Using science to transform greenfields and cities
Over the past few years one question that has come up is: ‘why would a national science and innovation agency like CSIRO be involved in what appears to be a greenfield development at Ginninderra on the outskirts of Canberra?’
It’s not a difficult question to answer when you consider what CSIRO is, what it has done in the past and what it is planning to do in the future.
CSIRO and its forerunner Commonwealth science organisations has been harnessing science to solve some of the nation’s greatest challenges for 100 years. Whether it was helping eradicate Prickly Pear or other agricultural pests and weeds, inventing Aerogard, Hendra vaccine, the CSIRO Total Wellbeing diet and fast WIFI, our innovation has improved the lives of people in Australia and throughout the world.
We have been an important part of the Canberra community as we have developed our world-leading plant, animal, insect, agricultural and environmental expertise since 1927. From our foundation site at Black Mountain we spread to multiple locations (some since closed) from Dickson, Yarralumla, Crace, Campbell, and Ginninderra, through to our involvement with NASA and even the coverage of the moon landing from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla.
A common thread through CSIRO’s history is our ability to work with others to solve problems and find new solutions. This is capital ‘C’ Collaboration! Importantly, the ‘I’ in our name stands for ‘industrial’ – so it’s no surprise that we work closely with a wide range of industries and industry collaborators.
All this begs the questions for Ginninderra: ‘What is the national innovation challenge that can be tackled through science here?’ and ‘which are the industries we can work with on solutions?’
What is the great national challenge at Ginninderra?
The science challenge is one of the most formidable ever – to make our cities and urban areas more sustainable for our people, the environment and the resources and future of the planet.
The role of cities and their citizens in our global dilemma can be seen in this infographic below (based on figures quoted in the United Nations Environment Programme report: Cities and Buildings).
According to that report, cities are where most of the growing world population lives (two thirds of the world by 2030), they consume 75% of global resources, use 80% of energy, and they produce about 75% of greenhouse gas emissions and 50% of world waste.
These same challenges present great opportunities for us to transform city performance along with all the flow-on benefits, through better design and innovation.
CSIRO has a wealth of science knowledge, data, technology and innovation that it can contribute to the ‘whole-of-system’ solutions that are needed. That knowledge and innovation covers fields from mining, materials and manufacturing, energy and renewables, city, land, water, oceans, atmosphere and space; to digital and data solutions, agriculture and food production and heath and biosecurity.
CSIRO also owns and manages a large portfolio of properties, facilities and science platforms that underpin the delivery of our science and innovation. One of our priorities is to make sure we have high quality infrastructure that is used cost-effectively for the benefit of science and the nation.
As an underutilised Commonwealth research asset, CSIRO’s Ginninderra Field Station provides us with an incredible opportunity to bring our science and innovation into real world applications onsite. It’s an opportunity to employ science to push design and delivery to new limits and realise improved social, economic and environmental benchmarks and outcomes.
Ginninderra is a key site among a portfolio of greenfield, urban and inner city locations where CSIRO intends to work with a wide range of partners to push the horizons of urban sustainability.
Collaboration and partnerships are going to be vitally important to the success of this work. We are already involved with a wide range of government, non-government, community and interest groups and industries with a stake and interest in urban sustainability.
For Ginninderra, one of our key collaborators will be an eventual joint development partner. Rather than a ‘property developer’ per se, we are seeking a partner that will be able to help us realise this sustainability vision through practical planning, design and on-ground application of the science.
We are excited by the prospect of new and emerging opportunities to work with collaborators in the property and construction industry. This is now Australia’s largest industry contributing more than a million jobs and $182 billion a year (11% of GDP) to the Australian economy.
We are equally excited about working with the ACT community, government, research and environmental stakeholders in developing something unique and remarkable at Ginninderra.
Citizen-led science is already underway at Ginninderra with the community-led grassland restoration project and this is something we would like to nurture and expand. Community inspired innovation could also help drive the prospect of a greater range of affordable housing options.
The Ginninderra site is a perfect example of an opportunity for science to make a difference for people and it helps us progress our mission to innovate for tomorrow while helping improve today.
