Archive for June, 2011

Where Are They Now? Ben Nicholson, Groof

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 30th, 2011

Here at Sustainable Melbourne we’ve been contacting Sustainable Cities Round Tables (SCRT) presenters, to find out how their projects and ideas have grown and changed since Ferne Edwards first launched the Round Tables in May 2007.

Ben Nicholson gave a presentation at the SCRT in November 2008, after spending two months studying green roofs in cities around the world as a Churchill Fellow. During this time, Ben met green roofs advocates; planners, environmentalists and designers, and he visited research sites and commercial sites, some of which have been in existence since the early 1990s. In his presentation, “Vital Signs for a Healthy City”, he described Melbourne as an adolescent city at risk of on-going health problems due to its large energy requirements, poor water management lack of biodiversity. Green roofs would change this prognosis by cooling the city, increasing urban food-growing space and wildlife habitat, and conserving storm water and energy.

In 2007, Ben established his own green roof consultancy, Groof, providing designs and advice to green roof developments in Victoria and overseas.

We caught up with Ben to ask about the changes in green roof implementation and acceptance in Australia since his presentation in 2008. There have been some notable green roof and wall projects developed in that time, including the vertical garden we sat next to in the foyer of the Gauge building in Docklands. During our conversation, Ben reiterated the importance of solid research and demonstration projects for industry players to assist in the development and maintenance of a successful Green Roof program in Australia’s cities.

Below are some extracts from Ben’s Churchill Trust Report:

Just as the ant spends a lifetime crawling up and down a tree without ever comprehending the tree’s full scale or its place in the wider world, so we spend our lives in cities without ever comprehending their true size or the impacts they are having on the planet… imagine for a moment you are sitting on a hill, watching a tree grow that, one day, will be crawled upon by an the ant mentioned above. And from this hill, imagine that you can fast-forward time as quickly as you like, so you sit and watch this tree grow from a tiny seed to a sapling to a huge, spreading lemon-scented gum in only a few short minutes. Now imagine that from the same hill you are watching your own city grow up from its earliest days of a few tents and dusty tracks into the sprawling suburbs, skyscrapers, freeways, factories and warehouses that it has become today. From this perspective, it is suddenly much easier to comprehend the amount of disruption that has occurred to all the other living things and natural systems forced to make way for the people and non-living things that make up your city today. We may never be able to bring everything back, but from the vantage of this hill we can at least start to imagine what our cities would look like when transformed into thriving eco-systems.

In many cities around the world, harm is being reducing by people as they build each new piece of eco-infrastructure into the city fabric. To do this properly, people first ask:

  • what does harm look like?
  • where is it most concentrated?
  • where is the worst of it coming from?


During the fellowship I learnt that the green roof and wall industry in each city has developed in the presence of local champions, detailed science, government support and an enlightened citizenry. The people in the cities I visited have developed policy responses and designed ‘eco-infrastructure’ that is unique to their local topography, climate and system of governance. In the more advanced cities, I observed some or all of the following activities taking place:

  1. Environmental indicators such as topography, temperature, rainfall and biodiversity are examined to understand the ways in which a city impacts upon its host environment. Using data sourced from early settlement to the current day, time-lapse analysis reveals the extent to which the city has affected its surrounds. Forecasting models are then used to predict future impacts with the key variable being extent of vegetation cover.
  2. Economic costs for the design, construction and maintenance of air conditioning/cleaning systems, water supply/removal systems and agricultural production/distribution systems are compared with the costs of using green roofs and walls to identify areas of city management that can be carried out more efficiently using green roof and wall technology.
  3. The benefits of green roofs and walls are tailored to address environmental and economic ‘trigger points’ specific to each city. These trigger points inform local green roof and wall design and assist in targeting the most effective locations for the placement of green roof and wall infrastructure.
  4. Demonstration and research projects raise awareness and provide information for public, private and government sectors.
  5. Political support for green roofs and walls leads to subsidies for the eco-infrastructure industry and the incorporation of built form standards and incentives.
  6. Environmental and economic indicators are regularly monitored to refine eco-infrastructure design and placement.
  7. Over time, the economic and environmental costs associated with the negative impacts of urbanisation are reduced and the benefits associated with an increase in vegetation cover are multiplied.


As eco-infrastructure projects begin to reduce harm, there will be an increase in the demand for high quality products and services. It is therefore up to the people and companies who stand to benefit the most from this demand to provide funding for eco-infrastructure research and demonstration projects in the early phase of the industry’s development. We can learn a lot from the failures and triumphs of other cities. Now is the time to transform our negative impacts into positive ones. And in doing so, we will transform ourselves from being harmful pests to welcome guests.

Download Ben’s report to read more about his research, including case studies from his tour and further reading and recommendations.

