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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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Learning From Green Buildings: Success & Challenges

On Tuesday 12th of September we held our latest Green Building Tour, where we visited two interesting Melbourne buildings to see their sustainability features in action. 

  Paul talking with the tour group

Paul talking with the tour group

First up was 501 Swanston Street (Melbourne) where we were hosted by the Construction Services and Facilities Manager, Paul Giuliano. Paul was a wealth of knowledge and talked us through the performance and costings of the various features and how they related to the before scenario. 

This building had achieved a 40-50% savings on their electricity and gas usage with a corresponding 15% increase in maintenance costs. This had achieved by a massive building redevelopment, with partial funding received from the Australian Environmental Upgrade Fund. The upgrades included a complete redesign of the lifts, with "regenerative braking" technology allowing them to generate their own electricity. Smart controls, including the first touch screen control panels to be introduced in the southern hemisphere, were a big part of reducing the lifts' electricity consumption, corresponding to a decrease in idle energy usage from 5 Amps to 0.5 Amps.  

  Rooftop garden at 501 Swanston Street

Rooftop garden at 501 Swanston Street

Other energy saving features included solar film added to both sides of the building windows, replacement of lighting fixtures to sensor LEDs, air conditioning and heating upgrades, and replacement of plant room equipment.  

One of the key things that stood out in the building, was the amount and quality of communal space available for tenants. A well frequented wellness centre, sleeping pod, massage chair, extensive rooftop garden, commercial grade kitchen, and conference room were among the features available for tenant use. This related to 15% of total available building space being used as functional communal space.  

  Robert testing out the sleeping pod

Robert testing out the sleeping pod

The other key thing to note from 501 Swanston was the value they placed on the sustainability performance of the building. Maintenance regimes were upkept and the features were able to operate at their optimum levels and deliver on the desired savings. Paul discussed how important the features were for their stable and consistent tenancies, and how the market now demanded that a building deliver on sustainability in order to remain competitive.  

After a quick coffee stop at the sustainable design award winning café, Seven Seeds Carlton, we arrived at our next stop on the tour, the City of Melbourne Bowls Club.  

At the CoM Bowls Club we were hosted by club manager, Zac Potier, who talked us through the building's performance from an end-user perspective. The clubhouse was rebuilt in 2009 and designed for environmental sustainability, with a horizontal closed-loop geothermal system for heating and cooling and an extensive sub-surface irrigation system using recycled water. In addition, the clubhouse was designed to maximise natural light and ventilation, and built with a choice of ESD valued materials such as timber, brushed and rough concrete, and external green wall.  

  Interior of the CoM Clubhouse

Interior of the CoM Clubhouse

  Zac discussing the green wall and landscaping

Zac discussing the green wall and landscaping

It was interesting to learn from Zac the challenges that had been experienced beyond the design phase. The features had not always been maintained to a high level, due in part to a lack of clarity in who was responsible (owners or tenants), and the expertise needed to do so. The weather station, which controls the automation of the heating and cooling systems (eg. opening and shutting louvres, activating the air conditioner), was not at the correct calibration and hence needed to be overridden manually to ensure comfort of clubgoers. The automation in general conflicted with club usage, given the frequent opening of doors, the need for quiet during presentations, and preference of customising temperature to satisfy customer desires.  

Despite these challenges, the geothermal system was still delivering on considerable energy savings. The heating and cooling it provided through the concrete floor slab was largely sufficient to keep the clubhouse at a comfortable ambient temperature, without the need for additional heating and cooling. Zac stated that as a result they once went through an entire summer without needing to use the air conditioner.  

  Synthetic and natural warm-weather turf at CoM Bowls Club

Synthetic and natural warm-weather turf at CoM Bowls Club

The sub-surface irrigation system had proven troublesome to some degree. A 140,000 litre underground water storage tank stores captured storm and recycled water that is then used to irrigate the green. Herbicides and pesticides used to maintain the green were transferred to the water storage, causing salination of the water and leading to damage of the green during irrigation. In order to mitigate this issue, chemical maintenance of the green had been decreased and substituted with manual methods, such as airing and combing.  

Zac's honesty of the challenges faced by the club and how they overcame them provided valuable insight. It is not simply through success that we learn, but through encountering problems and henceforth having to overcome them. A valuable part of these green building tours is to learn of the operational challenges of sustainability measures, to inform and inspire better future design. 

Stay posted for Wave's next Green Building Tour, due to take place at the end of October.

Carbon neutral water businesses

Water businesses in Victoria have been asked to develop plans to become carbon neutral by 2050.  It was a State Government directive and part of a broader response to acting on climate change.

This week the Australian Water Association put on an event “Becoming Carbon Neutral”.  We heard from the Bureau of Meteorology, SE Water and Jacobs.  Elisa de Wit from the Carbon Market Institute chaired the event.  ARUP hosted the event (and informed us how they are supporting staff with interest fee loans for solar at home).

