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Australian Government Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

Monday, 15 December 2003

Launch of Year of the Built Environment 2004

Thank you very much, David Parken, your Excellency and Mrs Jeffery, Greg Clarke of Lend Lease, Michael Brown of Deutsche Office Trust, ladies and gentlemen, for being here this morning at what is a very exciting occasion.

Could I say, first of all, how delighted I am that his Excellency, the Governor-General, Major-General Michael Jeffery, has accepted the position as patron-in-chief of the Year of the Built Environment 2004 and will formally launch the year this morning.

What more appropriate location could there be to launch the Year of the Built Environment that this magnificent building. From the extraordinary historic sandstone cutting and wall behind me, to the incorporation of its state of the art features, the Bond building is an example of how we've progressed in terms of our built environment while also recognising and appreciating our heritage.

I congratulate the building owner, Deutsche Office Trust, and the building's builders and the new tenant, Lend Lease, in not only retaining the cutting and sandstone wall behind me but also making it such an outstanding feature of the new building.

The Australian Gas Light Company created this major engineering achievement in the 1840s when workers cut away the rock by hand. It was a time of growth in our built environment.

A French medical officer, Fortuni Dieu (ph.sp), visiting Sydney at the time, noted, and I quote him, new houses are being built daily, the streets are wide and clean but unpaved. On arrival at this part of the new world, one is very pleasantly surprised to find such a lovely town that could rival our prettiest towns in France.

He was more impressed, and obviously the French are much more gracious than the Englishman, Sir Charles Dilke, who, twenty years later, commented that, and I quote, the houses are of commonplace English ugliness built as though for English fogs instead of the semi-tropical heat and sun. Well, since then, Australian standards of building and planning have come a long way and we've learnt increasingly to adapt to our natural environment.

The building that we're in is the first office building in Australia to be built to a five star Australian building greenhouse rating and one that incorporates design features such as chilled beam air conditioning, an eight storey atrium and façade with natural ventilated sunrooms.

As a result of incorporating these new environmental designs, this building will provide thirty per cent lower Co2 emissions than a typical office building yet it was designed following consultation with staff to ensure that it would provide the sort of environment that they wanted to work in. This is a building for the future, incorporating the past, but designed to be just right for the here and now.

The Year of the Built Environment will be celebrated with a program of events and activities to encourage the community to appreciate and achieve built environments that are sustainable, are practical and provide us with an improved lifestyle. The idea of celebrating our built environment has been endorsed by all state and territory governments, peak building and construction industry organisations, professional bodies and a wide range of interest groups and individuals within our community.

The national steering committee comprises representatives of the Australian government's Department of the Environment and Heritage, as well as the Western Australian Department of Housing and Works and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and has been formed to oversee the program of national events and activities for the year.

The Year of the Built Environment aims to embrace all members of the community, from those in the planning, design and building professions, to community leaders and anyone who lives, works and plays in the built environment. With so many of the community engaged in celebrating the year, your involvement in the events and activities provides an ideal opportunity to promote your organisations' expertise and objectives.

Achieving a sustainable built environment will require an effective partnership between governments, architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, builders and developers and their clients in the general community. This year needs to be focused on outcomes for the community, and specifically to address the challenges of achieving sustainable development, energy efficiency and public amenity. It's an opportunity to explore buildings and the way we use them, how we travel between them, and how almost every aspect of our urban lifestyle impacts on our natural environment.

I believe this can be a watershed year that will provide impetus for positive built environment outcomes to flow on to the community for years to come.

Eighty-seven per cent of Australians, more than seventeen million people, live in our cities, posing ongoing challenges for those working to achieve the right balance between urban development and environment protection. The Australian government is strongly committed to meeting the challenges of sustainable cities. It has nominated a sustainable environment as one of its nine strategic priorities and has made an environmentally sustainable Australia one of its four national research priorities.

