Category Archives: Global Warming

Green Star Is Dead, Long Live Carbon Neutral

Green Is Dead, Long Live Carbon Neutral

This post discusses if Green Star is holding us back.

What is Green Star?

Green Star is a comprehensive, national, voluntary environmental rating system that evaluates the environmental design and construction of buildings and communities.

The Green Star rating tools assess building or community projects against a number of categories. These categories allow for a determination to made on the environmental impact of a project’s site selection, design, construction,  maintenance etc. The nine categories included within the various Green Star – Design and Green Star – As Built rating tools are:

  • Management
  • Indoor Environment Quality
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Land Use & Ecology
  • Emissions
  • Innovation


So completing Green Star, will get us a number of points. More points mean a better star rating.

Green Star has been fantastic for our industry and is to be commended. But it’s now reached a point where it’s just another tick box in the delivery of a new building. This however is not my concern.

Is Green Star Holding Us Back?

My concern, in the context of real global warming issues, is that Green Star is providing a false sense of security to our industry. I’m saving the planet, ‘My Buildings got 5 stars’.

Green Star has got us started and got the industry up to speed with understanding environmental issues. If we stick with Green Star, we are doomed.

As a minor point, there a few initiatives in Green Star, in a warming planet, that are counter intuitive and will need to be changed.

In Green Stars defence they are onto this subject. See link:

Carbon Neutral

Cutting to the chase, we should be building carbon neutral buildings. Full stop. It’s doable and is being done.

Often, a slight of hand occurs, in that a building may not be 100% carbon neutral on day one, but has a calculated carbon payback period.

How’s it done?

Every item of the build (including site works during construction) has its carbon content calculated. The total carbon is then off set with the use of recycled materials etc.

Finally the energy used to run the building is sourced from low carbon sources. This low carbon fuel as compared to gas or coal fired electricity provides a carbon credit, which is used to pay off the carbon debt of the building.


Low Carbon Fuels

Low carbon fuels are readily available and include:

  • Solar – electricity
  • Solar – Heat for hot water
  • Wind – for electricity
  • Liquid Bio fuels, from end of process sources
  • Geo-thermal

Lost Opportunity

The new Casino, in Sydney, is a lost opportunity. A building of this scale and usage would have significant waste which can be used to provide the buildings power supplies including:

  • Cooking oils and fats used in liquid bio fuel Tri generation system
  • Food scraps and the like used to make methane to power gas fired Tri Generation Systems.

I’d like to see new major buildings or building complexes have a carbon neutral requirement as part of any DA.


A significant commitment is required from all involved in the design of carbon neutral buildings. There will be a cost impost for this.

Use of new technology has its issues. I’m aware of a few projects utilising solid waste to create syngas, which has not gone well. This said I have personally been involved with many successful liquid bio fuel projects.

Further Reading

Author: Jorgen Knox

Date: 17/08/2014

Contact: e:, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI

It’s Complicated (The Green Thing)

It’s Complicated (The Green Thing)

This post discusses in layman’s terms Global Warming. Always a vex topic and I’m hoping I’ll start some healthy blog responses.

Humans – Can We Believe in Global Warming?

We are all different. Our ability to believe anything is a mixture of hard wiring, how we’ve been nurtured during our child hood, our working experiences and what we need to believe (to fit in to our social or work life).

So you can talk all day about the science of global warming and you might be right, but that only ticks a % box in an individual’s decision matrix.

Further the science of global warming whilst many say is settled, just isn’t.  So a rational decision based on science cant be made.

If Global Warming is occurring and all the predictions are true  a slow creep to extinction is occurring.   However to most of us  its not real yet. The human decision matrix hasn’t got to; let’s say, to a required 60% certainty  level. It will take natural world wide event(s) to get to ‘oh we need to do something moment…it is real’.

At a corporate level (and this is where most of us are, plying our skills and trades in the construction industry) there’s another level of thought process. Decisions are made on financial models, with the aim of growth or profit.

Summary: Generally, ‘head in the sand’ prevails, mixed with ‘there’s enough market out there to make some money’ or ‘I think people will like us more if we are a bit greener’.

From a simple cause and effect basis, I haven’t seen sea levels rise in Sydney Harbour yet.

ACADS BSG (local weather data provider for Australia) has recently updated their temperature files….they have not seen any temperature rises (the opposite).

What Can Be Done?

Again, lots of ‘science’ is out there. Some positive (we can fix things) and some negative (it’s too late). Some saying CO2 level increase is actually a good thing.

Negative View

  • The planets systems are to complex and massive
  • It’s a cyclic event in our planets history, it can’t be stopped
  • Stopping or reducing CO2 levels is a waste of time.

