I attended the seventh Ballarat Green Drinks last night at Mitchell Harris Wine Bar. Green Drinks events are held all over the world, and are a fantastic community event where like-minded folk can get together, have a drink, hear informative and inspiring speakers from varying disciplines with regards to the environment. It’s become one of my most anticipated monthly social events!
Last night we heard from David Robinson, who is the convener of LIVE (Locals Into Victoria’s Environment) and who is coordinating a “LIVE Community Power” project in The City of Port Phillip (Melbourne) at the South Melbourne Market. The roof over the car park on top of the Market was recently built (designed by Paul Morgan Architects) and was shortlisted for the 2013 Australian Architecture Awards. The project was commissioned as the existing concrete roof to the market (which is a rooftop car park) leaked every time it rained, and after multiple attempts to fix it, it was decided to create a new lightweight floating roof over instead. The new roof is orientated to face due-north, which is off axis with the way the building is situated on the street-grid. This creates a really interesting effect at the facades, where the triangular shapes echo the scale of the pitched roofs to surrounding homes at one end, and create a diamond-shaped saw-tooth effect which are reminiscent of the industrial buildings in the area. The roof is also used to collect rainwater, which is stored in underground tanks, and reused in for washing down the market floors, flushing toilets, etc. You can listen to a review by “The Architects” on TripleRRR radio here too (podcast from Tue 28th May 2013). The council has already installed 150 solar panels, which is a great start. The roof has space for 3000 panels, which would generate a lot more power from the sun. This not-for-profit climate change initiative is seeking to fund the project via $1000 shares sold to members of the community. The investors would then receive returns in the form of reduced power-bills at home, as the power generated will be sold back into the grid. This may be of particular interest to those who are unable to put panels on their roofs (those who rent, live in apartments, are in heritage-listed homes, whose roofs are overshadowed, etc).
I have a special fondness for the South Melbourne Market, as my Mum and Nan would often take us there as kids (even though we had to trek south of the river from the north-eastern suburbs). Whilst studying for my Architectural degree at University, I was involved in a Design Studio run by Paul Haar (over 10 years ago now), where we looked at putting a “Green Roof” on the market. There were obviously problems with the roof back then, and there was some interest from council to do something to improve it, and for them to be seen to do something “environmental”, so our final design project was presented to the council as an option. From memory, our design aimed to collect rainwater, provide a grassed roof where cars could also still park with use of permeable-pavers (see image below), and there was also a provision of light-weight trellis structures which could grow indigenous-species climbers and creepers vertically down the facade of the market and horizontally over the cars to provide some shade. To learn more about the benefits of green roofs in urban environments see here. I’d like to think that our student project back then helped to keep the vision alive for the council to continue to explore sustainable design options about what could be done, and I love the solution that has now been built, and the potential it now has to be a huge solar power generator.
There are many examples of community-owned renewable energy projects overseas, and there are a number of projects being set up all over Australia (see Fund Community Energy Coalition for more information). Locally, Hepburn Wind is a great example of how the community can invest in sustainable power. The South Melbourne Market project will set an important precedent for future community funded renewable energy projects. I hope that with the full-house at last night’s Green Drinks that there are enough interested parties who will go away and have a think about which roofs here in Ballarat could also be used for a large-scale community-owned solar project. BREAZE are a locally formed group of energetic, forward thinking people who believe that there are more sustainable ways of living…if anyone can get an initiative off the ground here in Ballarat, they can! And if you want to know more about how much money you will save by going solar, see their info here.
Do you have Solar Panels on your roof? Would you be willing to invest to put solar panels on another roof, and receive reduced power bills? I know I would!