A few things stood out for me:

  • The Bureau is very clear that the evidence and science suggests we are on a trajectory for more extreme climate change, and not on path to stay within 2 or 1.5 degrees.  This means that current (hot!) temperature extremes will not even be considered a cold year by 2100.
  • Water authorities are large energy users and responsible for large emissions.
  • Water authorities are dealing with mostly Scope 2 emissions, and there is a lot of opportunity to embrace energy efficiency and methane harvesting to reduce emissions
  • Melbourne Water’s emissions (that include desalination) will dwarf the scope of works and emissions reductions that individual water retailers take.

So, there is a lot of work to do!  We’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this intersection of energy, water and climate, and hope to publish some of that work later this year.

Below are some tweets I sent during the event. 

The energy trilemma

Prof Ross Garnaut gave a lecture on the energy trilemma, a term to describe the combination of managing energy security, cost and reducing emissions.  

It was a good lecture and covered a lot of what was in the Finkel Review, the history of climate policy, current issues facing the energy industry, and the potential role of renewables and batteries going forward.

I laughed about his analogy of the Melbourne Cup and battery storage as a fast and nimble energy supplier. That is, it's being handicapped through the system of calculating energy prices as an average of 30 minutes.  Handicapping in the Melbourne Cup is good fun and makes for a closer race, in energy it reduces effectiveness of new technologies.

I tweeted a few of the lines of the speech, see below.

Sustainable schools - our recent pro bono work

Today is World Environment Day and it was good to be part of the local school's World Environment Day Expo. 

We've been working with a local school for a while, along with other parents, with a focus on working on educational and infrastructure issues.  The school has adopted the Resource Smart framework, which provides a roadmap for the school to tick off various initiatives. 

Today we convinced a local bike shop (99 Bikes) to come and show off how electric bikes work. Great insight into another sustainable transport option.  And wow they are so easy to ride up a hill :)

I think the big challenge for schools is to roll out larger projects where they can significantly alter reduce consumption of water, energy, materials, and significantly generate local water and energy for reuse on site.  And do it in a way that enables the kids to be part of the experience and monitor the impact. 

A new venture: a community power microgrid

First published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-venture-neighbourhood-microgrid-rob-catchlove

I’m pretty excited to say that I started a new project last week.   An interesting mix of innovation, community and climate action, and technology.    

Before I say what it is, let me say why.

Everything that I do with work, and at home, is done through the lens of taking action to reduce energy, waste and water footprint.  The world is warming at an alarming rate, and I think we all have a clear responsibility to take action.  I want to think that I have done everything I can to minimise the world warming beyond two degrees. 

So the story of this new project started at my home.  I’m in the process of putting in a solar and battery array at home.  We are transitioning off natural gas for heating, hot water and cooking.  Yes gas is cheap (now) and easy, but it’s still a fossil fuel.  I want our house to be run purely off electric appliances (the most efficient ones possible of course), and then source that electricity from our solar and battery system.  

But the exciting project is not about my place, but about a local microgrid. So rather than just introducing renewable energy at one house, I thought we could do more than that.  What if we had our own local microgrid that shared the use of solar and battery usage along the street?  It could be more efficient (ie less exporting and importing of electricity), cost less, reduce our footprint, and show that there are new ways of doing things.  It would also contribute to our sense of place and community.  We’d be doing something together. 

So last week I started a campaign along the street to see who was interested.  After door knocking half of the street I have about 85% interest.  People, with and without solar panels now, think this is worth looking at and taking further.   People seemed to be attracted to the concept of buying energy off their neighbours, and doing something as a whole community to transition towards a zero emissions future.

I’m talking about a microgrid that enables a whole series of houses to share the energy they produce.  We have a few different models in the way that could happen, and all of them have regulatory and technical (and financial) issues.  But the point is that until we try it out, we can’t figure out how we’ll solve those issues and what consumers are willing to change or accept when it comes to new electricity models.  And I’m not talking about disconnecting from the grid completely. 

I’m looking at a how we can make this work for people that already have solar, that don’t have solar, that are interested in battery storage, that rent, that own, and that use a lot or a little electricity.   I estimate that collectively this collection of houses spends over $100,000 a year on electricity usage and connections.  But interestingly is the potential for more investment, particularly in more solar panels on roofs.

Now I know some in the energy industry will balk at the prospect of a street (surrounded by the grid) doing something like this.  But I believe the transition of the electricity system is something that must happen within the established areas of the city, as well as the greenfield sites, apartment blocks, the remote communities and the introduction of new large scale renewable projects.  I want to show that it is something that the millions of Australians, that live cities and within the existing areas of the grid, can be part of. 

So we are going to push ahead, and hopefully show that with a strong people and consumer interest, it is possible. 

If you have any ideas or potential contributions then I’d love to hear them. Get in touch.

Thanks,

Rob.