Harry Strouzas

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Our Modern Dining Tables

Modern Dining Tables Feature: Pende

At a Glance

Typically with today’s product heavy websites, you get bombarded with a million products.  Then comes the hard part.  You have to navigate the plethora of information and try and make sense of what is what, who designed it and who (and where) it’s made.  Then you must figure out which products are more in tune with your style and expression.  Well, we’re handling things a little differently here.  Rather than simply bombard you with product, we’ve decided to gather all of the same type of product (ie: modern dining tables) in one simple place.  This way,  you can see at a glance what we design and manufacture in this field, and also some defining characteristic about each item.  Of course you can always look at each of our modern dining tables in the normal way by referring to our product category “to lounge, eat + sleep.

As we add more products within each of our specific furniture types’ we will ensure that we keep this post up to date.  So in many ways, this area becomes another useful tool, if you prefer seeing all your options at once.  For those of you that do, this is for you.

Importantly

We will not bombard you with the same amount of information on each of our modern dining tables as is present on the specific product pages.  Rather, this article aims to provide more of a holistic overview, so you can determine if you’d like to find out more.  Then it’s just a matter of clicking on the specific link/title to get all the information and imagery you desire.  Now to the list…….

 Pende Dining Table

Pende Table Series
Pende Dining Table Flanked by Two Side Tables

This is our minimalist table design which utilises physics, geometry and forces to create a most elegant design solution.  This modern dining table has won international design awards in Italy, Germany and the U.S.A.

It solves numerous problems that other criss-cross tables have.  The legs are not thick, chunky or wasteful.  The entire frame is very easy to assemble and disassemble.  And the table is both light, yet incredibly durable and stable.  The whole table is easily flatpack-able for transport purposes too.  A light globe can even be integrated into the design if desired.

The word “Pende” references the number “five” in Greek.  However this patent pending design is also completely adaptable to any number of legs.  So long as there are more than two!  The glass tops are also available in numerous shapes including, squares, circles, rectangles and ellipses.  As a further design feature, you can create very large dining tables by simply grouping two or more together.  It’s that easy!

The Pende design is also Internationally registered.  It’s a completely unique, minimalist and most contemporary design.

Stroma Dining Table 

Steel frame table with Armchair
Stroma Dining Table with Armchair

The Stroma is the latest edition in our range of modern dining tables.  This design focuses on layers, both in materials used as well as the overall form.  The Stroma is elegant and streamlined, yet robust and tough.

The design is most striking when presented in a large rectangular form.  The top is available in a number of Australian hardwoods.  The structural frame is available in overlapping, finely brushed, stainless steel.  Rather than doing the normal thing with large tables and using larger sectioned steel, we decided to do something unique.  We used thin sectioned stainless steel elements and then layered the long side frames with the shorter ones.  This in turn provides an incredibly stable under frame which is full of negative space and is visually intriguing.

We are currently working on a complimentary coffee table version as we think the Stroma is so aesthetically striking that it should be appreciated in various forms and scales.

Grove Dining Table

Grove Table
10 Seater Grove Table.  American Oak Top.

The Grove is a contemporary dining table that suits those who want a definite central focus piece to their eating environment.  The Grove is big, heavy and can easily be scaled to suit various rooms.  It’s the epitome of large format dining tables.

This is a design which is minimalist at its core.  It very often suits coastal homes which are on the larger size spectrum.  The design is clean and uncluttered and can facilitate many chairs.  Great for large dinner parties or for spreading out your favourite broadsheet newspaper over a big breakfast.

The top is made using thick Australian timbers.   The base is powder coated, square section, mild steel – completely welded together.  The legs can also be joined at the bottom on the shorter ends if desired.  A phrase which we think is suitable in describing the Grove series is “coastal chic”.

Alpine Dining Table

European Walnut Table Top and Leg
Alpine Dining Table Corner Detail

The Alpine table is for lovers of natural timber – and there are a lot who fall into that group.  The timber is all that’s on show, and beautifully so.  The design itself appears simple – and in reality, it is.  However such large tables with fully exposed leg end-grain, can only work if they are meticulously crafted.  And ours are!

There is no traditional leg and rail under frame which the top can simply rest on.  With this minimalist design the table top is as much a part of the structure as the legs.  The top must have cut outs in the corners to accept the square section legs.  And for this to look so clean and contemporary, the jointing must be absolutely precise.

The Alpine suits high quality timbers and is also very adaptable regarding size and shape.  It’s often just as easy to make an eight seater version as it is to make a twelve seater.  It’s all about the craftsmanship and joinery.

Hull Dining Tables

Hull Dining Table
Hull Dining Table Under frame

These modern dining tables are most unique.  The under frame references the traditional, wooden, cross bracing framework used in wooden boat building.  The under frame is an incredibly sophisticated piece of  engineering.

We utilise marine ply in our Hull tables as we feel that it best represents the layered nature of the interlocking structure.  The finish of each table is a world first also.  The clear under frame and white top is powder coated in a matte finish which is entirely VOC (volatile organic compound) free.  This means that there are no toxins at all, making each table completely safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly.  All finishing is done in country Victoria.

 

Available in both rectilinear and rounded forms – each in 3 different sizes, there’s sure to be a Hull table to suit your requirements and space.  The 360º series relates to circular and elliptical tops.  For square and rectangular tops please refer to the 90º series.

 

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Modernica Chairs, Eames Chairs or Fibreglass Chairs?

Modernica Fibreglass Chairs
Modernica Dowel Legs Assortment

What’s in a Name and Who Really Cares?

These chairs are genuine design classics. They have been copied for as long as cheap, mass produced furniture retailers have existed. But there’s a world of difference between the cheap, plastic rubbish that furnish so many display homes and offices and the true fibreglass originals. But what are they actually called? Eames chairs? Modernica Chairs? Or simply, fibreglass chairs? Well, there is much background to their story. And truth be told, they’re so important to the designer furniture world that they can handle many monikers. So why worry about what they’re actually called? Let’s actually learn something worthwhile and look beneath the surface.

Modernica Stacking Chair Mix
Fibreglass Stacking Chairs with Powder Coated Legs

Modernica Inc

Modernica represents an American ideal. Office headquarters and manufacturing is based in an expansive five acre campus in Los Angeles, California. It has been family owned and operated since its inception almost thirty years ago. And each piece of furniture is made by skilled craftspeople using appropriate technology (more on this below) and with Modernica’s famous ‘one-by-one’ focus. Click for the official Modernica website here.

Yes, Modernica has an incredible timber furniture manufacturing ability, and its upholstery is genuinely first class, as too is its ceramics workshops. But there’s one area that is uniquely their own. An area where they are pioneers and where they truly stand alone. Fibreglass.

