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    Hope amid political turmoil - Brexit, Trump and our own domestic policy

    Deborah Singerman

    Momentous times lie ahead. Last week the Brexit vote shocked, surprised and horrified politicians, professionals, the under-30s and those of us opting for openness and diversity. OK I’m biased.  I went to London School of Economics, with such an international and European student mix it quickly issued a statement that it would still charge EU students home-based tuition fees while Europe and Britain negotiated the future.

    This Saturday we have our own election which, as happens in politics, will have its own socioeconomic impact. In November the United States presidency elections could top everything for uncertainty and insecurity.

    Remembering political heritages can be comforting during such moments. The Sydney Morning Herald’s travel editor Anthony Dennis toured Canberra recently, ending with the QT Canberra hotel, formerly the Lakeside Hotel, whose notepads, coasters and other extras feature famous past prime ministers.

    The Coalition’s new cities policies for more investment including for green buildings, retrofit projects and precinct-scale energy generation systems also offered hope, said Green Building Council of Australia Chief Executive Officer Romilly Madew. Two of the GBCA’s priorities for the federal government are to “harness the potential of mid-tier buildings” and “accelerate … “a precinct utilities marketplace”, which all makes sense given our majority stock of existing buildings.

    Furthermore, the federal government has indicated the mandatory energy disclosure threshold for commercial office buildings is to be lowered from 2,000sqm to 1,000sqm. Barangaroo South’s forthcoming large-scale carbon neutral community (Australia’s first) and the cross-laminated and glulam International House Sydney are also good news for the same area.

    City of Sydney’s Zero Waste Coordinator Hal Dobbin points to growing volumes of waste each year (some 52 per cent of all the waste in City of Sydney comes from commercial and industrial buildings). Yet, according to Sustainability Matters, overall in Australia we now recycle 52 per cent of waste so less is going to landfill.

    City of Melbourne’s Professor Rob Adams suggests we look at what can be done with existing infrastructure. TRG Properties Tanya Trevisan hopes that “people are more conscious of the space they occupy” … “the main thing densification is doing is utilising existing and established areas and trying to decelerate the urban spread”.

    One announcement, small perhaps but with our current emphasis on links to economic growth and jobs important, points to using resources more efficiently. NSW Minister for Skills John Barilaro, said that “TAFE NSW with support from the City of Sydney will … deliver the training for jobs on site, during the construction of Green Square, which will create 4,000 jobs during the building phase and more than 21,000 new jobs post-construction”.

    It also saves on transport costs and waste of travel time. It sometimes pays to think historically and laterally. 

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