue.

Sustainability

Some simple sustainability initiatives we added into the project

  • Firstly, we actually bought and reused six wall mounted hydronic panels – that reduces the materials required (i.e. life cycle impacts). We purchased two new panels and two new towel rails.

  • We insulated every single exposed section of pipe – going back after they were connected to ensure any movement that exposed some of the Rehau was then also insulated

  • We minimised the bends to reduce the energy required to pump the water through the loop

  • We included thermostatic heads in the bedrooms

  • We tapered the underfloor pipe network to ensure we get even distribution of hot water through all rooms – rather than most heat being lost in the first panel in the circuit.

  • We installed insulated bubble wrap behind each panel – to reduce the possibility of heating external walls rather than the room where it is intended

  • We have insulation in the roof the walls and under the floor

  • We have drafted proofed the windows

  • We haven’t double glazed the windows – yet!

  • We have the ability to run the heating at set times – i.e. change the set point and hence not require the system to run over night or at times we are not at home

  • We can maximise the use of solar (even in winter) by scheduling the system to start heating at 12pm or 1pm – and reduce the exporting of solar power.

  • We reused the packaging: craft projects for kids and firewood.

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The Stiebel Eltron heat pump has a heat curve feature, which takes account of the outside and inside air temperature, and room temperature settings to continually monitor and adjust the hydronic water flow temperature to optimise the Coefficient of Performance (heat output (kW) divided by power used (kW), also known as COP). I will be interested to see how well this works during the coming winter.

The fit out

I have to be honest here and say retrofitting is hard! It would have been a lot easier to do this in the new build stage, but we eventually completed the install and set up. The fit out can be broken down into 4 tasks: rough in of insulated pipe network, plumbing, electrical, and commissioning. I was crawling around under the house to connect and lay the insulated pipes. I actually had to tunnel under a few joists to get to one area of the house, and got stuck a few times in between stormwater pipes, sewer, old ducts and the joists. I had already been under the house for a while putting in the underfloor insulation, so I knew what to expect under there!

I was very conscious of insulating every little bit of pipe (to not lose any heat), and creating an efficient loop system. We created two branches of return loops (approximately 50 metres of Rehau in total), and placed every inlet to a panel as closest to the heat pump as possible – hoping that the hot water had to travel that tiny bit less distance to get to the panels.

Ideally the hydraulic controller would have been installed inside – but this wasn’t possible as were retrofitting the system and didn’t have the space. It is outside but with an awning to protect it from the weather.

The system is complicated, the plumber and electrician were happy to remind me of that! We had some issues in commissioning, to do with making sure the sensors were all connected properly. But now I can’t wait for winter! I am hoping to do another blog when I have data on energy use and comfort.

Thanks to Chris Siddons at Hydrosol and Steffen Reich and Touie Smith at Stiebel Eltron – for getting this set up and commissioned. More info at https://hydrosol.com.au/your-guide-solar-hydronics

Let us know if you want Wave Consulting to help with your retrofit or new build.

Will this become the most water sensitive house in Melbourne?

I spent the morning at a residential house in Boroondara (eastern suburbs of Melbourne), talking about the potential to create the most water sensitive house in Melbourne (big call I know!).

Already the owner has a 26,000 litre tank that captures runoff from the entire house, a greywater system, an bund to capture overland flows, and an irrigation system across the whole site (but not always in operation).

We spent some time going through how to maximise every single drop of rainfall, reduce overland flows, increase infiltration, increase evapotranspiration, support the veggie patch, plant more natives and fruit trees, and the creation of a new ephemeral wetland.

We mapped out a plan for:

  • A new leaky tank drip fed line from the 26,000 litre tank

  • Ephemeral wetland fed from overflow

  • Adjusted sump pump to extract more water from pit that collects all roof runoff

  • Reconfigure of greywater to act as a back up for tank water

  • Reconfigure of greywater to add a natural filter bed at source prior to gravity fed irrigation

  • Two new infiltration trenches

  • One new raingarden for overflow from stormwater pit

  • A maintenance regime

The stormwater on this property will then virtually never leave via a pipe!