Modernica Fibreglass Chair
Backlit Fibreglass

The company is responsible for essentially bringing back, almost ‘from the dead’, the art of high-pressure fibreglass moulding. Since the late nineties Modernica has been making one of the most enduring chair designs in it’s original fibreglass form. Each chair shell is made by hand, one by one, using the original presses and machinery from the 1950’s. Modernica chairs are 100% authentic.

Fibreglass

The original chair design was conceived by the iconic American design team of Charles and Ray Eames. In fact they designed the first fibreglass shell chair back in 1948. This formed their original entry into The Museum of Modern Art’s International Design Competition. Hence one could never argue against the ubiquitous use of the term ‘Eames chairs”. Design development and prototyping originally took place in the late forties and early fifties in Southern California. In fact the very first shell chairs were available for sale in the spring of 1950. How fitting that manufacturing and production continues at its spiritual home, today.

For more on the prolific design team of Charles and Ray Eames, click here.

Modernica Original Press
Original Fibreglass Moulding Press

Authenticity

In fact all the fibreglass Modernica chairs are made utilising all the original presses and specialised equipment obtained from Zenith Plastics who pioneered the emerging fibreglass technology 65+ years ago. To further ensure complete authenticity of production, the initial shell chair production was overseen by senior members of the prototyping team that developed the original technology back in the fifties: Sol Fingerhut and Irv Green. How’s that for commitment to the cause!

Modernica Fiberglass Shell
Modernica Fiberglass Shell

In those pioneering years, fibreglass was considered an ultra high tech material. Its enduring quality remains today, as it remains both lightweight and heavy duty. This is a killer combination in anyone’s language. Furthermore, it is easy to clean and very robust. Perfectly suited to seating. And it is also beautiful to look at. It has so much more texture and interesting patterns inherent in the glass fibres themselves. Plain coloured, matte, dull, easily damaged plastic simply simply has no place in terms of a comparison to the aesthetic beauty of polished, coloured, textured fibreglass. They are in different leagues entirely.

Please follow this link to see a short video depicting the fibreglass moulding presses and processes. The Modernica Way.

Modernica Eiffel Fibreglass Chairs
Custom Patterns on Fibreglass Eiffel Chairs

Modernica Chairs Today

As stated on their website…..”Modernica creates each chair with the charge of adhering to the original tactile qualities, texture, and characteristics that alone are unique to the fiberglass shell chair.” And each of the thousands of Modernica chairs are still made utilising the historic equipment and traditional techniques.

Fibreglass Shell Chair
Modernica Fibreglass Shell with Spider Legs

However, times change as do consumer tastes. Hence Modernica chairs are now available in many, many more colours and patterns than could ever have been dreamed of way back when. There are also numerous base options too. And nowadays Modernica collaborates with many modern designers to create very contemporary patterns utilising the latest computer technology. All of this means that you can in fact mix and match to your heart’s content in order to create your own perfect look.

Modernica + Vans
Modernica Fibreglass Chairs + Vans Footware

But What’s The Real Name?

OK, we get it. Some people just have to know what these chairs are really called. And if you’ve made it this far, you’re most definitely design nerds like us. Furthermore, given this fact you deserve to know the truth. But you will be surprised!

In fact these Modernica chairs are officially referred to as follows:
1. Armless chairs:
Case Study Furniture® Side Shell Eiffel/Dowel/H Base/Stackable/insert type of leg arrangement here.
2. Armchairs:
Case Study Furniture® Arm Shell Eiffel/Dowel/H Base/Stackable/insert type of leg arrangement here.

Sexy hey? Now you might be a little more lenient (like us) re the using and abusing of the much simpler names people have come up with over the years. And yes, we know your next question…….”where does the term case study come from”? Well, we’ll leave you hanging on that one. We’re sure you’ll look into it and find out for yourself. The answer isn’t too hard to find.

Modernica Rocker with dog
Modernica Rocker with French Bulldog

Thanks for reading, and good luck with the Case Study® hunt. The truth is out there. We promise!

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Good Design Award 2018 Chicago Athenaeum

Good Design Award Chicago Athenaeum

We are very proud to announce that we have received official word from the U.S that PodMarket® has just received the Good Design Award for its Pende furniture series. This design just keeps catching the attention of the world’s best, which is both humbling and something we are also very proud of.

Below is an excerpt from the Good Design Award website. It provides a concise explanation as to why this particular award is so revered in the design community.

You can read the actual letter we received in the mail telling us of our win at the very end of this post. You can also view the online award page here.

The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd. present the Museum’s annual GOOD DESIGN® ®Awards Program for the most innovative and cutting-edge industrial, product, and graphic designs produced around the world. 

Good Design Awards Sixty Eight
Good Design Award 68 Years

History 1950-2018. Sixty-Eight Years

The GOOD DESIGN exhibition program began as a partnership between the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and is continued today by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. It was the first time that an art museum and a wholesale merchandising centre joined forces to present “the best new examples in modern design in home furnishings.”   

Now in its 68th year, GOOD DESIGN is the oldest and the most prestigious Awards Program organised worldwide. Founded in Chicago in 1950 by the former MoMA curator Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., together with such pioneers in modern design as Charles and Ray Eames, Russel Wright, George Nelson, and Eero Saarinen, GOOD DESIGN honours the yearly achievements of the best industrial and graphic designers and world manufacturers for their pursuit of extraordinary design excellence.

For over seven decades since its inception, The Chicago Athenaeum continues the organisation of the program to create a revived awareness  about contemporary design and to honour both products and industry leaders in design and manufacturing that have chartered new directions and pushed the envelope for competitive products in the world marketplace. Every year, designers and manufactures in about 50 nations are honoured for their singular achievements in producing hallmarks of contemporary design. For 65 years, everything and anything produced in and for the environment from a paperclip to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner or NASA Space Ship have been honoured.  About The Iconic Good Design Award Logo

The Good Design Award Logo

The GOOD DESIGN logo was designed by Chicago designer, Mort Goldsholl, in 1950.  The black dot and square-shaped logo is used  globally by winning companies to publicly  announce that their products and graphic designs have met the most  strident and professional criteria and highest standard for international Design  Excellence. Since 1950, the Museum has awarded approximately 40,000 GOOD DESIGN Awards for design and innovation, sustainability, creativity, branding, ecologically responsible design, human factors, materials, technology, graphic arts, packaging, and universal design by various industrial design and graphic design firms working for the world’s major manufacturers and Fortune 500 companies in over 50 countries.

Official Letter Received in late December 2018

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Press Kit – A’ Design Awards

Press Kit

A follow up to our article about the requirements and information requested by the various Design Awards we have won recently. The A’ Design awards (Italian) wanted the most information from its entrants, but the Press Kit they produced based on the answers provided was quite astonishing.

