Grand Designs Live Melbourne 2014
I have a confession to make…
… I do rather like attending a home-show! Whether they’re industry-specific and more of a trade-show for construction-professionals, or a show aimed at DIYers and the average-joe, I’m all for it! There is always plenty to learn – not only from exhibits showcasing new products, but perhaps more so from the presentations by leaders in their fields. Earlier this year I wrote about my day at DesignBuild Expo, focusing on “Sustainability Day”.
Last week I attended Grand Designs Live in Melbourne. It was rather a last-minute decision, but I’m so glad I went. It is basically the Grand Designs Empire (both UK and Australian versions) branching out to include this event, with the big drawcard(s) being that Kevin McCloud and Peter Maddison present live. There were three stages with presenters on all day over the three days “Grand Theatre”, “Design Stage” and the “Sustainability Stage”. The exhibits were mainly grouped in four categories: ‘Kitchens and Bathrooms’, ‘Building’, ‘Outdoors’ and ‘Interiors’ which gave a great overview, and there was also “Ask An Expert” kiosks, an Interior Design Competition showcase of some emerging designers, and Book Signing too of course. Plenty to see and do!
I spent most of my time at the “Sustainability Stage”, naturally, as there were some great speakers and topics.
I was really keen on seeing Dick Clarke (Envirotecture and Alternative Technology Association) speak about the book he edited “How To Rethink Building Materials“. I’d recently purchased this book, and haven’t digested the whole lot yet, but was so excited (yes I’m a nerd!) when I heard of its release. It was the book I was waiting for – over 40 of Australia’s (and the world’s) experts with up to date knowledge about how we can make more sustainable choices when it comes to the materials we select. Dick Clarke is very passionate about what he does, and he gave a great overview of the book, and then showed a couple of examples of different houses he’d designed where the material choices were very different – dependent on the specific site location, owners and particular requirements.
Rethinking Building Materials
I also enjoyed the presentation by Chris Philpot (Planet Ark) & Sven Maxa (Maxa Design) about Building and Designing with Responsibly Sourced Wood. Planet Ark are currently running a “Make It Wood – Do Your World Some Good” campaign to promote awareness about consumers buying timber products ethically. Look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label as certification that the wood was responsibly sourced. Sven Maxa showed a house he’d designed where most of the timber sourced from the project was either recycled/reclaimed timber, or from plantation sources.
My other favourite presentation was Peter Maddison (Maddison Architects and Grand Designs Australia Host) who presented Sustainability: Case Studies and Principles. He showed us a number of interesting examples of homes from around Australia, which had all featured on Grand Designs Australia, each with their own sustainability agendas. I asked Peter if after four or five seasons of filming so many inspirational homes around Australia, if (as an Architect) he had learned anything that he wished he’s known before? He answered that he is always learning, that we are all always learning, and perhaps some of what he has seen has informed his own architectural practice (as it all becomes part of our subconscious). I realised I hadn’t yet seen any of the Australian series, so promptly headed off to the Merchandise stall to get myself a box-set of inspiration!
I hadn’t paid the big bucks to see Kevin on the big stage, but happened to catch part of his presentation from the back, along with a growing crowd of gawkers. I loved that he emphasised that “Grand” Designs are about grand ideas, not necessarily grand budgets, nor a grand scale. He showed one of his personal favourite “grand designs” which was a community housing project for single-mothers, that whilst not a grand architectural endeavour, over the years had done so much for the social-sustainability for improving the lives of these women and children that it had a special place in his heart…and that is one of the things that people love about Kevin.
So what else is it that we all love about Grand Designs? I recently asked on social media, and got some great responses – there is a lot of love for Kevin out there! It seems we like Kevin for telling it like it is, for engaging the viewer in the journey, and being able to change his opinion. He is obviously intelligent and passionate about telling these stores about people and their homes, and personally I love that he is an Architectural-ambassador of sorts…helping to promote the value of good design and smart decisions. He is also a Sustainability Ambassador – although he doesn’t like the word “sustainability” as it is over-used these days. But his gem of a book that I only recently discovered (and now highly recommend!) is “Kevin McCloud’s Principles of Home: Making a Place to Live” which is essentially a manifesto for a better (more sustainable) way to live; both inspiring and practical! If grand designs is your “architectural porn”, then this might just be your new ” architectural bible”!?!