What I think is interesting is that we were able to identify some small but very significant issues to improve the performance of this household system. For example the stormwater sump that was collecting all runoff from the house and pumping to the tank, had a lot of standing water due to the location of the float. I think we could harvest 25% more water just by adjusting this float.

What I found particularly inspiring is that this whole project wasn’t driven by any compliance or requirement to meet planning controls. Just a passionate and energetic home owner doing their bit!

Will hope to revisit during construction and verify this is on track to be the most water sensitive house :)

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Why is environmental messaging so negative?

Martin Luther King’s famous speech “I have a dream” is something I think a lot about in the context of environmental awareness and engagement. It wasn’t “I have a nightmare”, but a vision of hope.

So why is so much of the environmental news so negative? Yes we need to know the state of the environment and its future trajectory, but is it just feeding into an overall state of "eco-anxiety". I think that is a really good term, that captures the dread people (me included) feel when you hear and read about the dire state of the climate and the world.

I assume the fundamental premise here is that people will change (behaviour, purchasing habits, advocacy, etc) if they know more about what they are doing to the environment and how bad it looks.

The Guardian Australia has started a publication called "The new normal.” It’s a powerful explanation of what is happening across Australia and what could happen under a climate change scenario. But it is pretty dark. I hope they move the series into something positive and some simple calls to action.

For example have a look at this forecast of increased temperatures across Australia.

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Click here to follow this series - https://www.theguardian.com/environment/series/the-new-normal

At Wave Consulting I often feel what we offer clients and people is a path to action. What is the smart thing we can do now, in your organisation or your home.

5 insights from Spark Conference 2018

Spent the day at the Spark Conference 2018 today. Great line up of renewable energy, climate and innovators from across the country. Five things I picked up today were:

  1. Victoria Solar incentive program will deliver 2GW of capacity (that is huge). More details here https://www.solar.vic.gov.au/

  2. Yes this a '“climate crisis/emergency”. ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy talked about the issues in using these terms, but more importantly it is about moving people to take action.

  3. Your super can change things. Superannuation is boring, but actually important. We heard that super is actually a larger volume of $ than sits in the ASX. You can choose to change your super funds to funds that are explicitly investing in better climate and renewable technologies.

  4. Plethora of models for tenants and community energy structures. Great to hear how Pingala, Allume and Sun Tenants are doing new things. Always interesting to hear how things work - i.e. who owns what and who pays for what. These companies are helping more people take action and generate and use more renewable power.

  5. Scaling from one house to precincts is key. Josh Bryne had a nice update on how the White Gum Valley project was going - lots of good stuff with water and energy. And also interesting mention of energy and water links - a favourite of ours!

This day has been great in inspiring us to continue to work towards more community solar and microgrid projects - so stay tuned for updates on these ideas and projects.

I tweeted a few facts and thoughts throughout the day. See below.

ISCA 2.0

How do you work out how ‘sustainable’ an infrastructure project is? The Infrastructure Sustainability Council or Australia has an updated tool (IS v2.0) to answer that exact question.  ISCA launched this tool in Melbourne in mid July, and are doing a roadshow around Australia to roll out this new tool.

We attended the launch and sent out a series of tweets throughout the presentation.

We are now working with a range of tools, IS v2.0 being one of them.  Some other useful tools include Green Star Design and As Built, BESS, MUSIC, & STORM. They are all tools to help us and clients objectively (and consistently from a planning / authority perspective) look at projects from a sustainability viewpoint. 

What was interesting was the fact that there are now several new categories: e.g. Green infrastructure and Workforce Sustainability.  We are hoping to report back on the use of v2.0 down the track. 

Click on the link to see the whole series of tweets.

What next for green buildings?

I attended the Green Building Council’s “Shaping the Future State” conference yesterday.  It was a mix of long form presentations and panels, and was hosted at ANZ’s 6 star building – but to be honest it was just another auditorium and we didn’t see any of the good green stuff.