Many use the analogy of the massive ball rolling down a hill. It’s too late, the ball has started moving and we can’t stop it. At best we might deflect it a few, years.

It is interesting to hear our worldwide leaders already planning for a 2+ oC temperature rise…’read my lips’,  global warming can’t be stopped in their opinion, for at least, this first big temperature increase.






Positive View

The positive view comes down to believing global warming is due to man-made CO2 and if we can stop this, our planet will be able to recover. It assumes our best scientists know how the planets systems work and interact and their modelling is infallible. My experience with modelling is ‘rubbish in rubbish out’.

So, where are we at?

We have reached a status quo. Believers, non-believers and those who haven’t decided. Much of the undecided may well be down to the complexity of the data out there. It’s a hard slog to read it.

Our government (Australia) appears (at 2015) to not believe in global warming, but is providing some funding for greening.

There is still no massive climate events happening and weather data now appears to show we are in a cooling period.

Our industry, ran head long into the Green movement (getting star rated buildings everywhere), the industry wanted to pay for it (saw a marketing potential). That rush is now over. Many in the industry have ended up disillusioned with ‘green’ and its cost (to some extent) and its compliance requirements (to a large extent). I’ve been made aware of a lot of ‘green infrastructure’, now sitting idle. Was this infrastructure installed simply to get ‘green points’?

[See my previous posts about green points. For me it’s about reducing energy consumption and getting lower bills an dyes this removes CO2].

In typical human decision making process when you are unsure we get a compromise :

The compromise: We undertake CO2 reduction in a manner the nation can afford. (This is where the Australian government is presently at)…. you could be cynical and say this is to keep both sets of voters on board.

What will happen, however, due to politics, is that we will flip (with each government) to ‘Spend to save the planet’, to ‘we are in debt and the country’s going down the gurgler’.

For now, we will go with the compromise:

  • we will keep complying with the BCA (Building Code of Australia)
  • where mandated we will use the various rating schemes
  • where a marketing potential exists we will again use the various rating schemes.
  • industry suppliers will continue to improve their equipment efficiencies and we will reward them with sales.
  • New technology will be found to create electricity without CO2 emissions

Where I’m at?

Global Warming: I’m still undecided (or is that head in the sand), but leaning towards a naysayer. I’m struggling with the belief that man-made CO2 is the only reason for the alleged warming and that stopping CO2 emissions will stop the warming. Don’t forget we are now allegedly in a temporary a cooling period.

The real elephant in the room, on this subject, is population growth. Australia’s population growth I understand is at c.400,000 per year (a new Canberra to be built each and every year). This is horrifying and the physical impacts are huge.

Energy Reduction: Being practically minded I’d like to see the following:

  • BCA efficiency increase for plant and systems
  • BCA Fabric thermal performance increase
  • BCA mandated leak tests for new buildings
  • BCA mandated maximum watts per square for lighting and equipment
  • Industry standards being changed to mandate minimum and maximum room temperatures (lower in winter and higher in summer. Try 18 oC and 25 to 27 oC).
  • A reduction in fresh air supply rates for occupants, in air conditioned spaces.

With the above points I’d like to see an agreed ‘bar raising’, year on year. These simple points will do as much, or more than any rating systems to save energy (thus CO2). It will also give manufacturers, and the like, a clear instruction to get innovating. If we accept a 2 oC temperature rise is correct, we should be designing (preparing) for this now.

The little extra for me would include:

  • More money (with payback on sales) for new technology – to the private sector
  • More government co-owning/ partnerships with new technology companies associated with CO2 and energy reduction
  • More government co-owning/ partnerships with new technology companies associated with alternative forms of energy creation.

  • Tax free status for approved research and company development associated with CO2 and energy reduction.
  • Mandated 100% use of renewable fuels (fuels that can be grown). Obviously this comes with some practical issues to be resolved.

See link to funds an grants: :

What Impact Can we have?

This is annoying. In our industry we can only impact global energy consumption and global CO2 in a small way.

The following link is a great source on our impact on the Construction industry. The link states “Construction produced 7.1% of total indirect greenhouse gas emissions in 1994-95”.

So are best efforts will not eliminate all the 7.1% and on a world basis anything we do will have negligible to zero impact…add in population growth and we can rightly start to feel useless.

Further Reading

This post has not gone into the detail or science of global warming from the various points of view. The web is chock-a-block with it. I recommend you get googling. Some great sites I’ve looked at are:

Author: Jorgen Knox

Last Updated: 10/08/2015

Contact: e:, t: 02 800 33 100, w: KAE, LI