Ultimately we all love the stories behind these grand designs – the before and after, the journey, the dream, the things that went wrong, the innovative ideas, the blown-out budgets and timeframes – but without the dramatics that tends to be compulsory on other “reality” shows. We love this, because architecture IS about people and how they live!
Thanks Kevin. (And Peter). Now I’m off to catch-up on a gazillion hours of old series…it is “research” of course :o)
And as always, if I can assist in any way with your very own “Grand Design”, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Are you a Grand Designs and Kevin McCloud fan too? Tell me, what is it that you LOVE the most about the show? (Please reply in the comments box below).
Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. Don’t forget you can click here to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!
This post continues on our the theme of what a sustainable home is – and are they all the same? We’ll take a quick look at past, the present, and where we are (or should be!) headed in the future with regards to green buildings. Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. We recently began a series of posts covering the WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of sustainable design.
I recently wrote about “What is a sustainable house?” which looked at a definition, and listed ten characteristics that I believe constitute a truly sustainable home. But today I want to address how I view that “environmentally friendly” homes have changed in recent times.
I grew up in the bushy Eltham-area (in the outer north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne), which at the time was well-known as an artistic community, who were environmentally conscious with many mud brick homes amongst the trees. Local legend Alistair Knox was a designer, environmentalist, builder, landscape-architect and the arguably the ‘father’ of the alternative natural building movement. From the 1950s to the 1980s, and he designed and built countless earth buildings – for a full list see here! So I was introduced to this “organic architecture” early on, to these homes made from natural materials of earth and timber, with large windows to connect to the native landscape, and a focus on a wood-fire hearth as the literal heart of the home.
So back then, then the emphasis was about what the house was made from. A focus on locally sourced, organic, natural materials (and living in a more connected way with the natural environment).
This low-tech approach was (and is) also seen in the owner-builder alternative housing movement, in permaculture, in earth-ships, and also many primitive and vernacular buildings from around the world.
Today, the focus is more about how the house performs. This is much more of a high-tech approach to the energy-efficiency of the building and its services.
There us so much talk about thermal dynamics and heating coefficients, or megajoules / kilowatt-hours / CO2 emissions and zero-carbon / R-values / ten-star rating / consumption per annum… numbers, statistics, technical jargon…
“Autonomous” homes (or those ‘off-the-grid’) of course need to understand all of this to meet their energy and water needs. These days though, many people seem to focus on these high-tech ‘add-ons’ to make their homes greener – instead of ensuring the building fabric is right first, or perhaps even looking more broadly at how sustainable their lifestyles are the choices they make.
To ensure a home “performs” well (which means that it is thermally comfortable with little need for additional mechanical heating/cooling) it is imperative that the building envelope is designed correctly. Today, sophisticated energy-rating software such as FirstRate (and international standards such as Passivhaus) focus heavily on science, statistics, and rigid criteria to get proven results for new buildings.
Unfortunately, at times the ’embodied’ energy used to make manufacture/process/transport some high-tech products/materials (e.g. metal or petroleum-derived plastic products or harmful chemical components/finishes) can outweigh the amount of energy that will actually be saved during the performance of the building…and can be toxic to our health, not to mention the earth. This can be a complicated mathematical equation to evaluate over the life of a building, with many factors and variables to be considered, so it can become even more confusing!
So the first approach is a bit too hippy, and the second too nerdy…can we do BOTH?
YES! Both approaches are crucial for our future buildings to be more sustainable. And encouragingly, this does seem to be happening…
On the one hand, our souls crave the connection to nature, but we should also embrace new technologies which are making innovative breakthroughs all the time, which can improve our buildings and our lives.
On the other, if we continue our over-consumption and greedy ways, and think technology will save us, we are mistaken. It is only when we start thinking of the life-cycle of our built environment in the same ways as the natural environment that we will start to have truly sustainable buildings.