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This blog has a few thoughts on what was discussed and where the green building industry is going.  

1. There is hope!

There is a lot of good stuff happening – across a range of sectors and scales, and I got the impression that there is real hope that we can transform our approach to building and cities and we can tackle climate change. 

We heard from Stefan Hajkowicz (CSIRO) on global megatrends (i.e. the future of tech, artificial intelligence, managing disease, food production etc).  I heard a lot of good news stories related to the way different industries are adapting and innovating. And your coffee barista is unlikely to be replaced by a robot!

Also we heard how there are some amazing projects in design and build right now.  I heard about Monash Uni microgrids, City of Greater Dandenong’s Springfield redevelopment, Broofield's innovative stadium designs and flexible buildings, andYounghusband development – which hey I like as Wave is working on it!

2. Carbon, carbon, carbon – what about everything else?

There is a huge focus on carbon and emissions. That is good and bad. Other issues were mentioned – biofuels for transport and green infrastructure – but there remains a huge focus on the carbon story.  In simple terms – a Green Star building has credits spread across 9 different categories – of which only one is about energy.  So green buildings and sustainable design are about a lot more than just energy.  Personally, I’d like to see more integration with water, landscapes, and increased awareness that waste is a huge part of an ecological footprint. 

This broader perspective is partly why at Wave we are in the middle of designing and building some small physical models which test and explore this interaction between green infrastructure, water and energy. 

3. New policy and codes

There are two new discussion papers, on the way or out now, from GBCA: Carbon Positive Roadmap and ‘Building with Nature’.  GBCA have also worked with Smart Cities Council Australia and NZ to release a Code for Smart Communities.  They all look pretty worthwhile and worthy reading.

See https://new.gbca.org.au/advocacy/thought-Leadership/ and https://anz.smartcitiescouncil.com/smart-cities-information-center/code-for-smart-communities

I look forward to next year's conference.

Sustainable Developemnt Goals and Kanye West

Well you know things are getting through when Kanye West gets on board with the Sustainable Development Goals!

We blogged about our recent work on SDGs (see here - http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/blog-home/2018/3/13/sustainable-development-goals-what-why-how-what-next) and can't wait to see Kanye West quoted in our next meeting we have on SDGs :)

The energy and water story of Paraguay and Brazil

Emily is currently on a study exchange to complete her science degree at The University of Melbourne.  She is staying and studying in Buenos Aires for the next 6 months.

During her travels, she was lucky enough to go on a technical tour of the massive hydroelectric dam called "Itaipu". The Itaipu dam is located on the Parana river on the border between Brazil and Paraguay.

The dam and hydroelectric power station is a joint project shared by Brazil and Paraguay, and powers approximately 80% of Paraguay and about 15% of Brazil's energy needs. It has a capacity of 14 GW (20 turbines of 700 MW each).  It is the main power generation source for Sao Paulo. It actually generated more electricity that the Three Gorges hydroelectric plant in China.

The dam was constructed using hollow engineering methods which created space for maintenance work and also saved energy and economic costs of filling in the structure with concrete.

Here is Emily on a personal tour of the control room!

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The politics and diplomacy behind the dam

Itaipu Binational is a joint Brazilian and Paraguayan company created to manage the hydroelectric dam. The joint partnership over Seven Falls, now covered by the hydroelectric dam, was not always so friendly. In 1750 both countries claimed possession over the Seven Falls area. Disputes over the land continued until and during The Paraguay War (1865-1870). Tensions over the land were heightened throughout the 1960’s due to the discovery of the potential hydro power generation in the area.

Off the back of intense negotiations on June 22, 1966 a treaty was signed between Brazil and Paraguay which bound the two countries to equally share the territory.

As a result, Itaipu dam splits the energy output and many operational procedures between the two countries 50-50. For example, there must always be and equal number of board members from both Brazil and Paraguay, and there must always be a Paraguayan and Brazilian working in the control room.

