Monthly Archives: March 2010

La Habana Vieja vs. Sawgrass Mills Mall

If you are interested in assessing the walkability of a particular location here is a good resource

And here are a couple of images which dramatically illustrate the difference between zero walkability and ultimate walkability. They are the old city of Havana and Sawgrass Mills Mall in Florida at the same scale. Images courtesy of Steve Mouzon – Original Green blog.


A sign of the times….

North Tyneside high street ‘revived’ by fake shop front

Fake shop front in Whitley Bay

The specially-designed facades feature different types of shops

Fake businesses are to be used to lessen the impact of the recession on high streets in North Tyneside.

With 140 empty shops in the borough, council bosses think they have come up with a unique way of ensuring shopping areas remain as vibrant as possible.

The first empty shop unit to be given a makeover with a “flat pack” shop front is in Whitley Bay.

North Tyneside Council said the move was cost-effective and would help to attract new investment.

The council said the fake shop in Whitley Bay – which alone has 49 empty units – has been welcomed by traders and shoppers.

‘Attractive to shoppers’

Judith Wallace, North Tyneside Council’s deputy mayor said: “The economic climate has forced many businesses to bring down the shutters.

“We need to ensure that the remaining businesses continue to survive and that means ensuring our high streets look attractive to both shoppers and potential business investors.

“This is a simple and cost-effective approach that keeps the retail unit available for potential new uses and in the meantime also contributes to the street scene.”

Empty shops in Wallsend and North Shields are now being earmarked for similar treatment, which costs about £1,500 a time.

The government-funded project involves colourful graphic designs featuring a range of different shop types, which are either taped inside the windows or screwed to the fascia so they can be removed and reused as required.

Karen Goldfinch, chair of Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade, said: “It’s an excellent way of promoting how a unit can be used, perhaps inspiring new businesses to come into the town.”

What?! No Architect-Barbie?!

I can’t believe the profession could not even drum up enough votes for this! Where is our Architect-Barbie?

Where does it all go???

30-storey towers for Valley, Milton as city plan approved

So we see the first parts of the draft city plan being approved.

We can hope this will kick-kick-start some development in these areas and provide more large scale non-stimulus package work for the construction industry.

But will it be good for Brisbane?

“BRISBANE’S inner city will grow up and out, with City Hall’s draft neighbourhood plans for Fortitude Valley and Milton foreshadowing increased building heights – up to 30 storeys in the Valley – and increased population densities.

The Brisbane City Council strategy for the near-city suburbs, approved yesterday, follows plans for more high rise and population growth in South Brisbane and West End.

Now Fortitude Valley could see 22,000 more residents by 2031 and 75,000 more workers.

Lord Mayor Campbell Newman claimed the Valley plan was an opportunity to create a great new community.

“If we do not go up we will continue to have an affordability crisis,” Cr Newman said.

Neighbourhood planning chairwoman Cr Amanda Cooper said the community had been clear on focusing the city’s growth around local centres and transport.

The Milton plan allows for up to 20-storey developments close to the central business district and mass transport. It also determines that Park Rd will remain a key entertainment and retail hub.

While the draft Milton plan was passed by the full council, Opposition councillors voted against the Valley neighbourhood plan. Labor leader Shayne Sutton (pictured) said Opposition councillors were against the lack of green space.

Bruce McMahon”

Eco-House in Sunnybank, Brisbane

Our recently completed eco-house in Sunnybank, Brisbane, has been invited to submit for the 2010 Lookhome Green Design Awards. The awards recognise and reward the best in sustainable residential design.

Now open for voting on

A new eco-friendly house recently completed by Neylan Architecture

Eco-friendly house in Sunnybank Hills

  This recently completed 300 square meter residence has given Neylan Architecture the opportunity to fully apply smart subtropical design principles along with innovative environmentally sustainable design strategies, thanks to the client’s commitment to a greener and healthier environment. The house is located in a typical suburban area where Architect-designed homes are not common and where buildings generally relay on traditional construction methods with little regard for environmental and energy efficiency issues.


The spatial layout achieves a distinctive relationship to the site by orienting and opening the two-storey house into a north-easterly direction towards a existing parkland. Living and bedroom areas face shaded verandahs,  pergolas and decks ensuring a pleasant transition from indoor to outdoor spaces, along with exposure to breezes in summer, sunlight in winter and great views.

An open plan with a reduced building depth, integrated to double height racking ceilings, encourages cross ventilation and efficient air movement.  Additionally, elevated south-oriented clerestory retractable louvers provide ample ventilation while allowing heat and humidity relief , along with shaded southern illumination.

Adequate insulation, fenestration and shading complete the temperature control strategy ensuring the house has no need for air-conditioning or ceiling fans, relying solely on natural ventilation.


Notwithstanding programmatic, maintenance and financial constraints, materials with reduced resource depletion impact, low inherent pollution and low embodied energy have been selected where possible. In addition to the use of sustainable plantation timber for structural framing, Australian recycled hardwood flooring is used throughout the house.

For exterior decking and screen battening, an innovative wood composite product made from a blend of recycled wood and plastic was selected. In addition to being a very eco-friendly product and unlike conventional timbers, wood composites do not bend, break or splinter and require no sanding, sealing or painting for lasting protection providing a very low maintenance product.  Low V.O.C. adhesives and natural oil sealers were used throughout the building. Zero V.O.C. water-borne paints with low odour and no dangerous chemicals were used in both interiors and exteriors.

Solar energy

The building makes full use of its north facing skillion roofs to utilize solar power.  An array of 23 roof-mounted photovoltaic panels with an output of  approximately 6000 kW hrs per year  are used to generate electricity, while an electric boosted dual-panel solar system provides hot water, significantly reducing both the house’s carbon footprint, and in the long term,  the occupant’s  gas and electricity bills.

Water management

A comprehensive and integrated water management strategy includes provision for rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling.  The idea is for both systems to complement each other: while filtered rainwater will be used as the primary supply for drinking, kitchen and bathrooms (hand basins and showers), treated recycled grey water will be used for toilet flushing, gardening, laundry (cold water) and irrigation.                    

Rainwater collection is maximized by using the skillion roofs to channel water to two 5,000 litres tanks located at the lower garage level. Rainwater is then filtered through a 3-stage process involving cartridge pre-filtration and UV sterilization, ensuring water is safe for human consumption.

On the other hand, the grey water recycling plant has the capacity to process up to some 1200 litres of grey water a day. This unit treats water from hand basins, showers and the washing machine, and then recycles it for the abovementioned uses, representing a substantial saving of potable water of around 100 litres of drinking water per person a day or an annual saving per person of 47,000 litres.

Unfortunately as this technology is new to Queensland and to the Brisbane area in particular, gaps in Council legislation prevented the grey water recycling plant from being properly assessed and approved, and therefore could not be installed upon completion of the building. As a result, provisions had to me made on site for later retrofitting the system once statutory and compliance issues are addressed.

To complete the energy saving and water management strategy, 4-Star WELS rated plumbing fittings and  compact  fluorescent energy saving lamps, along with 4 and 5 –Star Energy Rating  appliances, are in use throughout the house.


Overall, the eco-friendly Sunnybank Hills residence is the product of a coordinated ESD effort which starting with the client, and integrating all architectural,  engineering and  building processes, renders and innovative building that dares to  make a statement in a difficult suburban context where environmental awareness is in its early days.