Sustainable Development and Architecture


We spoke to Professor George Earl, Head of Bond University’s Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture, about the institute, the 6 Star Green Rated status of their building, urban mining and smart design. 

One of the research studies carried out by your institute demonstrated that “green buildings” are not only good for the environment but also for the people who work in them. We recently posted an article about these very interesting findings on the Urban Mining blog. Could you tell us a little bit about your building? 

We effectively opened the doors of the Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture in 2007, although I started the process in late 2005. The building in which the institute is housed received the first 6 Star Green rated Status for an Australian building, which in LEED terms, is equivalent to platinum. Our building was the first educational building to achieve this rating. Although there are a couple of buildings currently attempting to acquire that accreditation, I still think we are the only one to have actually achieved it. What I am particularly proud of, apart from the fact that I initiated the entire process, is that we actually achieved this accreditation with a very simple building. Our building does not have a lot of, what I call ‘gadgets’ in it and instead, it achieved this stand through the incorporation of simple strategies, such as the use of natural ventilation, natural light and recycling. We have a lot of recycled materials in the building; I believe that 60% of the steel used in the building is recycled steel. 

What are some of the places that you acquired these secondary resources from? 

The materials were sourced in Australia. We have quite a significant steel production industry here and we acquired the materials for our building from recycled materials, out of buildings that had been demolished. The steel was then recycled into the sections necessary for the construction of our building. Actually, most of the materials used in the building are recycled materials: all of the timber used was recycled timber, the plasterboard was made of reconstituted plasterboard, we even used low emission paint. The furniture in the building is either recycled furniture or is made out of recycled material, which means that we have some very interesting and famous pieces of furniture in our building. We have a Greywater recycling system. We took about 70% of the power out of the building and regenerated about 50% of our own power. We have a regenerative lift and I think we recycled something like 95% of the building waste during construction. 

That is very impressive. Is the use of secondary resources in the building process quite common in Australia or is this something that is still in its infancy? 

It’s still relatively new, although recycled materials are being used increasingly. In Australia, we have 3 layers of government: federal, state and local government, and all of them have either a legislative or an in kind legislative policy that all buildings that they occupy must achieve a 5 Star Green Star rating, which again, if I put it into a LEED context, would be gold LEED. Therefore, most of the new buildings in 

Australia now have to incorporate a lot of the elements that have been incorporated in the construction of our building; otherwise they can not achieve this standard. 

What are some of the projects that the Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture is currently working on? 

I’ll tell you a little bit about what I think is one of the most interesting projects we are currently working on. We have a client not too far from us who would like to develop a sustainable suburb. It’s a very large community of about 4,000 hectares and the client’s aim is to incorporate all of the elements surrounding sustainability into it. We are therefore not only focusing on the building materials that are being used for this project but are also looking at providing about 30% of the suburb’s base-food, which will reduce the amount of food, which will have to be brought into the suburb. In addition, we are looking at the recycling of waste and at the production of their own water and power supply. The institute is currently working on this project and it is going to be about a 20-year project. 

Are the students who attend the Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture aware of the concept of urban mining and is it something that is incorporated into their studies? 

They probably don’t use that terminology and in fact, when I was contacted about an interview for Urban Mining I thought I had to look up what ‘urban mining’ was. However, here at the institute, we are very heavily into large cycle analysis of buildings and we do quite a lot of that. We also focus quite a lot on the reduction of the carbon footprint of developments. The students at our institute look at the use of recycled materials as well as the life-cycle analysis of buildings. So, although we do not use the term, ‘urban mining’, we actually do incorporate the idea behind this concept a lot in terms of our programs. 

Have you noticed a change in people’s attitudes towards sustainability and reusing materials in architecture and in building over the past 10 years or so? 

Over the past 10 years, yes! Australia now has legislations in place which are encouraging people to become more aware of what sustainability is about. 

I think that people now realise that we can’t just keep digging holes in the ground, although Australia is very good at it. I’ve just come from North-West Australia and there are some pretty big holes there. Nevertheless, I think that the country as a whole is becoming more aware of it. A lot of design is now not only looking at recycling but at adaptive re-use and this is something that we strongly focus on at the institute. 

What is adaptive re-use? 

Adaptive re-use is really about seeing how we can re-use existing materials in another way, without having to recycle them. There is a lot of embodied energy in recycling so, if you can actually have adaptive re-use rather than recycling, it has much lower embodied energy. Obviously we look towards recycling but if we can incorporate adaptive re-use before recycling, then that’s the way we go. 

Urban mining is not just about extracting resources that are stored in anthropogenic landscapes but part of the concept of urban mining is to think about how products can be designed in smarter ways. It’s about considering, during the conceptual stage of development, the re-extraction of resources for when products have reached the end of their lifecycle. What does smart design mean to you? 

I’ll tell you about a concept I floated nearly 30 years ago. I came from a product development background before I moved into academia and at the time, we were looking at the very short use of an office building for about 10 years. To get an effective rent from a building which would be demolished after 10 years was nearly impossible. So one of the concepts that I came up with, was to consider the use of glass and steel in a way that would make them as easy as possible to reclaim out of the building at the end of its life cycle. Both glass and steel can be recycled quite easily, so the best thing to do is to use them in their purest form, rather than embedded in other materials. 

I proposed that we actually design a building which was built out of raw steel checkered plates, on the ground, which would act as floor boards and the glass was just raw glass, held together with silicone and when we’d finished we could pull it down and recycle it. 

So that was one thing I proposed about 30 years ago. It was quite a radical proposition for its time but I have always liked considering materials that can be re-used easily. In fact, the steel sheeting on the outside of our institute’s building was all designed so that it could be taken down and re-used again. If you look at the outside of our building, you will see a lot of raw steel members. We specifically used raw steel sheeting because it can be re-used easily. That was the whole concept of the outside cladding of the building and was also one of the contributing factors to the 6 Star Green Star rating that the building received. 

For more information please visit the Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture.


Bauen in reinster Form

Vor Kurzem haben wir über die Forschungstätigkeit von Prof. George Earl von der australischen Bond University berichtet. Sein Team konnte nachweisen, dass Menschen in sogenannten Green Buildings produktiver arbeiten und gesünder sind als in normalen Gebäuden. Green Buildings bestehen aus recycelten und umweltfreundlichen Materialen.

Das Institut, in dem das Forschungsteam beheimatet ist, war das erste in Australien, das die höchste Bewertung für nachhaltiges Bauen bekam. Besonders stolz ist Earl auf die Tatsache, dass sie es geschafft haben, diese Auszeichnung für ein vergleichsweise einfach konstruiertes Gebäude erhalten zu haben. Statt auf technische Gadgets setzte man auf natürliche Luftzirkulation, recycelte Baumaterialien und Sonnenlicht.

Wichtiger noch als Wiederverwertung ist Earl aber die Wiederverwendung von Werkstoffen. So könne man schon einen Schritt vor dem Recycling einsetzen, und zudem Energie sparen.

Um diese Idee in die Tat umzusetzen, schlägt Earl einen neuen Designansatz vor: Materialen können immer dann am einfachsten wiederverwendet werden, wenn sie in ihrer Reinform zum Einsatz kommen. So sieht man etwa auch an der Fassade des Universitätsgebäudes die rohen Stahlelemente. Und weiß sofort, was dran ist, ist drin.

Image courtesy of Bond University’s Institute of Sustainable Development and Architecture. 

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