Why was the Itaipu treaty so important?

Global conflict over water and energy has had a long history. The Itaipu dam serves as an example to show that international collaboration over energy and water resources can produce immense benefits for groups involved. In addition to providing substantial renewable energy to both countries, Itaipu Binational also strengthens trust and provides opportunities for binational research efforts and social programs which benefit both Paraguay and Brazil.

Strong water and energy management practices go hand in hand with communication, negotiation and diplomatic negotiation. While Itaipu is one of the largest hydroelectric power stations in the world, these lessons of open communication and collaboration filter down to water management on smaller scales.  

The future

Currently the treaty is set to expire in 2023 and has yet to have been renegotiated. It will be interesting to see how the renegotiation process impacts both the operational management of Itaipu and ongoing binational collaboration.  

Sustainable Development Goals - what, why, how, what next

I was at the Australian SDG Summit in March 2018, to participate in a discussion on what Australia is doing, not doing, and should be doing, with the Sustainable Development Goals. The summit had 200+ delegates across the community development, social, government, academic, and utility sectors, and speeches from Federal Minister Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Shadow Minister Mark Dreyfus.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a set of goals developed through the UN process that all countries have signed up to, to provide a specific set of goals to be achieved by 2030. They specify 17 goals across aclean energy, wellbeing, sustainable cities, poverty, water, gender equality, to name a few. See the each goal below.

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Two things that stood out for me in this summit were:

  1. For Australia the key across so many of the goals is ‘don’t leave anyone behind’.  For a developed country we expect that we have access to and meet a high standard of delivery for various services.  E.g. good waste management and drinking water supply services. Sometimes it is > 99% of the population in the ‘well off’ category, but not everyone.  So, really our focus instead is to use these goals to drive change in improving the quality of life with the most needy.  ACOSS has lots of good data on the inequalities and economic divide in our society.  At Wave with some recent work we did, we found some good data on the nature of water quality in remote communities – but not comprehensive - and again noting that more needs to be done to improve water quality for these remote communities. 
  2. Integration.  The goals don’t sit in silo, and to improve any of the goals usually requires several government departments and business to work together.  The integration issue was also relevant in that there is tension or trade offs between achieving them.  What if improving land and biodiversity means less agricultural production?  

Wave recently supported Monash Sustainability Development Institute to collate and interrogate the specific water datasets across multiple indicators that Australia is intending to use to report on SDG Goal 6.  Interestingly it was actually hard to get good data for all 11 indicators within this goal, especially that had a good temporal pattern and covered all of the population.

Further work on SDGs can found through MSDI, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Global Compact Network Australia.

83 ideas for a water sensitive city - reflections and comments

This is a series of blogs to reflect on what we need to create better cities, and specifically ones that are smarter with water and better for people. In 2009 I went on a study tour to learn more about 'water sensitive cities'.  As a group we wrote a report titled 'Good ideas for a water sensitive city'.  We came up with these based on visiting 14 cities across Europe and Singapore.

#21 - City models & the big picture

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Hamburg and Wilhelmsburg Island.  They built a 4 metre by 6 metre model of the new suburb!

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I still find today that this idea more than most encourages people to get involved and have a look at the potential of a place - to see it differently.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#20 - Invest the time for greater returns

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Sheffield.  At Manor Fields Park they spent a lot of time working with the residents when they were redesigning and activating a park - and knew that they needed to take residents on the journey to see the benefits of this new 'water sensitive' design.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is often missed - as we race through projects hoping to get them built!   

