Last night I attended a Perth Samplings 2012 (PS12) discussion on Green Tactics at The Bakery in Northbridge.  PS12 is a discussion series by the Office of the Government Architect on issues of architecture and urban design.  The key speaker, Helen Lochhead is the Assistant Government Architect of NSW.

The night was opened by Fred Chaney from Cox Howlett & Bailey Woodland talking about the Katitjin Centre (pictured) at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) complex in Floreat.

I need to start by saying this is not the Liberal politician Fred Chaney but architect and director of Cox Architecture Fred Chaney.  While there is a significant difference in age there is a very close resemblance in features.  Fred has been interested in sustainable building design for many years and has been involved in GBCA’s WA program and is currently on the board.  Katitjin is the education centre at the AIM complex, it overlooks native woodland, and capitalising on that setting was an essential part of the design brief.  Initial discussions with the client were for a sustainable building, but not necessarily meeting any prerequisite star rating.  Apparently the CEO of AIM was previously no fan of the GBCA rating tool but has subsequently had a Road to Damascus revelation.  Initial discussions with Nedlands Council were on a 4 or 5 star rated building.  The outcome achieved 6 stars.  As mentioned the brief was to make the best of the site’s advantages while resulting in a building that facilitated good learning.  As is often the case, good architecture that results in good space is often well along the sustainability curve.  The key features in achieving 6 stars were use of fly ash in the concrete, good temperature resilience of the large windows overlooking the parkland and choice of low emitting furnishings and fittings.  There is also a large underground rainwater storage tank.  BUT the major contributor was a large PV array on the roof which offsets the power use of conventional air conditioning, no thermal mass or chill beams for this building.  The building is designed to be power neutral, generating the same as its demand on an annual basis, this results in a need for back-feeding the grid when supply exceeds demand.  One of the downsides of this project was the time and negotiations required to come to agreement with the utility provider.  Fred finished with his checklist for success of green building design, such as client demand, consistency across regulators and client needs, a better understanding of the financial payback from an increased initial investment and ratings tools that reflect location.

Helen Lochhead presented a more global view, covering her Churchill Fellowship funded trip to London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Malmo, New York, Boston, Chicago and Vancouver.  The presentation was a planetary journey weaving concepts from the trip with Helen’s work in Sydney.  She started with a topic list which had a striking similarity to Fred’s checklist, showing consistency of experience and thinking.  Many of Helen’s examples were based on rehabilitation projects in big cities that improved the quality of the public domain.  Chicago pioneered green roofs and started by greening half of the city admin building (pictured).  Heat camera shots graphically shows the difference in performance of each side of the building.  The heat island effect contributes significantly to urban temperatures and greening a place is a very effective mechanism for addressing this whilst also improving the public space.  Helen looked at projects as varied as rehabilitation of what is reputed to be the world’s largest landfill site on Staten Island, and returning the waterfront of Sydney back to the community.  Predictably, work on the Olympic site in East London was put under the microscope, whilst the heart of the action was like many other Olympic sites, the work on the depressed surrounding areas will be a positive legacy for decades to come.  Given the debate about an ocean pool in Fremantle, Helen’s report on a swimming pool they tow to locations around Copenhagen’s harbour is salient.  This became a reality when cleaning the harbour was so successful people could once again swim in it.  Her ultimate message was for us to work with nature to make our cities more livable places and to engage with people in the projects from the onset so the community have real ownership of the spaces, be they pocket-parks or major redevelopment sites.

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