To give an example of the amazing automated press kit that the A’ Design Awards pulls together from the plethora of material requested, please refer to the example below or this press release.

Silver A' Design Awards for Press Kit
A’ Design Award Winning Design

Pende Series Multifunctional Table by Harry Strouzas and Fiona McKenzie – Press Kit

DESIGN DETAILS

DESIGN NAME: Pende Series

PRIMARY FUNCTION: Multifunctional Table

INSPIRATION:

Our goal:To make improvements to the standard criss-cross table leg form. Such frames typically have 3-4 oversized legs connected via inelegant, wasteful, material (strength) removing, angled joints. We were determined to find a better way. We explored geometry and physics. We desired strength/rigidity without added weight or mass. Our solution exceeded expectations. Not only limited to tables or 5 legs. Any leg number (3+) is possible as too is the application; stool, lamp, coat stand, seat…

UNIQUE PROPERTIES / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:

The Pende utilises physics to produce a unique table series. Minimal components interconnect to provide incredible rigidity. Clean uncluttered lines belie the complex interplay of a polygon bracket, straight legs and structural top. Self tightening without adhesives. Very light and flat packable. A connectable wooden bracket allows a globe to be fitted underneath thus producing a feature lamp. The design can be adapted to varying leg numbers and different structures, eg: stools, coat stands.

OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTION:

Each Pende table is very easily assembled. Although the process is intuitive, it will nevertheless result in a much deeper appreciation of the design. The obvious research into the various forces & angles at play will become very evident when one examines the interplay between the legs, polygon bracket and top. The deceptively simple manner in which the Pende can be turned into a beautiful, freestanding lamp (all without tools) will further enhance the user’s affinity with this resolved design.

PROJECT DURATION AND LOCATION:

A self driven project by PodMarket. We were determined to find a better way to create an eye catching, structural, criss-cross form, which did not use complicated joinery, large section material or heavy welding. Initial development began in early 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. The resolved design and prototypes were completed in early 2017, in Melbourne. Display: PodMarket showroom, Melbourne. Interest via by the German Design Council and certain manufacturers in Munich.

FITS BEST INTO CATEGORY:

Furniture, Decorative Items and Homeware Design

PRODUCTION / REALIZATION TECHNOLOGY:

The Pende series is perfectly suited to batch production. Totally flat packable. Materials: Legs: solid wood; Top: glass, wood or veneer board; Polygon bracket: stainless steel (welded) or chrome plated (cast) brass; Connectors: stainless steel. The patent pending bracket is the only form of fixing the solid legs require. The entire under-frame is self-tightening, self-supporting and very strong. No adhesive or any requirement for potentially complicated compound-angle jointing.

SPECIFICATIONS / TECHNICAL PROPERTIES:

Pende Dining (square) 1100 x 1100 x 760mm / (round) 1100 Diameter x 760mm. Pende Low (square) 800 x 800 x 390mm / (round) 800 Diameter x 390mm. Pende Side (square) 450 x 450 x 610mm / (round) 450 Diameter x 610mm. Note: all sizes available with integrated light (optional).

TAGS:

table design, geometric, minimalist, contemporary design, lightweight, table lamp, multifunctional, coat stand

RESEARCH ABSTRACT:

We analysed forces attributable to furniture and examined how they’re absorbed, via physical testing/prototyping, computer modelling and discussion with engineers. We researched how structures disperse loads and noted that minimalist angular frames were consequently found in places where the forces too were minimal. Bigger tables always compensated by utilising heavy joinery techniques & sections. Geometry & engineering allowed us to utilise much smaller sections with minimal materials.

CHALLENGE:

The most challenging aspect was overcoming stubborn, non-suggestive feedback from experts when a particular proposal didn’t work. “There’s nothing else you can really do” or “I told you that wouldn’t work” was typically heard from during development. Managing different specialist knowledge was also difficult as one improvement in one aspect would often result in a negative production requirement later on. Really listening and absorbing the key issues was paramount in developing solutions.

TEAM MEMBERS (2) :

Harry Strouzas and Fiona McKenzie

PATENTS/COPYRIGHTS:

Pende Patent Pending, Australia, Dec 2017 Application No: upon request. Design Registration, Australia, July 2017. Frame Assembly Registration No: 201710042 Bracket Registration No: 201710055 Design Patent Application, USA, July 2017. 5 Point Stand Application No: 29 609 619 Bracket Application No: 29 609 623 Design Registration, China, July 2017. Frame Assembly Registration No: 2017302887300 Bracket Registration No: 2017302891128 Design Registration, EU, June 2017. Support Structure Registration No: 004062511 839096

Visit the following page to learn more: https://www.podmarket.com.au/

CLIENT/STUDIO/BRAND DETAILS

NAME: PodMarket Pty Ltd

PROFILE:

PodMarket Pty Ltd is an Australian company owned and driven by Fiona McKenzie and Harry Strouzas. Harry (lead designer) has invented an original table frawework, and other innovative furniture pieces. The Pende series has emerged via research into geometry and physical forces, culminating in an structure that uses minimal materials, no glue or reinforcement of joints, and a flat pack approach to the ubiquitous criss-cross frame. The Pende symbolises the ethos of PodMarket, which eschews showy, decorative visual aspects and prefers an honest, sustainable approach to design. The intelligence in the PodMarket range is often found in connection details, often hidden from view. Hence an observer may walk past a piece such as the Pende, thinking “just another criss-cross table”. That observer may not realise the engineering and physics involved which has justified a patent application, asserting the Pende as more than a new visual design:an invention. Harry’s approach to furniture design is somewhat informed by his highly analytical mind. Initially a commerce graduate who worked in finance, he decided to follow his passion. He studied & worked as a furniture maker in Australia, and graduated with first class honours from Buckinghamshire New University in England with a BA, Furniture Design and Craftsmanship. His father (an engineer) trained Harry in problem solving in the field of mechanical engineering by taking him to countless manufacturing/production lines in and around Melbourne as part of his work. This strongly influenced Harry in his furniture design process, which often involves innovative engineering solutions using metal, solid wood, glass and plastics.

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Design Awards – Criteria, Conditions + Prestige

Prestige = Black Tie Gala

Not all design awards are created equal. They all have different entry criteria and conditions. Some are held in high prestige. Others less so.

Over the past year PodMarket® has won a few international design awards. We have learnt a lot going through the entire process – from entry, to announcement of award to collection of award. What has been interesting is that we have in fact learned quite a bit about the design world by going through the processes and procedures associated with various high profile awards. Prestige and provenance was a driving factor as to the few awards that we entered.

It’s quite incredible just how much they all vary from one other, even though they essentially examine the same field (furniture and interiors). All have been very accommodating and quite distinctive in what they have wanted from us. It’s an indicator (to us at least) that they are in fact all geared slightly towards different objectives.

