Old buildings take the green lead
Energy efficiency upgrades can also reduce running costs for tenants, and enable the building’s owners to attract valuable clients, such as large corporations and government agencies, which are increasingly opting for energy-rated offices.
The everyday electrical services of both residential and commercial buildings – such as lighting, air-conditioning, lifts and hot water – account for close to one-quarter of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
A recent report from the University of Technology Sydney shows buildings can achieve a National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) ‘base’ building energy rating of around 4.0, solely through improved management practices and without the need for major investments in technology.
Building owners signed up to the Total Environment Centre’s (TEC’s) Existing Buildings Project are achieving reductions in energy use of up to 40 per cent, and will be able to qualify for National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) energy ratings of 4.0–4.5.
Projects encouraging the industry to upgrade existing buildings in preference to constructing ‘green’ buildings from scratch – thus avoiding massive hidden ‘embodied’ emissions from construction, materials, and waste – are springing up in the nation’s capitals, involving government agencies and key players such as the Green Building Council of Australia.
Next-gen cars: they’re almost here
After our decades-long love affair with petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, the era of greener cars and trucks is almost here, thanks to escalating environmental concerns, the recent oil-price spike and the global financial crisis.
Around 15 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions are generated from transport, although a 20 per cent decline in new car sales over the past year and a growing buyer preference for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles are motivating car-makers to develop products that reduce our reliance on oil.
ECOS reports that electric cars in particular are becoming more attractive as consumers realise that fully charged batteries have more than enough ‘range’ to cover the 120km daily distance travelled by the average driver.
When coupled with longer life, cheaper batteries – such as the UltraBattery developed by CSIRO – and renewable energy sources, electric cars are starting to become the pole position ‘car of the future.’
ECOS also interviews experts about new developments in biofuels that don’t displace food crops, ethanol/petrol fuel mixes, and diesel-electric hybrid commercial vehicles.
And watch out for the ‘air car’ – compact compressed-air-driven commuter vehicles that can seat four and travel as far as 300km on one tank of compressed air.
Sea-level rise: the view from ground zero
According to the World Bank, tens of millions of people in 84 developing countries, including Vietnam, Bangladesh, Jamaica and the Maldives, will likely be displaced by rising sea levels over this century.
In our region, a rise of one metre would effectively put the small Pacific Island nations of Kiribati and Tuvalu at or below sea level, a prospect that raises issues not just for the people of these islands, but for their larger and wealthier neighbours, Australia and New Zealand.
ECOS talks to scientists and aid agencies about their respective concerns: Is the increased flooding experienced by Pacific Islands due to sea level rise? How can Australia best help? And what are the options for these seafaring nations if sea levels do rise?
Other stories in ECOS 148 include:
Achieving economic growth and reduced environmental pressures in the current financial climate: History proves that decoupling economic growth from environmental impacts does not reduce national GDP. Although the global carbon emissions challenge is unprecedented, countries have successfully mobilised in the past to reduce pollution without harming economic growth.
Could wood waste be fuels gold? Research by the CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship aims to identify the volume and types of wood waste dumped in Australia’s landfills and to determine the contribution it could make to future fuel supplies.
Clean technology spin-outs on the rise at CSIRO: Demand is high for technologies that can make an impact in the Australian marketplace in the next two years and, at an international level, hedge against any changes in the UN Clean Development Mechanism schemes to offset emissions elsewhere.
Engaging visions of change: A community arts project that documents the environmental transformation taking place in the Murray–Darling Basin through the visual arts and helps local communities cope with the changes.
ECOS 148 free online access: Ecos 148
Download image at: Old buildings take the green lead.
- Improving the energy efficiency of Australia’s existing commercial buildings is one of the fastest, most effective ways to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, reports the April-May edition of ECOS magazine
- ECOS 148 interviews experts about new developments in biofuels that don’t displace food crops, ethanol/petrol fuel mixes, and diesel-electric hybrid commercial vehicles
- According to the World Bank, tens of millions of people in 84 developing countries, including Vietnam, Bangladesh, Jamaica and the Maldives, will likely be displaced by rising sea levels over this century