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#19 - Community engagement is an important part of the process

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Rotterdam, when they were developing their 'Rotterdam Climate Initiative'.  The engagement was critical to also building political support to implement the plan. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is closely aligned to the March for Science and Earth Hour type of initiatives.  They rely on building wide spread community support to make it easier for politicians to take action. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#18 - Podcasting self-guided tours

One of the ideas was to "City models – the big picture" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Manchester and the Mersey Basin Campaign.  They created a podcast that was linked to signage along the waterways and canals - telling a story of the history of the place and the river and engaging people in a different way.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is well ahead of its time.  We see more and more digital comms strategies looking for the social media and 'iPhone' type of engagement strategy. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#17 - Make community involvement hands-on and fun

One of the ideas was to "Make community involvement hands-on and fun" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Sheffield (UK). In this development the Council and other professionals ran sessions to allow the community to design an update to the park using clay models, wool and watercress.  They models must have looked good as the Council rebuilt the park with many new water sensitive features. 

Today it seems we sometimes to this type of engagement but more often than not don't.  We rely on online surveys and social media feedback, so perhaps we should try out some model making and have some more fun! 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#16 - Bring stormwater to the surface

One of the ideas was to "Bring stormwater to the surface" (of a total of 83 ideas).   This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Amsterdam and Hamburg.  This idea is really about creating visible infrastructure, which a) helps in providing passive irrigation opportunities and b) creates a city that is more aware of what happens to water when it rains.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is exactly what hundreds of practitioners have been working on for decades in the form of water sensitive urban design.  It is still relevant, and perhaps with a drier client and need for cooler urban landscapes, more important.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#15 - Amenity not just functionality

One of the ideas was to "Amenity not just functionality" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Enschede (Netherlands).  In rebuilding the city after a large explosion, they explicitly chose to engage a range of different architects to deliberately encourage a range of different buildings and amenity for the streets and town. 

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is great, and could be said to be missing from much of the new development completed in Australia - i.e. the same townhouses rolled out on every block you see being redeveloped.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#14 - Water information for all

One of the ideas was to "Water information for all" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza, who retrofitted an old church to create a physical centre to house and promote water in the city.  The building itself was amazing, and it was centrally located which would help in attracting people too.  I don't know how well visited it is by the locals verses visitors.

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is better suited to be set up as a sustainable house / or demonstration sustainable city type of centre, not just a water centre.  


For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#13 - Open water treatment sites to the public

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One of the ideas was to "Open water treatment sites to the public" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Singapore.  At a place called Marina Barrage the whole suburb drains into a harbour area that is separated from the ocean, and the water collected in the harbour is filtered through a treatment plant that is open to the public.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is quite innovative and should be promoted more and more.  In Melbourne there is a new Edithvale-Seaford Wetland Education Centre which is next to the treatment plant, and attempts to raise awareness and celebrate all things water.  I would like to acknowledge Andrew Allan and Leigh Holmes for their contribution and passion for this idea. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#12 - Engage with young people

One of the ideas was to "Engage with young people" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Hamburg, where a major redevelopment of the Wilhelmsburg Island included a special engagement exercise to engage with young people.  The driver was that a) there will be a large part of the community in this age bracket so they should be consulted in terms of designing this new part of the city, and b) this sector can be quite creative and innovative in thinking about how to improve city plans and designs. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea was ahead of its time, as I notice more and more engagement and 'codesign' projects that target and look to engage youth sectors in city and master planning projects.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#11 - Share stories to build unity and confidence

One of the ideas was to "Share stories to build unity and confidence" (of a total of 83 ideas).  We came up with these based on visiting 14 cities across Europe and Singapore. This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Enschede (Netherlands).  It is really an idea that focuses on how communities recover from extreme events (and in this case it is an exploding fireworks factory that decimated the town).

I think this idea is slightly left field from water management, but does help us in thinking of how we best respond to water related extreme events:  floods, storms, drought, water quality scares, pollution events.  It is something that is very useful the next time a city has experienced an extreme event and as a society and recovery agencies we ponder how best to acknowledge and learn from the event.

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#10 - Use a fish tank to prove greywater isn’t fishy

One of the ideas was to "Use a fish tank to prove greywater isn’t fishy" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Berlin in Germany.  The idea is to include a fish tank, fed by treated greywater, as a visual demonstration of how well we can clean and reuse greywater. This is the actual fish tank we saw (and apologies for the focus of the shot!).