As a general comment; the prestige associated with winning design awards is one thing, however the whole process can best be described as a Catch 22.  On the one hand, there are a group of high quality awards that are genuinely interested in great and innovative design regardless of the field they’re in. They do their best to determine what they deem is good/great design and thus promote the winning designers and their businesses accordingly. On the other hand, there is also a business side to their existence. High profile awards (regardless of the category or class) actually require lots of interest, entries, recognition and essentially applications to keep their status and reputations right up where they want them to be. Prestige after all, comes at a cost! Hence the long and massively varied list of things that they want from the designers.

So far PodMarket® has won awards in Italy, Germany and the United States. We have also entered an award here in Australia, but interestingly we didn’t even make it onto the shortlist here at home. Not sure what that tells us???

Prestige = Iconic Awards
Iconic Awards: Innovative Interior 2018

In our experience, the German Design Council was very efficient and “to the point with their requirements”. This may not be surprising to anyone. They laid it all out on the table very early on and you knew exactly what was required from you. The only exception to this was the fact that we had to provide all of our “boilerplates” in both English and German, and their website wouldn’t accept anything (in terms of an acceptable entry) until this was done. The character limit was also an issue to deal with where translations were involved. Luckily, Harry’s cousin married a German and we had some inside help with these time consuming translations. Thank you Ralf! You could only submit 5 images and your descriptions had to be concise and on topic. Prestige = efficiency and completeness.

Prestige = GDA
German Design Awards Catalogue 2018

The Italians’ process was super impressive too, but in a different way. These awards were prolific in their detailed explanations and correspondence. Their emails contained soooooo much information and had many embedded hyperlinks, that it became quite a large job to assimilate them all. We even needed to run a separate spreadsheet to co-ordinate all the dates, as they were getting the better of us. The Italians wanted all sorts of extra stuff too, and we couldn’t quite work out why. A few late nights (and a few chiantis) were part of this process. Then it hit us as soon as we were notified of our success. By filling out over 100 interview style questions and loading all sorts of images in very, very specific formats and sizes (even a great number without the furniture itself), the A’ Design Awards then produced a very impressive, fully detailed and professional Press Kit. Nice surprise that one and a big grazie to them and their impressive automated processes. Prestige = marketing and communication.

A'Design Awards Red Carpet. Prestige
Red Carpet at Awards Gala, Lake Como, Italy

The Americans had the luxury of co-ordinating the oldest and arguably the most famous design award of all – The Good Design Awards, based in Chicago. We believe this was their 68th year! Their requirements were far more flexible. There were certainly suggestions as to the number of images and videos to include, but you as the designers had to make up your own minds as to the best way to present your work. What was remarkable however, was their willingness to answer any specific questions or issues that one might have in a great deal of detail. This really helped streamline the process, and resulted in a very tailored and effective application. I guess when you’ve been running the awards for almost 70 years, you learn a thing or two along the way. Prestige = provenance and flexibility.

Prestige Good Design Awards
Not Quite the Academy Awards, but Cool Nonetheless

The Australian awards were a lot more relaxed and laid back as one might expect. Not a heap of categories to select from – only 8 in total. Not a lot of information was required to provide and in general there were not too many constraints or suggestions. Here you have a lot more flexibility to handle things however you like. Prestige = minimalism.

Anyway, the above is just an information dump to show how different these awards are, and how differently they handle things. They all still need applications and entry fees to be paid, but the way they go about this is very different indeed. The bottom line is that we here at PodMarket® are very happy with the acknowledgement of our various winning designs. and we’d like to thank each of the awards committees for their input and feedback.

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A’ Design Awards, Grazie Mille!

A' Design Awards Logo

We are very grateful that the awards season has continued in earnest for PodMarket®.  This time it’s the A’ Design Awards based in Italy.

We received word late in mid 2018 that PodMarket® has received another international design award. Not bad from a Melbourne based studio, all the way on the other side of the earth. This time it’s the Italian A’ Design Awards. The Pende series of furniture was awarded the Silver Prize within the Furniture and Homeware Design category.  This one surprised us quite a bit, and it’s quite an honour to say the least.

We will be heading off in June/July to Lake Como to accept the design award at the fancy Gala event, which is to be held at the old opera theatre in the heart of the old town.  Ah, it’s just like the academy awards.

This Pende series has now been officially recognised on an International level by receiving various awards, including the German Design Award (nomination), the ICONIC Innovative Interiors Award (also German) and now the A’ Design Award in Italy. Given this range didn’t rate that highly with local judges here at home, this seems even stranger and a lot funnier to us now.  But we will not use this as an excuse to take a swipe at the  design knowledge and prowess of the design experts here at home.  Good design is after all very much a subjective thing, and we understand that.

Silver A' Design Awards
A’ Design Awards, PodMarket®, Pende Series.

Note: since the original time of writing this post, we have also won a Good Design Award from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design.  Please refer to our post specifically on this Good Design award here.

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Why our 9+ Star Superpod® House Barely Reaches 7 NatHERS Stars

2D South Elevation Drawing

Why our 9+ Star Superpod® House Barely Reaches 7 NatHERS Stars.

This is the street frontage of an old house, showing a Superpod® house extension going up soon (peeking out from behind) in an old established part of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The house at the front is very old. In fact, the houses in this street are 130 years old.

The Superpod® house extension at the back is over 200 sqm with 2 storeys, 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, kitchen, dining, and 2 lounges. You won’t see it much from the street. It’s the shaded orange part in this image.

The extension, if it was rated under the NatHERs energy rating scheme, would be a 9 star house.

Sounds good, but we think it’s better than that. That’s because the NatHERS scheme doesn’t fully recognise all the benefits of our certifiable passive house system. Like the performance of our fully imported windows. Or our thermal breaks. Or our airtightness.

Check out one of our previous stories on this: NatHERs star rating doesn’t test airtightness

But, alas, we can barely reach 7 stars with this whole building. That is, taking into account the old house together with the super performing extension. Retrofitting the old 1890’s house at the front isn’t going to make it easy. It faces south. It’s got single glazed windows. And insulating the poor old walls will be a trick.

But let’s focus on the good part. We are facing climate change head on. We are providing optimum comfort and health. We are loosening the hold of the ever growing power bill. All this without solar panels. It’s the good building that counts. Jewellery on the roof doesn’t replace decent clothing in the fabric of the building.

PS Our Superpod® system is a fast, easy way to achieve the world’s best practice for energy efficiency and comfort. The International Passive House Standard. Our patent pending system (United States next, here we come!) is available for licence to designers, developers and builders. From tiny pods to high rise and commercial buildings.

