Friday, February 11, 2011

SMH: Disasters present opportunity to build for zero emissions future

"The estimated 28,000 houses to be rebuilt in Queensland after the floods can use designs and commercially available technologies to drastically reduce their climate impact. The same holds for those as yet unknown scores of buildings devastated by Cyclone Yasi. Combining energy efficient designs, sustainable materials and products with onsite renewable energy production will significantly reduce electricity waste and carbon emissions."

Excellent opinion piece in the SMH today by Trent Hawkins from Beyond Zero Emissions about how the disasters in QLD create an opportunity to rebuild in a resilient, low energy and climate friendly way. Some more excerpts below.

"As the adage states: every disaster brings with it opportunity. In Queensland there is the opportunity to rebuild homes to minimise energy use and climate-changing carbon emissions. The homes built today in this mammoth rebuilding effort can help limit climate change, but only if the Gillard and Bligh governments take leadership."

"Rebuilding is mainly a case of reintroducing those traditional designs that made the most of their surroundings, but with enhancements. An updated version of the original Queenslander-style house can become a model for sustainability in the sub-tropics. In coastal areas, ventilation is critical. The Queenslander-style building uses elevated floors, wide sun-facing verandahs, louvered windows and timber shutters to cool houses with natural ventilation. High ceilings, insulated roofs and ceiling fans can assist in cases of low natural airflow. Lightweight construction materials, such as timber, lose heat quickly and simultaneously combat high humidity levels. To provide the small amount of heating required during South Queensland's mild winters, architects can include good passive solar design, roof and wall insulation and some internal, insulated thermal mass."

There is also a wider opportunity to create something positive by considering our building standards overall

"In 2011, Beyond Zero Emissions is preparing a detailed blueprint outlining a pathway for a zero-carbon building sector in Australia. Our report will propose appropriate retrofits to all existing buildings in Australia for energy efficiency and recommend necessary attributes for new zero-emissions buildings.

Australian Building Codes Board member Caroline Pidcock has also drawn attention to the need for a zero emissions buildings policy. ''We're really just fiddling around the edges in Australia [when it comes to achieving energy efficiency],'' Pidcock says. ''In the UK they have mandated that by 2016 all houses will have zero net emissions.''

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Anna Bligh might use COAG to follow the British government's lead and institute a national zero net emissions buildings policy."

Excellent advice, thanks Trent.

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