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is very useful, particularly in high density and apartment buildings.  We are often asked about the potential for greywater and blackwater, and I always think of this project in Berlin where they demonstrated in a very visual way how well the treatment process worked.   

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#9 - Develop a river aquarium

One of the ideas was to "Develop a river aquarium" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to the Mersey River Campaign in the UK (Manchester). 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is still very powerful.  As cities embrace their rivers, daylight them, and also recognise the impact of sea levels and storms on cities (see news just in on storms in eastern USA), a river aquarium would have a dual function of raising awareness of what lives in the rivers and seas, as well as highlighting the close proximity of water and oceans to our homes. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#8 - Create a water mascot

One of the ideas was to "Create a water mascot" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza in Spain. They used the mascot to create a more visual and fun way to communicate with residents in the city. 

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Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is fantastic and I wonder if it could have helped Cape Town in engaging with their citizens.  The reports were that in Cape Town the campaign to get residents to save water was not as effective as the authorities would have liked.  

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

Ideas to build capacity, networks and knowledge

This next group of ideas are all about capacity, people and networks.  Sometimes referred to as the softer side of management and policy.  But as Cheryl Batagol says - just as important, or moreso!

 

#7 - Capacity building programs that train the trainer

One of the ideas was to "Capacity building programs that train the trainer" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Inwent in Germany.   

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is very similar to the Al Gore's 'Climate Reality Leaders' concept, where people would be trained to then share the message and train others.  I haven't seen many actually work, but it is a good idea!

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#6 - Allocate time for reflection

One of the ideas was to "Allocate time for reflection " (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Inwent in Germany. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is almost exactly what we are posting here!  Always good to stop and reflect on what you have done, what you are trying to do, and what you've learnt so far.

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#5 - Create a water charter

One of the ideas was to "Create a water charter" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza in Spain. 

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is interesting but probably in today's terminology we'd refer to this concept as developing a city's water strategy and key principles.  The IWA Cities of the Future network has done a lot of work on this topic and the key principles (or charter) for cities. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#4 - Develop and maintain informal networks

One of the ideas was to "Develop and maintain informal networks" (of a total of 83 ideas). This particular idea stemmed from a discussion with Govert Geldof and Gerdrik Bruins (in Rotterdam, Netherlands).  They told the story that their Climate Resilience Plan mostly happened because there were enough people in an informal network with passion to make it happen.  And some political leaders that saw the merit in it too!

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is very relevant, but perhaps we need to think about how we do that and how people that aren't naturally drawn to 'networking' and perhaps have a more introverted personality can be part of informal networks. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#3 - Form a competence network

One of the ideas was to "Form a competence network" (of a total of 83 ideas). This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Hamburg, where the water engineers saw a benefit in working on specific issues like heat recovery from sewers, with other professionals from other European cities.  It is a model that has been around a while, and with the use of online forums and video-conferencing is becoming easier (though in some ways it is harder to see the wheat from the chaff online!).

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is similar to a lot of the AWA networks / committees and Capacity Building programs around Australia.  I would like to acknowledge Emily Phillips for her contribution and passion for this idea. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

 

#2 - "Export water knowledge"

One of the ideas was to "Export water knowledge" (of a total of 83 ideas).  This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Zaragoza and their hosting of the Water Expo in 2008.  A key part of that expo was encouraginig countries to think more and sharing and exporting their knowledge, for others to benefit from.

Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is a key part of what is driving the CRC Water Sensitive Cities to engage with industry and research groups around the world. It is also very topical in terms of Cape Town's water issues and what Australian cities learnt in the millinium drought.  I would like to acknowledge Leigh Holmes for his contribution and passion for this idea. 

For futher info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

#1 - "Create or join a learning alliance"

 This particular idea stemmed from a trip to Rotterdam. Today, in hindsight, I think this idea is still very relevant, and has been a key to another movement in the climate network discipline known as C40. I think the key is really that each city isn't facing a unique problem - and by collaborating across a city network you are more likely to tackle these sort of wicked problems.  Probably true moreso today than a decade ago!