I know, it’s hard to get your head around. Licensing a building system? After years of developing our IP we think it’s worth it. Innovation is often hard to get your head around. We look forward to co-innovators who want to work with us!

2D South Elevation Drawing
2D South Elevation Drawing

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Just Who Is Fiona McKenzie?

Fiona McKenzie Podmarket

A feature article about our founding director, Fiona McKenzie, which partly explains her training, expertise and passion for rigorous and creative thinking.

This article was originally presented in the February 2018 issue of the Law Institute Journal of Victoria.

Building for the future

Fiona McKenzie
Fiona McKenzie

By Karin Derkley

01 Feb 2018

The rigorous discipline associated with law has been the perfect foundation for designing a failsafe building system.

Barrister Fiona McKenzie is not one for sitting around watching TV after work. Instead the administrative law specialist has been using her spare time over the past couple of years boning up on physics and engineering and poring over spreadsheets to devise sustainable building systems and design award­ winning furniture.

“I’ve always been interested in design and artistic expression as well as the law,” she says. “I’ve never been just a bookish person or just a creative person – I like having a balance between those two sides of me.”

Helping out family and friends with their renovation projects started as a way of “feeding that other part of my brain,” she says. But then the lawyer part of her brain became intrigued by how to make buildings work better.

“I became very interested in the engineering aspect of how buildings perform and affect the comfort of their occupants,” she says. “I put on my legal research hat to interrogate these things.”

That led her to what she says is the best building standard in the world, the International Passive House Building Standard, which uses physics­ based engineering to create buildings that reduce energy use by up to 90 per cent.

Evenings and weekends were spent reviving her high school maths and physics to calculate exactly how a building can be designed for complete control of the indoor environment. “It is about designing a thermally sealed building envelope that ensures there are no air leaks, while also providing fresh filtered air all year round.”

That involves designing carefully designed joins, double or even triple glazed windows depending on the local climate and orientation, and high levels of insulation.

“The idea is to create a building that is completely comfortable for its occupants and that is also beautiful,” she says. “Things have got to work practically but they also need to be well ­designed and look and feel good.”

Ms McKenzie built her first prototype Superpod passive house in Cape Paterson in 2015, which was recognised with a Good Design Award. She decided it was so important and useful she has refined the system to offer to others. “Once I got the building envelope right, I wanted to look at a more holistic offering and offer different looks.”

That part has been a challenge. The building industry is resistant to new ways of building, she says. So she is relying on commercial projects in the educational space, other markets such as ecotourism operators and healthcare providers, and even owner builders to recognise the benefits of the system.

The Cape Paterson house is available for holiday rentals so people can try out the system for themselves, and she has recently started the process of building a mini-­hotel near the Museum of New and Old Art in Hobart that will not only showcase the podhouses, but will also be fitted out with the PodMarket range of furniture designed by her fellow director and furniture designer Harry Strouzas.

The furniture range is designed along similar principles of sustainable design, Ms McKenzie says: “functional, and a minimalist use of beautiful materials”. PodMarket includes a range aimed specifically at barristers and solicitors – including storage, seating and tables. One of the tables has been nominated for the German Design Award 2018.

“In the same way we approached the issue of how do we solve designing buildings better, we looked at how we could resolve furnishing rooms better.”

Her training as a lawyer has come in handy for drawing up contracts and applying for patents, Ms McKenzie says. But the rigorous discipline associated with the law has also been the perfect foundation for helping her design a failsafe building system that appeals aesthetically to potential buyers.

“It’s a lot like when you have to present a brief to a judge,” she laughs. “You have to hold their attention and you know it’s going to be picked apart. You can’t have any loose threads.”

To see the article as it appears in the Law Institute Journal please follow this link:
https://www.liv.asn.au/Staying-Informed/LIJ/LIJ/Jan-Feb-2018/Building-for-the-future

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A Certified Passive House – Why Bother?

Passive House

Without a certificate, it’s just a passive house. Or is it?

I was pleased to be informed that I have been invited for the second time to present on this topic at the International Passive House Conference.  This one is in Munich, 2018.

Below is the abstract I submitted.

Abstract

“Certificates are sometimes treated as a unnecessary label, and other times like a necessary evil. They can be ignored as irrelevant; or resented and feared as a barrier to entry.

The Passive House Standard requires certificates. Sometimes for building components. Other times for designers. At all times for the building itself. The physical building as built and tested.

This list of certificates makes it more difficult to achieve the Standard.

But, after all, it is a standard. It is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling (although it is that and much more).

Certificates for components can be hard to obtain. And certified components are not yet imported around the world.
Certificates for designers are hard to obtain. And certified designers can be thin on the ground in your country, let alone designers who have actually designed a certified passive house. Newly qualified designers do not have “runs on the board”.

And certificates for buildings are hard to obtain too. The process is so rigorous and laborious, from design stage to building stage to completion and testing. You can do everything well until the end, and fail the blower door test. What a disappointment that can be for all involved.

Because the certificates are hard to obtain, people find ways of dismissing their relevance. They can see the benefits of the Passive House Standard, but they can’t obtain them. So they start to appropriate the terminology of the International Passive House Institute and claim that their inferior buildings are equivalent. They call their buildings “passive house” buildings. And members of the public do not know the difference.

In some countries like Australia, this is complicated by the fact that solar panels are easy to instal. So people claim their houses are “net zero” ie better than passive, simply by adding a few solar panels to the roof. The customer may end up paying no power bills, so they are relatively happy, not knowing that the Passive House Standard could have produced so much more.  Because of ignorance in this field, and salespeople who are keen to sell their products and services, the benefits of potential certification are lost.

Sometimes people think that they can tack on or add on a certificate to a good quality building. But the road to certification is long and paved with obstructions. Without a certification aim, their design, insulation, connection details, windows, and ventilation will be sub-standard.

A certificate for a passive house building is not just a ticket. It is the result of a complex, rigorous process with commitment from all involved.

Certification makes a massive difference to the end product, the comfort for users, the existence of drafts, condensation and mould, and the power consumption.

For those who understand the Passive House Standard, we need to explain to consumers what it means. Perhaps explaining it will help people to choose true Passive House, instead of a poor alternative.”

With the Superpod® system, we aim for certification every time.  We are not content to stop when architectural lines are on a page.  We are content when the building is finished, tested, and certified.

What do you think?

Do you think solar panels and timber linings make a building sustainable?

Do you think any building with passive house elements can be called a Passive House?

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Australian High Rise Buildings Should Cut Glazing by at Least 50%

Melb CBD

Australian high rise buildings are inefficient.  They do not run efficiently.  They are not comfortable enough.  They waste energy.  They contribute to climate change.