The Prime Minister established and chairs the Sustainable Environment Committee of the Cabinet, to integrate the principles of sustainable development into policies and programmes that cross all government agencies. The government is supporting new projects to conserve and improve urban environments as part of a forty million dollar package over five years to make Australian cities and towns cleaner and more sustainable.

From this major initiative, developed in collaboration with the Australian Democrats, urban air quality, ozone protection, water and waste management will all benefit as part of a new urban environment initiative called Sustainable Cities. This initiative will develop and strengthen and apply national standards to improve air and fuel quality, and improve the management of hazardous waste and chemicals, extend the existing Photovoltaic Rebate scheme run by the Australian Greenhouse Office to encourage householders to use solar energy and facilitate cyclists to use public transport by providing new bicycle facilities at bus and train stations.

Action is being taken on a number of fronts. Twenty-four point two million dollars will be spent on a package to improve our understanding of environmental pollutants, and to develop standards that minimise the impact of buildings and some household appliances. The package includes a national water efficiency labelling scheme and minimum performance standards for appliances and household fittings to reduce urban water consumption.

These measures will make it easier for householders to choose more efficient water appliances, such as toilets, showerheads and dishwashers, so we can all make a greater contribution to protecting our scarce and precious water resources.

This focus on water complements the existing national Energy Labelling and Minimum Energy Performance Standards program that is designed to reduce the consumption of energy by household appliances and by commercial and industrial equipment inside buildings. The Australian Greenhouse Office is working with the Australian Building Codes Board to introduce mandatory minimum energy efficiency standards for housing and commercial buildings into the Building Code of Australia.

As the first phases of this process, energy efficiency measures for houses were introduced into the building code in January this year. Proposed measures for commercial buildings are now progressively being released for public consultation and are expected to be included in the building code in 2005.

New homeowners and renovators are also being encouraged to adopt best practice in environmentally sustainable housing through the Australian government's award winning Your Home suite of good residential design guides. The Your Home technical manual assists designers and builders to deliver houses that are naturally more healthy and comfortable and offer the householder an environmentally friendly lifestyle while also saving the money on annual operating costs.

The quality of much of our built environment and the way we use it is governed, of course, by state and local planning laws. There's no doubt that community leadership is essential to provide a local ownership of environmental issues. One of the biggest long-term issues we face is climate change. The Australian government is working with local governments and communities to develop and implement solutions to reduce greenhouse gases.

For cities, the climate protection program now includes over one hundred and eighty local governments representing some seventy-five per cent of the Australian population, making it easily the largest and most active program of its type in the world.

Another innovative partnership, Cool Communities, is linking the Australian Greenhouse Office with non-government environment organisations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the community. Under this program twenty-two cool communities from across Australia are currently undertaking activities that include household energy audits, lighting, heating and cooling retrofits, green purchasing programs and transport initiatives such as car pooling, walking, buses and safe cycling.

The communities engaged range from those working with the Western Bulldogs Football Club in Melbourne to the Haasts Bluff aboriginal community in Central Australia, which is using local art, culture and community education to develop new strategies to reduce and manage waste.

And, of course, the Australian government is taking steps to reduce energy use and emissions from its own operations. As a result of these actions, greenhouse gas emissions from the Australian government's own agencies reduced by more than eleven per cent over the four years from 1997-98 to 2001-2002 and we're continuing our efforts to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

And with (indistinct) 2004, Year of the Built Environment, a new green buildings program that includes the National Australian Buildings Environmental Rating Scheme, will ensure that future building projects are more environmentally friendly. The government is also working with schools and school students through the sustainable schools program to encourage awareness in the coming generation of what each individual can do to help improve our environment and the sustainability of our buildings.

In closing, I'd like to thank the building owner Deutsche Office Trust, and the buildings and new tenant Lend Lease in hosting this launch for The Year of the Built Environment 2004. Particularly when they're working so hard to meet the March 2004 completion deadline for the building.

© Commonwealth of Australia