I would like to acknowledge Leonie Duncan for her contribution and passion for this idea. 

For further info see the whole report at this link: http://www.waveconsulting.com.au/publications/

What's the target?

Are you about to write an environmental strategy? A key question for any company, development or local government is: “What is your strategy trying to achieve?” Will it result in less energy consumed, less net emissions, and less water consumed?

Targets essentially drive you in one of two directions: to reduce overall use, or meet a relative target.

The relative option usually takes the form of a target expressed as a function of per capita, or per employee, or per site, or to achieve a relative ranking.

The absolute target is designed to limit a set amount of water or energy, or a cap on the amount of emissions / pollution.

I’ll give you two key examples of where organisations have set relative targets:

1.       Melbourne has a Target 155 to encourage residents to save water. at home.

2.       The Australian federal government wants to reduce emissions per capita. 

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The problem is that Melbourne’s overall water use has increased, and Australia’s overall emissions have increased (see as the last two red dots on the chart show).

Josh Frydenberg (http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/climate-change-josh-frydenberg-concedes-australias-carbon-emissions-rose-in-2017-20180111-h0gmtp.html ) stated on radio (11th January 2018) that “June quarter figures showed emissions went down by 0.6 per cent, and that emissions on a per capita and GDP basis were at "their lowest in 28 years".”  True, but the atmosphere doesn’t factor in how many people or how much GDP a nation has, it’s just a net budget.

For the water related Target 155, Melbourne Water’s 2016/17 annual report states “Melburnians used an average of 1170 million litres of water per day during the year, which was 7 per cent more than the last five-year average”. It is below its peak in the nineties, but is now consistently trending up despite a mostly successful Target 155 campaign.  

People and organisations often set targets using the ‘relative’ option as it makes sense, and it is easy to explain how you are ‘doing your fair share’. 

But unfortunately the environment itself doesn’t really deal with relative or per capita changes. Net change matters.  Tonnes of green house gases, megalitres of water, tonnes of waste.  It doesn’t matter where it comes from, it matters what the cumulative impact is.

It’s a bit harder, but I’d advocate that your strategy uses absolute targets.

The trials and tribulations of being an Early Adopter

New technologies need to be trialled and tested in order for them to be improved and optimised . With water sensitive urban design (WSUD), it is no different. Being an Early Adopter means you a play an invaluable role in this process. It also means encountering unexpected issues, as the new technologies are refined and mature. 

Site tour of Inkerman Oasis, St Kilda. 

Site tour of Inkerman Oasis, St Kilda. 

In November 2017, we returned with 10 other interested architects, water engineers and energy assessors to the Inkerman Oasis site in St Kilda, 15 years after its completion. The award winning site received much acclaim for its innovative water recycling features, raising the bar for what could be achieved at the multi-residential scale. It included greywater recycling, with a four part treatment process (aeration tank, membrane bioreactor tank, chlorination, and UV disinfection). Stormwater was also harvested off the roofs, with primary treatment through a gross pollutant trap then biological filtration through 400m2 of on site wetlands.  

 

Unfortunately, we arrived to learn that all of these features were now non-operational. All of the WSUD infrastructure had been switched off and is now bypassed.

It was disheartening to see such a substantial investment in IWM infrastructure be entirely discarded, but in order to avoid this happening continually, we need to examine the why. Where did it go wrong? Why did the costs outweigh the savings? How can we do it better? 

In the case of Inkerman Oasis, it seems that an intensive maintenance regime was the crux of the problem. A four part treatment process for its greywater, means four separate systems to clean, maintain and replace parts for. Likewise, the gross pollutant traps for the stormwater management require regular cleaning. The out-of-sight nature of the infrastructure can mean that issues or maintenance requirements can be missed, causing larger problems (and costs) later. The relative cheapness of potable water compounds the issue, creating a difficult case for economically viable water infrastructure. 