The latest, state-of-the-art high rise office buildings I have visited, get too hot and too cold.  In one room you try to work, stifling in the Western sun. There’s no relief except for airconditioning, which is too cold and too erratic. The next room is cold as it faces South.  You are uncomfortable standing or sitting next to the glass in either room for much of the year.

A key reason for all of these problems is the amount of glazing on our high rise facades.  It’s excessive.  It’s wasteful.  It makes little sense.

But it’s cheap.

Perhaps the designers will tell you that people want it, and the builders will tell you that people will want it.

But do people really want all that discomfort?

It’s doubtful.

Do people really think pure glass facades are so beautiful?

It’s not likely that people are so wedded to how the building looks from the outside as they stand on the street looking up to the 20th floor.  How often do they look up to the full height of the façade from the ground down below?

In any event, is glass so beautiful?  Is it that much more beautiful than solid materials?

More important that a perception of aesthetic beauty from a vantage point nobody will ever use, is the true beauty of living well in a space, and the beauty that comes from designing well for human occupation.  If we redefined beauty in this way, (ie good design), would we allow our building codes to enable such inefficient buildings?

Compare our high rise buildings with the Cornell Tech Building in New York.  This 26 storey 350 unit residential building on Roosevelt Island on the East River, is the largest Passive House-certified structure in the world.

And it was built to a tight budget.

Projects like this are inspirational.  With a fast-built wall panel system, making airtightness simpler (similar to the concept we have devised for our passive house facades under the Superpod® banner), the building has a modernist appearance, with white solid bands around the glass.  The glass is not floor to ceiling, but is enough to enable spectacular views for the occupants.

The glazing makes up only 23% of the beautiful façade.

And the beauty of this building is not merely aesthetic.  It is “deeply” designed, with great attention to materials and details that you will never see.

Of course, part of the attention to detail is the actual quality of window.  The glazing is not cheap single glazing in a certified passive house building.  Rather, it will be triple glazing, or sometimes double glazing, with very thermally efficient frames.

All this is done to achieve a beautiful living environment, with comfortable temperatures, fresh air, and a power consumption a mere fraction of what is standard in Western countries.

One of the consultants on the New York Cornell project, Lois Arena, mechanical engineer, has been a key member of the team.  I was fortunate to meet her and hear her speak at the New York Passive House High Rise Symposium in New York a couple of years ago.  It is clear that it takes dedicated, committed leaders like Lois to achieve a certified passive house of any size, let alone the largest one in the world.

And the true beauty of Cornell would not have been possible if a key member of the design team had insisted on a fully glazed building.

Similarly, the architects’ involvement and support was integral as it is in any passive house project. An interview of Blake Middleton, architect, published by “the Architects Newspaper” on 3 April 2017, reports that while the client was enthused about Passive House after a trip to Europe, the development team were initially unsure if they could achieve the Passive House Standard.  Blake said: “Once deeper into the research and design process, and more familiar with what was required, all involved became more confident we could make this work. Everyone stepped up to commit to the effort.”

We can do better in Australia.

The high rise buildings I have occupied or visited in Melbourne in recent years have been unacceptable.  When you work in an office, you don’t think about how the façade looks from the ground.  You think about how cold you are when the sun goes down and the warmth in the room is sucked out of the glass.  You think about how hot you are when the westerly afternoon sun shines through all that glass unabated.

And during those times, when you ask the building manager to adjust the aircon, or you put back on your suit jacket, or you wish you could be wearing a t-shirt – do you really think about the fantastic views from all that floor to ceiling glass all around the building?

Again, part of the problem is the poor quality of our glazing in this country. We should at the very least be using double or triple glazed windows to bring a more comfortable living environment into our buildings.

The Passive House Standard is relevant in Australia, and every time you feel discomfort in your building, remember that the designers could have done better.  And our building codes could be improved.  And we could all step up to commit to a better Standard.

Not just aspirational components here and there.  Not just passive house principles.  But true blue, properly designed and constructed certified Passive House Standard buildings.

We need to let go of our obsession with architectural renders of high rise buildings covered in cheap, shiny glass.

Designing properly, to achieve the energy-efficiency and comfort of the Passive House Standard is possible.  And it’s relevant.  And it’s what true beauty in buildings should really be about.

When you’ve experienced a passive house building in any of our Australian climates, as I’ve had the privilege to do in a Superpod® podhouse®, you know it’s both relevant and possible in this country.

As it is in Frankfurt, and London, and New York.

 

© Fiona McKenzie, Superpod Pty Ltd

25 July 2017

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What’s Going On With U Values?

U Values

Have you been wondering how U values for windows are calculated, and why different suppliers and different countries seem to use different numbers?

We’ll begin slowly, as getting a handle on the fundamentals is critical.

What is a U value?

“U-values measure how effective a material is as a thermal insulator. The lower the U-value is, the better the material is as a heat insulator” (bbc.co.uk).

Hence, a “U-value measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping. It is a measure of the rate of non solar heat loss or gain through a material or assembly. The lower the U-value, the greater a window’s resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating value.” (wers.net)

“The U-factor or U-value, is the overall heat transfer coefficient that describes how well a building element conducts heat or the rate of transfer of heat (in watts) through one square metre of a structure divided by the difference in temperature across the structure… a smaller U-factor is better at reducing heat transfer…A low U-value usually indicates high levels of insulation. “   (Wikipedia)

Also, a U value is the opposite of an R value.  The R value measures thermal resistance of an element as opposed to its conductivity.  Hence, an element’s R value is simply 1/U, and conversely, U = 1/R.  It therefore follows that higher R values are better thermal performers – just the opposite of the U value scenario.

That’s a bit confusing in Australia, because we use U values for windows, and R values for walls and roofs and floors (if you are including insulation in the floor, which in the colder parts of our country, you really should be doing).

In Europe, however, they use U values to describe walls as well as windows.

Furthermore, a U value is different from an SHGC value.  The SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient), or g value measures solar heat gain and is expressed as a percentage.  The higher the percentage, the higher the heat gain through the element.

In hot parts of the world you don’t want a high SHGC – you want a lower one.  But you also want an effective (ie: lower) U value, to stop the heat transferring into the building (and to stop the cool temperatures moving out of the building).

But let’s focus on our our unit of choice for this article, the U value.

A U value must be calculated or assessed for both the window frame as well as the glazing itself.  Because a frame is made of different material from glass: two U values must be determined.  The frames’ U value is often referred to as the Uf value.

The glazing-related value, called the Ug value, relates to the glazing unit part of the window, which includes the glass itself as well as the gaps between the panes (if double or triple glazed) whether they be air or another gas like argon or kryptonite.

Therefore the goal is to combine the two separate U values (the Uf and the Ug) to determine the U value for the entire window as a whole (ie: Uw).