As always, it is important to remember that sustainable design is NOT an aesthetic or a style, but a philosophical and theoretical approach to how the building is composed. Please stay tuned to read more about the who, what, when, where, why, and of course we’ll get to the how of sustainable design.
Are all sustainable houses the same? What do you think? What sort of sustainable home do you dream about living in? Does your heart lean more toward the warmth of timber and the texture of stone…or does your head get excited by the latest specs of photovoltaic panels? (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!)
Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!
Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, specialising in sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions about environmental design. We recently began a series of posts covering the WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and HOW of sustainable design. You can read about the “WHY” here and the “WHO” here. We’ll be tackling the other topics in the coming months, but today I want to briefly discuss “WHAT is a sustainable house?”
I recently gave a presentation on this very topic to a large bunch of sustainably minded folk in Ballarat. I was invited to present at “Ballarat Green Drinks” which is part of a global organisation of volunteer-run events, where a guest speaker will chat about their particular interest in sustainability, and hopefully inform and inspire others. It’s also meant to be very much about having casual forum where the community can have a drink and meet with some like-minds. I’ve written about the “Worlds Biggest Green Drinks” Ballarat-event previously, and also a review about a Green Roofs presentation last year.
I only had half an hour to try to cover an enormous topic, so I tried to break it down into 10 main points of what I think the characteristics are that make a truly sustainable house. This was a bit of a utopian vision, as although there is encouraging progress with many new homes and renovations starting to take some energy-efficient principles into account…we still have a long way to go. This talk was not meant to be about HOW to achieve a sustainable house, nor was it about me spruiking my services and how I could help. In this forum, it was an opportunity to remind everyone WHY we should do sustainable design in the first place, and to understand the philosophy of what sustainable-houses of the future could (or should!) be. I also covered why I became interested in sustainable homes, and some historical references relevant to our region.
“What is a Sustainable House?”
A sustainable house is a house like a tree.
I was first introduced to this idea by Michael Mobbs, in his book ‘Sustainable House‘, who said “A tree must meet all its needs for food, energy and water where it stands.” And also in Peter Graham’s book, ‘Building Ecology‘: “Buildings are a part of earth’s eco-systems…but they are rarely treated as such.”
My presentation had illustrated examples of each point with statistics and quotes, so I’ll cover these in future posts in much greater detail, but here’s a quick summary:
1. a sustainable house is… site specific
2. a sustainable house is… small
3. a sustainable house provides… shelter and comfort
4. a sustainable house is… well-designed
5. a sustainable house is… self-sufficient (solar energy)
6. a sustainable house is… self-sufficient (water)
7. a sustainable house consumes… minimal resources
8. a sustainable house… doesn’t pollute
9. a sustainable house is… responsibly inhabited
10. a sustainable house is… beautiful and loved
Did you attend the Ballarat Green Drinks Presentation? If you haven’t already done so, I’d LOVE your feedback via this little survey – it will only take a few minutes. A HUGE thanks to everyone who have responded already, there’s been some insightful feedback, and it has given me plenty more questions which I will answer in future posts. (Or please feel free to leave a question in the comments below!)
P.S. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly newsletter (or over there on the top right-hand side of this webpage) so you won’t miss out on our posts!
Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. We like to help answer your questions, so if you have a query please let us know!
We’ve recently added a “Resources” page to our website, as we often find that we’re recommending links or websites to people for further information. This information will be a permanent page which will be regularly updated. But we wanted to share the news with you first, that it is now live. If you have any additional resources to add – please let us know!
There is so much information out there on green buildings, sustainable living and healthy homes, that it can be overwhelming to know where to start!
We’ve compiled this list of resources to help you, and we’ll continue to update it. Hope you’ll find it useful.
