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Thinking about sustainability across whole systems
rather than in individual areas can create multiple
benefits with limited resources, creating value for
organisations and clients, according to Mary Casey,
associate director at McLachlan Lister, a project
management and management consulting firm.
Casey, who is also the chair of the Living Future Institute of
Australia, describes sustainability as the practice of creating
places that are adapted to their specific environment, that
use less than they give, that do not damage the ecosystem of
which they are a part, and that provide a healthy habitat for
human beings. It's essentially about maximising our quality of
life, she says.
However, how we generally approach sustainability is to talk
about efficiency, she notes.
"It's a cold word. It often takes up more than its share
of conversations about sustainability because it's the key
economic argument in favour of most solutions. The catch
is that efficiency is about maximising the potential of an
existing way of doing things. But what if we're doing the
wrong thing," she asks.
Casey's argument is that, up until now, sustainable design and
practice has focussed on components, rather than on systems.
"We maximize our component of the work in isolation from
everyone else's component. When you do that, you get highly
efficient individual components, but inefficient systems overall
and perverse outcomes," she says.
And what better system to model sustainable design on
than nature, says Casey. "Nature optimises brilliantly by
organising itself in systems. If we could equal that level of
design, we'd have a built environment that supported a very
high quality of life."
Casey points to indoor environment quality (IEQ) to illustrate
her point. IEQ is the umbrella term for good daylight, good
acoustics, low levels of indoor pollutants and good interior
comfort (humidity and temperature).
"The benefits of high IEQ have been shown to include
increased productivity and improved attraction and retention
rates of employees, as well as increased rates of recovery in
hospitals," she says.
How can aged care facilities improve their IEQ?
Unsurprisingly, Casey provides an example from nature. "You
have to think like a flower," she says.
A flower is rooted in place like a building, and yet it harvests
all the energy and water it needs; is perfectly adapted to
its climate and site; operates 100 per cent pollution-free; is
comprised of integrated systems; and is beautiful, she says.
"This is the ultimate benchmark of sustainability across all
aspects of a building," she says. "But let's just consider one
particularly powerful aspect: daylight.
"Let's say you want to have good daylight in a space, and to
achieve that result with no glare, your architect has proposed a
light shelf as part of the design. This component in the façade
will bounce light up onto the ceiling, bringing bright, diffuse
daylight deeper into the space than the window could on its
own. It will also shade the window in summer, reducing radiant
heat coming into the building.
"The shelf, considered alone, would look like an additional
cost, however when you think about the building as a flower,
or a system, you see that the light shelf uses the energy of
the sun to create light, taking advantage of its location's free
energy; the harvested sunlight is pollution-free; the light
shelf means you need fewer light fixtures inside; fewer light
fixtures mean less internal heat load in the building; and less
internal heat load means less need for air conditioning, and
reduced plant size."
Nature, Casey says, has billions of years invested in smart
adaptations. "And we are part of that accumulated wisdom, even
if we are still comparatively new to it." n
To design and build truly sustainable aged care
facilities, one only needs to look to nature to
see how it should be done, an expert tells AAA.
www.australianageingagenda.com.au | 55
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