Four Degrees Or More? Australia in a Hot World

Posted in Events, Uncategorized by Kate Archdeacon on June 29th, 2011

12 July , 2011
13 July , 2011
14 July , 2011

‘FOUR DEGREES OR MORE?’ Conference – Australia in a Hot World

Current domestic and international climate policies, if honoured collectively, will result in an average warming of four degrees or more. So what will Australia look like then? The upcoming ‘FOUR DEGREES OR MORE?’ Conference occurs at a critical time for Australian climate politics and brings together internationally and nationally renowned scientists and academics, to reflect on the likely social, ecological, economic and political implications of catastrophic warming for Australia and its region.

When: 12-14 July 2011
Where: The University of Melbourne, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, Victoria Australia

Click here for further information and to register

Key speakers:

  • Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Chair of the German Government’s Advisory Council on Global Change, the Chief Government Advisor on Climate and Related Issues during Germany’s EU Council Presidency and G8 Presidency, and Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany)
  • Hon Greg Combet MP, Minister for Climate Change and Energy EfficiencyProfessor Malte Meinshausen, Senior climate modeller, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Germany)
  • Professor Ross Garnaut, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow in Economics, The University of Melbourne; Author of the Garnaut Climate Change Review
  • Professor Will Steffen, Executive Director, ANU Climate Change Institute; Scientific adviser to Multi-Party Climate Change Committee; Climate CommissionerDr Penny Whetton, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship and Lead Author of the IPCC reports in 2001 and 2007


The Science – examines the science around global warming at four degrees or more.
The Impacts – assesses the impacts of warming of four degrees or more on Australian ecosystems, industries and society.
Options and Possibilities– looks at implications for economic and social welfare, and the prospects and limits for mitigation and adaption policies to help us avoid these outcomes.

ZCA Land Use sector plan: Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop

Posted in Events by Mark Ogge on June 29th, 2011

4 July , 2011
6:30 pmto8:00 pm

Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop worked until 2010 as a Principal Scientist with the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Resources Management Remote Sensing Centre. He was responsible for assessing and monitoring vegetation cover, structure and trend across the state.

This involved leading a team of remote sensing scientists to develop satellite monitoring methods to cover an area of 1.7million square km. each year. Products developed by his team included a yearly assessment of forest cover and deforestation, ground cover and weed monitoring, all of which were used routinely for resource management by landholders, local, state and federal government agencies and stakeholders such as conservation groups.
Following 37 years with federal and state government in remote sensing science, Gerard is now engaged in communicating environmental issues such as deforestation, land degradation and biodiversity loss. He has presented to a parallel program by the Climate Institute during the Cancun climate summit on short-lived climate forcers, deforestation and agriculture GHG mitigation. This discussion will be particularly interesting for those contributing to the ZCA Land Use sector plan which is underway now.

Time: 6:30- 8pm Monday 4 July 2011

Fritz Loewe Theatre (entry via level 2)
McCoy Building
University of Melbourne
Cnr Elgin & Swanston Streets, Carlton

Thank you to the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute, our Zero Carbon Australia project partners for joining us in bringing you this event.
Entry: Gold coin donation
Further reading:…

Does your organisation have a culture of sustainability?

Posted in Models, Research by timc on June 28th, 2011

Awake has recently developed the Sustainability Culture Indicator (SCI), an online survey tool designed to help organisations and groups evaluate the extent to which critical enablers of sustainability exist in their culture.

The information provided by the SCI allows the organisation to

  • Identify the features of the organisation which are supporting, and hindering, the development of sustainability as a core aspect of the culture
  • Ensure the design of activities and actions to promote sustainability are targeted to the areas of greatest need
  • Set a baseline against which to track the impact of future efforts to embed sustainability

The factors measured in the SCI are derived from academic and organisational research, as well as being developed and refined through surveys conducted by Awake in several organisations and communities throughout Australia and New Zealand.

More information, including a sample report and brochure are available at the SCI webpage


The Australian Water Story: The World Bank Water Day Revisited

Posted in Events, Uncategorized by land-environment on June 24th, 2011

30 June , 2011
8:30 amto4:00 pm

Photo of Lynbrook Estate from Australian Ecosystems

Demonstrating international recognition of the strengths of water research, policy and implementation in Australia, the World Bank in Washington DC hosted ‘The Australian Water Story’ on January 31 this year. A great strength of this program was Victorian-based companies, government agencies and educational institutions which have never been showcased in Victoria.  In this day-long program, we recreate the presentations made by Victorians at the World Bank. We highlight new collaborations that have followed the World Bank visit and offer exciting opportunities for Victorian water conservation, agriculture and industry.

The event will be closed and summarised by Dr Sharon Nunes, global Vice President, Smarter Cities Strategy & Solutions of IBM. Dr Nunes will also give a public lecture at 6pm – Click through for details and reservations for the lecture ‘The Role of IT in Sustaining the World’s Water Resources‘.

Visit the website for more information and registrations or contact Skye Harrison, email:, phone: (03) 8344 5025

8:30am – 4pm, Thursday June 30, 2011
University of Melbourne, Harold Woodruff Theatre, Floor 1, Room 127, Microbiology Building 184, Map (reference J11)

Download the program.