Frames typically provide higher U values, or worse performance, than glazing, if you are looking at double or triple glazing.  That means that if you have a small window to calculate, with a Ug of .6, the small window will come out with a worse Uw rating (higher U value) than a large window – simply because the small window has more frame in proportion to the glass.

Why is this such an important point to note? Simply because it makes one aware that there is no such thing as a standard U value for a whole window setup (Uw) regardless of its actual size.  You will always need to calculated a Uw value for the exact size and shape of the window unit as the proportions between frame (Uf) and glass (Ug) will always change depending on the window’s size and configuration.

If you are ordering 10 windows of different sizes, you may end up with 10 different Uw values for your project, even though the exact same glazing and exact same window frame profiles are used throughout.

The next confusing issue is that of measurement units themselves: imperial vs metric.  Australia and Europe follow the metric system.  That means the U value is described as watts per meter squared x kelvin (W/m²K).

That means that a European U value of 1 will convert into Australian language as an Australian U value of 1.

In reality you will discover that most European windows come with lower U values (higher performance) than Australian windows.  That’s because European windows are constructed differently, with different materials.

The imperial measurements are utilised in the U.S, however.  It causes a lot of confusion with the rest of the world.  (Indeed, one green building journalist in the U.S. wrote about our Superpod certified passive house, saying that he could not understand how our building was high performing, because he thought that the insulation was so thin.  I had to point out to him that European U values are not the same as U.S. values – he had simply failed to convert from European to U.S reporting practices for U values, which skewed his perception massively.  Fortunately he could correct his online article quickly!)

A detailed review of the U.S. vs EU standards is found in the paper: International Window Standards, Final Report/April 2014 for the Homeowner Protection Office, branch of BC Housing, by RDH Building Engineering Ltd in Canada.  It is 74 pages long.  It says that “there is no straightforward way to compare North American and European product performance.”  It reviews in great detail the differences between window rating systems in North America, Europe, and for Passive House.

At this stage the mathematics gets quite complicated.  Suffice to say that there is a rule of thumb for converting metric and imperial U values, and that is to divide the metric U value by 5.6783, in order to get the imperial equivalent.  This means that a U value of 1 in the EU will be (roughly) equivalent to a U value of 0.174 in the US – assuming the same testing methodology for that window.

Let’s now consider that last point regarding testing methodologies. There is a voluntary window organisation in Australia called WERS: The Window Energy Rating Scheme.  It is run by the Australian Window Association (AWA).  It is not a government body.  If you are a member of the AWA you can participate in WERS, and you can see WERS ratings for different window companies specified on their website.

The WERS website says that their members must obtain energy ratings for their products from a rating organisation that is accredited by the Australian Fenestration Rating Council (AFRC).  The AFRC is an incorporated entity.  It is not a government body.  The AFRC states on its website that it “will develop, administer and approve the only uniform, independent, comparative rating and labelling system for the energy performance of windows…”

In a similar way, European made windows must be tested against European standards.  For a certified passive house, your windows must be accompanied with a certificate to the EN Standard.  EN Standards are documents that have been ratified by a European Standardisation Organisation for the purposes of EU Regulation.  There are also DIN standards in play throughout Germany.  There are literally thousands of EN standards for things as varied as cork floor testing and electromagnetic compatability emissions standards for industrial environments.  The U.S too has its own standards and compliance testing facilities.

As we noted above, most Australian windows have higher U values than European windows, because of the different materials used.  This in turn is partly due to more stringent legal requirements.  Germany, for example, has mandated low U values for some time (generally under Uw 2).

In contrast, according to WERS,

“U-value ratings generally fall between 2.0-10.0 W/m2.K for Australian products.”

But there’s another thing, if a window company says that all their windows have Uw values equal to 3, they are not providing accurate or practically useful information.  As stated earlier, there would be different Uw values depending on the actual size and configuration of each and every window.  Surely this is the only reliable and useful information when considering realistic and practical thermal performance!

Further, if you want your house to be certified as a passive house, the detailed and structured building physics modelling program (ie the Passive House Planning Package) requires proper EN standard compliance regarding U value reporting, and checks the sizes of each window carefully.  Consequently, the Passive House program requires the specific Ug and Uf values to be separately nominated.  If you really want to model the heat loss of any window, you need to calculate the heat loss through that size of glass as well as the size and shape of the frame, to consider the whole effect of that particular window.

Also, U values say nothing about the installation methods (which the Passive House Standard also requires to be nominated and verified), air leakage, quality of production, or tolerances.  How many of us have watched those Grand Designs episodes where the windows are 10mm out?  Your window should fit.  In Australia, our building code tolerances may allow for things that are just not going to cut it if you want the building (and the windows) to actually perform.  So there is much to watch out for.  If we understand what is being reported when numbers, ratios or percentages are being bandied around, we will know better what is being assumed, and what is being accurately calculated.

See published also in sourceable.net  What’s Going on with U Values

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Climate Change Act in Victoria

Low Table with Plumen 002

Have a look at our latest article.   Make a cup of tea, this one’s a little more technical than usual.  It’s about how the Passive House Standard relates to Climate Change.

The Victorian Climate Change Act 2017 was passed in February and will come into operation this year. What does it mean for those who procure, design and build buildings?

It would be ideal if the Act meant something clear to improve our methods of building design and construction, because over 30 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions are caused by heating or cooling our built environments.

That carbon emission problem means all the buildings we are in the process of building right now are changing the climate for the worse, rather than minimising our impact on climate change. Right now, our buildings are poorly designed and built. We could be reducing our carbon emissions out of buildings by up to 90 per cent if we designed and built better.

The need to build better goes beyond incorporating renewable energy like solar panels. It goes as deep as the building fabric itself. We can drastically reduce our carbon emissions using existing knowledge and technologies, like the International Passive House Standard.

Professor Diana Ürge-Vorsatz, director of the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy, spoke compellingly on this topic in New York at the Passive House High Rise Symposium in 2015.  She combined passion, great intelligence and deep logic on the importance of proper building design to ameliorate climate change.  She noted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports are extensive and have been produced for many years now, but that the opportunities to reduce our climate change impact are being missed. It is good to see some of this panel’s important work being translated into local laws and policies, but aren’t we still missing important opportunities?

Has our Victorian legislation taken up the opportunity in the Climate Change Act to improve on our building structures to the maximum extent that it can?

Will the recently enacted version of the Act make a difference to our current, inadequate building strategies? I looked at it partly from the point of view of a barrister whose focus is legislative compliance, and partly from the perspective of a passive house designer, which role also involves extensive compliance. I did so without comparing this Act to its predecessor enacted in 2010.

Given the importance of this issue, what follows contains some extracts of the legislation word-for-word so readers can draw their own conclusions.