Smart Living Centre Ballarat: http://smartlivingballarat.org.au
BREAZE (Ballarat Renewable Energy and Zero Emissions): http://breaze.org.au
Ballarat Permaculture Guild: ballaratpermacultureguild.org/
Ballarat Environment Network: http://ben.org.au
Ballarat Climate Action 2014: http://ballaratclimateaction2014.blogspot.com.au
Ballarat Green Drinks events: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ballarat-Green-Drinks
SUSTAINABLE BUILDING/ARCHITECTURE REFERENCE BOOKS:
“Your Home” Technical Manual (+free online site): http://www.yourhome.gov.au/index.html
“Sustainable House” by Michael Mobbs http://www.sustainablehouse.com.au
“Warm House, Cool House: Inspirational Designs for Low-Energy Housing” (second edition) by Nick Hollo http://www.publish.csiro.au/pid/6869.htm
“Grand Designs Australian Handbook” by Peter Maddison https://shop.abc.net.au/products/grand-designs-aust-handbook-pb
“Cradle to Cradle” by Michael Braungart and William McDonaugh http://www.cradletocradle.com
“Greeniology” by Tanya Ha: http://www.tanyaha.com/greeniology.html
MAGAZINES (PRINT & ONLINE):
Green Magazine: http://greenmagazine.com.au/
Sanctuary Magazine: http://www.sanctuarymagazine.org.au/
ReNew Magazine: http://renew.org.au
Owner Builder Magazine: http://www.theownerbuilder.com.au
Pip Permaculture Magazine: https://www.pipmagazine.com.au
GREEN BUILDING WEBSITES – INSPIRATION & IDEAS:
Inhabitat, Design Will Save The World: http://inhabitat.com
Ecological Homes: http://www.ecologicalhomes.com.au/
Sustainable Design Forum: http://www.sustainabledesignforum.com/
Sustainable House Tours: www.sustainablehouseday.com (Second weekend of September each year).
Your Future Home: www.yourfuturehome.com.au
Home style Green: (NZ-based podcast about living in a healthy and sustainable environment, with international content) http://homestylegreen.com
GENERAL SUSTAINABLE LIVING:
Living Greener: http://www.livinggreener.gov.au
Sustainability Victoria: http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au
Liveability (Live the way you want, sustainably): http://www.liveability.com.au
“GREEN” Wikipedia http://www.greenlivingpedia.org/Greenlivingpedia
Sustainable Living Festival (Sustainable Living Foundation Australia) http://www.slfestival.org
Sustainable Living Guide: http://sustainablelivingguide.com.au
One Million Women: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au This is a national campaign to inspire 1 million Australian women to take practical action on climate change by cutting 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse pollutant causing global warming. Every woman who joins has a personal goal to cut 1 tonne of CO2 from their daily lives within a year of joining the campaign.
Save Water: http://www.savewater.com.au
Rainwater Tank Calculations (free online tool): http://tankulator.ata.org.au
Water Efficient Products: www.waterrating.gov.au
CHOICE (independent publisher of consumer information) www.choice.com.au (Generally considers water efficiency in reports and product/appliance rankings)
Saving Water (Dept of Environment and Primary Industries) http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/water/saving-water
Central Highlands Water (Building and Renovating, Sewer location): http://www.chw.net.au/business/building-and-renovating
Central Highlands Water (Building over easement): http://www.chw.net.au/development/build-over-easements
For solar hot water info, see “RENEWABLE ENERGY” category below
SUSTAINABLE MATERIAL SELECTION:
EcoSpecifier (Certified and verified sustainable products database): www.ecospecifier.org
Good Environmental Choice Australia: http://www.geca.org.au/
Forest Stewardship Council Australia: http://www.fscaustralia.org/
Forest Stewardship Council International: http://www.fsc.org/en/
Good Wood Guide: www.goodwoodguide.org.au
EcoBuy (Sustainable procurement advice and support): www.ecobuy.org.au
Greenlist guide (Moreland City Council): www.sustainablesteps.com.au/pdf/Moreland Greenlist 050905v2.0.pdf
Window Energy Rating Scheme (Window Efficiency Rankings): www.wers.net