Improving Urban Streams Through a Stormwater Retrofit Approach: Forum

Posted in Events by Kate Archdeacon on June 23rd, 2011

29 June , 2011
9:30 amto1:00 pm

Image: Gardens, Lawns, and Landscapes via flickr CC

Clearwater in partnership with the University of Melbourne, Monash University and Melbourne Water invite you to a unique event where you will hear insights into the contrasting approaches of two innovative catchment-scale stormwater retrofit programs:

Both projects aim to improve the condition of receiving waters using novel incentives to engage the community. These incentives encourage the uptake of allotment and streetscape scale stormwater retention and treatment systems.

Key speakers include:

  • Chris Walsh – Principle Research Fellow, University of Melbourne
  • Tim Fletcher – Associate Professor Water Engineering, Monash University
  • Bill Shuster – Research Hydrologist, US Environmental Protection Authority
  • Darren Bos – Project Coordinator, Little Stringybark Creek project
  • Helen Brown – UK Endeavour Award Fellow, University of Melbourne

Presentations throughout the day will be supported with facilitated discussion and the opportunity to meet and chat with three stormwater experts from the US EPA, over an informal lunch setting.  The forum is ideal for water industry practitioners, environment staff, urban designers, town planners, engineers and contract staff.  This forum will provide practical insights on: effective engagement of the community in stormwater management economic incentives for encouraging stormwater management at allotment scale design, construction and performance of streetscape and allotment-scale stormwater retention, harvesting and treatment systems the future of stormwater management objectives in Australia.

Price: $60 – includes arrival tea & coffee, morning tea and lunch

9:30 – 13:00, Wednesday 29th June

Visit the Clearwater website for more information and to register.

Burnley Open Day: July 17

Posted in Events by Kate Archdeacon on June 22nd, 2011

17 July , 2011
10:00 amto3:00 pm

Australia’s best horticulture and environmental management courses – at your fingertips. At this year’s Burnley Open Day you’ll learn all you need to know about sustainable gardening and horticultural practice at Melbourne’s famous heritage-listed Burnley Gardens. Delivered in partnership by the University of Melbourne’s School of Land and Environment and Friends of Burnley Gardens, you’ll learn about our courses in horticulture and environmental management, listen to free lectures by horticultural experts, and attend specialist workshops, forums and seminars on leading sustainable gardening practice, including pruning, watering and fertilizers, and setting up a veggie plot. There’s even a range of activities for the kids.

More than just an Open Day. An experience for the whole family.

Program available soon! Complete the enquiry form to register your interest.

Sunday 17 July 2011, 10am-3pm

Victorian Oranges for Healthy Fundraisers

Posted in Movements, Seeking by Kate Archdeacon on June 21st, 2011

Source: Melbourne Community Farmers’ Markets

Want to raise funds for your community or school? Want to support the Australian Citrus Industry? Want to promote rural education? Move over crap chocolate, Nangiloc Primary School has a great idea! In a nutshell, during the Navel orange season (July – Oct) you place an order for 3kg bags of fresh oranges for $5. Local fruit, packed at a local packing house will be processed by the children from Nangiloc Primary School as part of an enterprise learning program. Then, for every bag your school or organisation sells, you will earn one dollar whilst supporting Victorian citrus growers, seasonal fruit and Nangiloc Primary School. Find out more by phoning (03) 5029 1483 or email Nangiloc Primary School

The Housing We’d Choose: Grattan Report Launch

Posted in Events by Kate Archdeacon on June 20th, 2011

27 June , 2011
5:45 pmto7:00 pm

Image: via flickr CC

Ask Australians what kind of home they want, and odds are they will say a detached house on a big block. The new report from the Grattan Cities Program, The Housing We’d Choose, shows that when residents are asked to make real-world trade-offs between housing and location, the picture is far more varied. The report examines both what Australians say they want from housing in their cities, and the incentives that make it difficult for new construction to meet this demand. Come and hear Grattan Cities Program Director Jane-Frances Kelly in conversation with John Daley on the challenges to Australian cities and governments presented by The Housing We’d Choose.

Monday 27 June 2011

Registration at 5:45 pm Seminar 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm

The Wheeler Centre 176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne VIC 3000

For further information please telephone 03 8344 3637 or visit our website at

Banksia Environmentalist of the Year: Open for Nominations

Posted in Seeking by Kate Archdeacon on June 17th, 2011

2011 Prime Minister’s Environmentalist of the Year and 2011 Environment Minister’s Young Environmentalist of the Year Awards are open for entry to recognise an outstanding contribution to a Sustainable Australia. Self-nominations and nominations on behalf of another individual and organisations are accepted. Nominated individuals and organisations must have achieved outcomes that have: made a significant contribution to a Sustainable Australia influenced understanding or appreciation of sustainability, in Australia and/or overseas, and provided leadership or inspiration in the field of sustainability.

Entries close July 22

Find out more on the website.