The previous wetlands, now regular garden beds. 

The previous wetlands, now regular garden beds. 

Part of the currently non-operational grey water treatment system

Part of the currently non-operational grey water treatment system

WSUD assets are now mandatory in many new developments through local council clauses. What happens beyond the design phase however is independently decided. With the demands of keeping rates low and fears in regards to the unfamiliar complexity of the infrastructure, many owner's corporations elect to simply switch off part or all of the technology that the site has invested in. 

In order for WSUD to be implemented effectively in developments, beyond the design phase, the maintenance needs to be straightforward and as efficient as possible. Moves towards digitalising systems and including sensors is a positive step in this direction. Simplifying processes as much as possible, while remaining within EPA public health guidelines, is essential.

It was very interesting to visit the Inkerman Oasis site and see where this pioneering WSUD project had landed. Thanks to building manager, Jarrad Hudson, for hosting us while we were there.

Thanks also to the City of Port Phillip, Inkerman Developments, South East Water and the rest of the project team for their groundbreaking work. Despite the fact that the infrastructure is not currently operational, the work that was achieved has contributed to making it easier for future developments to incorporate WSUD features, and the journey continues.

Josie McGushin.

Water and energy nexus - video example!

We were helping a commercial client analyse their water use at the moment. In that process of inspecting every single water appliance within a 30,000 m2 building, we came across a very real example of how the water and energy nexus comes together at the end use.  See this video below for how much water is used in a cooling tower.  And this was in the morning, well before the afternoon heat peak has arrived.  

The water and energy nexus is apparent at all scales - from energy generation through to distribution of water, through to the combination of systems that use both energy and water in houses, apartments and commercial buildings.

Just think of how many buildings in our town or city have these systems pumping away on top of the building!

Why we banned emails at work

At Wave Consulting we have decided to ban emails within the company. We don’t email each other. We email clients. We are a small company, seven in total and most of us are part time, and this is a short blog about why we banned emails within the company.

This email ban is driven by three things: a desire to innovate, to be efficient and to foster a culture of sharing ideas and transparency.

We recognise emails have been around a long time; they are within the core of professional services and office life. We also know that emails and meetings can destroy productivity. How often do you return home from work and feel as though all you did is send and receive emails all day? The larger the company, the more likely you spend time on internal communication.

Don’t get me wrong, we realise the need to communicate within a small company, particularly when staff are not all full time, it is very important. However, we decided that emails are perhaps not the best way to achieve this.

Instead, we use Teams, a team based, chat environment that everyone has access to, and is included in our Office 365 licence. So, it is effectively free and uses the same login as used to access emails. No issues in working across multiple platforms. Slack is another platform that would have helped us off emails, but given there would be a charge and we would need another set of login details, we chose to go with Teams.

The Teams App is efficient and quick to use, it integrates your files, your calendar and everything you need. The platform can also hold video calls, so the team can talk to each other if they are in different locations. No worrying about dial in codes and stuff like that. Just do it. Click and go. Afterwards, the video call is saved for those that missed out on being there.

It is transparent. You no longer have to be concerned about cc’ing people on an email, or worse, realising that they weren’t copied on in the first place. It is searchable. The standard operating procedure is to share with everyone. Everyone can learn, everyone will be up to speed with proposals, industry events, milestones, projects and new ideas.

Just as we look to innovate on our water and energy projects, our new approach to communication fosters a culture of innovation in how we work with each other. It encourages everyone to work together. Each team member has the same permissions – i.e. we can establish smaller teams to work on a specific project. This novel method supports a culture of sharing our knowledge, learning from others and innovating to reduce our impact on the climate.  It is consistent with our location in a co-working office - at Creative Spaces (similar space to the larger co-working offices like Hub and WeWork).

This new culture has been established for a month now and it has worked a dream. We still use email to talk to people external to the company. But Teams has been a significant milestone in improving communications and productivity within Wave.  I want to acknowledge Leigh from Day One Digital for opening our eyes to this app and this progressive approach.

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