First, it is very interesting to see how our Parliament has taken on board the pressing concerns posed by climate change. Parliament has not presented this topic as a debate, and has not given any room for argument from any climate change deniers. Our Parliament has presented its conclusions as accepted fact. That in itself is a useful starting point, and could have far reaching positive consequences.

The Preamble to the Act makes Parliament’s view clear, with some laudable aims that are worth setting out in full:

“The Parliament of Victoria recognises on behalf of the people of Victoria that the international community has reached agreement to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. There is overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change and that global emissions will need to decline to net zero levels by the second half of the century if this global goal is to be met.

The Parliament of Victoria recognises that some changes in the earth’s climate are inevitable, despite all mitigation efforts. Victoria is particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and severity as a result of the changing climate. Impacts are felt differently and to different extents across individual regions and communities.  Although responding to climate change is a responsibility shared by all levels of government, industry, communities and the people of Victoria, the role of subnational governments in driving this transition cannot be understated. Through decisive, long-term action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Victorian government can help Victoria achieve an orderly and just transition to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy and remain prosperous and liveable. It will also enable Victoria to benefit from the global trend towards decarbonisation.

Victoria must also take strong action to build resilience to, and reduce the risks posed by, climate change and protect those most vulnerable.

The Parliament of Victoria recognises that the community wants and expects Victoria to play its part in global mitigation efforts and in preparing the community for unavoidable climatic impacts. This Act will help ensure Victoria remains prosperous and liveable as we transition to meet these challenges.”

It is interesting to note here that there are two key aspects highlighted by our Parliament: mitigating climate change, and preparing for climatic impacts.

Section 1 of the Act states a number of worthy purposes, including to set a long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, facilitate the consideration of climate change issues in specified areas of decision making of the Government of Victoria; set policy objectives and guiding principles to inform decision-making under this Act and the development of government policy in the State; and provide for a strategic response to climate change through a climate change strategy, adaptation action plans and emissions reduction pledges.

Then there is an interesting set of definitions in section 3 which are worth setting out. They might be useful definitions to be adopted for other discussions outside the legislation itself.

The term “built environment “means the places and structures built or developed for human occupation, use and enjoyment. Examples cited are cities, buildings, urban spaces, housing and infrastructure.

The phrase “built environment system” means the built environment, and how people use and interact with the built environment.

“Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

“Greenhouse gas emissions” means emissions of “(a) carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide or sulphur hexafluoride; or (b) a hydrofluorocarbon or a perfluorocarbon that is specified in regulations made under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 of the Commonwealth.”

“Net zero greenhouse gas emissions” means zero greenhouse gas emissions after “(a) determining the amount of total greenhouse gas emissions attributable to the State, including any removals of greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere due to activities within the State; and (b) deducting from the amount described in paragraph (a) any eligible offsets from outside of the State.”

Interestingly, it would be theoretically possible for the amount of total greenhouse gas emissions attributable to Victoria to be the same as it is now, as long as eligible offsets are increased. Of course, this approach would not be enough to ameloriate climate change as drastically as we need to do. We need to reduce emissions, period.

Section 8 states that the Premier and the Minister must ensure that the State achieves the long-term emissions reduction target.

Section 17 provides that “Decision makers must have regard to climate change” in relation to decisions or actions authorised by particular Acts.

What decisions, actions and Acts are relevant here? It is actually quite limited. A few examples include management plans under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994, Coastal Strategies, certain recommendations of the Environment Protection Authority, a Council’s municipal public health and wellbeing plan, and a draft sustainable water strategy.

These particular provisions have no explicit or direct impact on our built environments.

Section 20 is broader than section 17, stating that “the Government of Victoria will endeavour to ensure that any decision made by the Government and any policy, program or process developed or implemented by the Government appropriately takes account of climate change if it is relevant by having regard to the policy objectives and the guiding principles.”

And the Minister may issue guidelines about “the policy objectives and guiding principles when making a decision or developing or implementing a policy, program or process” (s 21). Now we are starting to sound a little like a “Yes Minister” episode, where the actual obligation can sometimes be obfuscated. Hopefully, all Government decisions will “appropriately” take account of climate change. If they do, the impact will be significant.

The policy objectives of the Act are set out in s 22. Among other things, they aim to:

  • reduce the State’s greenhouse gas emissions consistently with the long-term emissions reduction target and interim emissions reduction targets
  • build the resilience of the State’s infrastructure, built environment and communities through effective adaptation and disaster preparedness action
  • support vulnerable communities and promote social justice and intergenerational equity

Here, we have a reference to the built environment, but not in the sense that improving our built environment will help us ameliorate climate change – only in the sense that our buildings can be more resilient. Still, at least there is a policy of having building resilience.

Buildings which have very good insulation, airtight envelopes, no thermal bridges, air ventilation units and excellent, properly placed double or triple glazed windows; are the sorts of buildings we need to be truly resilient. These measures should be coupled, of course, with proper building physics design, like that found in the International Passive House Standard.

Buildings that comply with the International Passive House Standard have significantly better resilience against extreme climatic conditions, improve the pressure on the State’s infrastructure, and can better support vulnerable people who are unable to pay high power bills for heating and cooling.

So this means that the policy of the State of Victoria as enshrined in law supports deeply energy-efficient building envelopes like those procured by the International Passive House Standard.

While the Act doesn’t say this, buildings that are resilient in hot or cold weather, despite the potential for power failures, happen to also be buildings that help to ameliorate climate change. That’s because those buildings have up to 90 per cent less power consumption than traditional buildings, in which case they are better for reduction of our carbon footprint world-wide, not only now but in generations to come.

Section 23 provides that:

“it is a guiding principle of this Act that a decision, policy, program or process—

(a)  should be based on a comprehensive analysis of the best practicably available information about the potential impacts of climate change that is relevant to the decision, policy, program or process under consideration; and

(b)  should take into account the potential contribution to the State’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

There is specific reference to the “built environment system” in section 34, which states that the relevant Minister must prepare an adaptation action plan in relation to this system (and other systems). This sounds like a good idea, but unfortunately it does not have to be done until October 2021. That’s nearly five years of no such adaptation action plan. We all need to act before this date regardless of what that adaptation action plan might eventually look like.

It’s great that the Victorian Government has legislated in this important field. All governments at all levels should be taking climate change seriously and ensuring that all government decision making takes the lead in this area.

However, there is nothing concrete that I can see in this Act that will drive improvements to the extent that we need them driven, in relation to the built environment. It will still take leadership both in government and in the private sphere to apply the principles in this legislation proactively, and to improve our built environment in our cities, suburbs and the rural areas.

It is still up to all of us – people who are buying and designing and building buildings, to take the lead along with government where we can.

See published also in sourceable.net  Climate Change Act Victoria – a missed opportunity for buildings