APPLIANCES (ENERGY EFFICIENT):
Energy Labelling (Appliances) Energy Rating http://www.energyrating.gov.au/
CHOICE (independent publisher of consumer information) www.choice.com.au (Generally considers energy efficiency in reports and product/appliance rankings)
RENEWABLE ENERGY / SOLAR HOT WATER:
Alternative Technology Association: http://www.ata.org.au
Green-Power Government Accredited Renewable Energy http://www.greenpower.gov.au
Office of the Renewable Energy Target (and rebate info for solar electricity and solar hot water) http://www.orer.gov.au/
Solar Hot Water Rebate: www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/www/html/1376-solar-hot-water-rebate.asp
BREAZE Energy Solutions: http://breaze.org.au/about-bes
WWF Australia’s Ecological Footprint Calculator (for individuals): http://www.wwf.org.au/our_work/people_and_the_environment/human_footprint/footprint_calculator/
Global footprint network calculator: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/gfn/page/calculators
Carbon neutral carbon calculator: http://www.carbonneutral.com.au/carbon-calculator.html
Centre for Sustainable Economy Ecological Footprint Quiz: http://www.myfootprint.org/
Water footprint calculator: http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/YourWaterFootprint
LED LIGHTING CALCULATOR
LED lighting calculator: http://www.ledlightingcalculator.com.au
R-VALUE (INSULATION) CALCULATOR
R-Value Calculator http://rvalue.com.au
WATER TANK CALCULATOR
Rainwater Tank Calculations (free online tool): http://tankulator.ata.org.au
GREEN ROOFS (LIVING ROOFS):
Growing Green Guide: A guide to green roofs, walls and facades in Melbourne and Victoria (free download) http://www.growinggreenguide.org
Sustainable Gardening Australia: www.sgaonline.org.au
Ballarat Permaculture Guild: http://www.ballaratpermacultureguild.org
Permaculture Australia: http://permacultureaustralia.org.au
Holmgren Design, Permaculture vision and innovation: http://holmgren.com.au
Public Transport Victoria: http://ptv.vic.gov.au
Bicycle Network: https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au
Bicycle Route Maps: http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/Moreinfoandservices/Bicycles/BicycleMaps/
CAR-SHARE (Melbourne only at this stage – doesn’t seem to be any in Ballarat yet)
Green Car Share: http://www.greensharecar.com.au
MORE EFFICIENT CARS
Fuel Efficient Cars: http://www.greenvehicleguide.gov.au/
CARBON OFFSET PROGRAMS:
Fifteen Trees (Ballarat-based Tree Planting business): www.fifteentrees.com.au
Greenfleet carbon-offsetting: www.greenfleet.com.au
Climate Friendly carbom-offsetting: www.climatefriendly.com
GENERAL ENVIRONMENTAL / CHARITIES / NGO LINKS:
Climate Council: www.climatecouncil.org.au
Climate Action Network Australia: http://www.cana.net.au/
Australian Conservation Foundation: www.acfonline.org.au
Oxfam Australia: www.oxfam.org.au
Friends Of The Earth: www.foe.org.au
Australian marine conservation society: www.amcs.org.au
Sea Shepherd Australia: http://www.seashepherd.org.au
Amnesty International: www.amnestyinternational.com
Get Up: www.getup.org.au
SUSTAINABILITY & KIDS:
Eco cubby: http://www.eco-cubby.com
“Green Stuff For Kids”, book by Tanya Ha: http://www.tanyaha.com/green-stuff-for-kids.html
USEFUL LINKS FOR YOUR PROJECT:
Climatic Data for your area: www.bom.gov.au/climate/data
DEPI Land Title Register: http://www.land.vic.gov.au
Victoria’s Planning Schemes Online: http://planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au/schemes
“Working with your architect” brochure: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.arbv.vic.gov.au/resource/collection/68DFC359-BAC9-4473-8A61-3AEBA966E77F/Working_With_Your_Architect_Brochure.pdf
We’ll aim to answer more questions about sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes, also with reference to our local climate (Regional Ballarat area in central Victoria and Melbourne) in future posts. Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our monthly news (over there on the top right-hand side of this page) so you won’t miss out on our posts!