So the question really should be: “why wouldn’t we be involved?’
Project update – August
Over the past month the project team has continued to examine affordable housing and how planning and collaboration could address sustainable urban development at Ginninderra.
A growing population, rising tide of record high property prices, limited land release and broader economic and social change is swamping the great Australian dream of owning a home and even pushing rent payment out of reach for many Australians.
However, the encouraging response from our Affordable Housing Think Tank suggests there is a groundswell of innovative ideas – for example flexible design, tenure and financial models – that could make Australian homes more affordable and sustainable.
This month we are also excited to be talking to the community to gather ideas and create something unique at Ginninderra.
We invite you to attend one of our upcoming drop-in sessions to receive an update on the project and ask any questions about plans for the site.
Session 1 – Evatt
Date: Thursday 25 August 2016
Time: 3:00pm to 6:30pm
Venue: Evatt Scout Hall
Address: Heydon Crescent, Evatt
Session 2 – Gold Creek (Nicholls)
Date: Saturday 27 August 2016
Time: 12:00pm to 4:00pm
Venue: The Abbey
Address: Gold Creek Village, Nicholls
At these events, you will be able to talk with our project team and contribute your ideas, helping to shape our vision for the property and the principles that will guide sustainable urban development.
There will also be the chance to provide general feedback about the project. If you can’t attend either session, but still want to provide feedback, please complete the online enquiry contact form.
Many people have already taken the time to speak to us and provide their comments on the future of Ginninderra. Thank you for your valuable contribution.
Affordable housing – restoring the great Australian dream
A growing population, rising tide of record high property prices, limited land release and broader economic and social change is swamping the great Australian dream of owning a home and even pushing rent payments out of reach for many Australians.
Is this an inevitable and unstoppable tide? It doesn’t have to be – according to some leading experts and creative thinkers.
The encouraging response at our Affordable Housing Think Tank suggests there is a groundswell of innovative ideas – for example flexible design, tenure and financial models – that could make Australian homes more affordable and sustainable.
But how can we make a difference when it has been difficult to achieve this in many states and jurisdictions across the country?
Short of a major collapse of our city real estate markets, it is difficult to see how property prices and rents might be attainable for many Australians, particularly the younger demographic and those in low-mid income ranges.
Recent reports have found:
- 27,500 people or 13% of the ACT’s workforce, are in housing stress. This includes 43% of people working in retail and 33% of those working in accommodation and food services. [ACT Shelter et al, 2015, “Housing affordability and the labour market in the ACT”, Canberra.]
- 7% of low income households renting in the ACT are in housing stress (spending more than 30% of gross household income on housing costs) [ABS, Housing Occupancy and Costs 2013-14, cat. no.4310.0 released 16 October 2015]
- Of 1,497 private rental properties advertised in ACT and Queanbeyan on 2 April 2016 – only 102 of these were affordable and suitable for a family of two adults, both earning the minimum wage, and two children. [Anglicare Australia, Rental Affordability Snapshot 2016, Canberra]
A combination of factors is driving the market and compounding the affordability crisis. Of course our population is growing and ageing, but household and family structures are also changing, which often means we have fewer people in each house (declining occupancy rate). Put this together with the tax breaks and incentives that have existed for multiple property investment and it adds up to a lot of competition for the properties that come on the market.
Since new land and housing supply has not kept up with this level of demand, the asking prices continue to be high. Those with the ability to pay higher prices win out, leaving mid and lower income earners with a tough battle.
If unchanged, this amounts to a fairly bleak outlook for those in or close to ‘housing stress’.
While it’s possible to build more units and release more land, in a tight fiscal environment everyone wants to maximise returns to balance the books. Governments or landholders want the best price for land, while developers, builders, real estate agents and investors all want to maximise profits.
More creative ideas and sustainable and enduring solutions are needed.
At Ginninderra, we have the opportunity to achieve strong affordable housing outcomes.
The Affordable Housing Think Tank was a first step, bringing out a wealth of ideas to inform our approach . Two experts who attended were Dr Louise Crabtree, a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University, and Mark Peacock, Director of Impact Investing at Social Ventures Australia.
“As people’s housing needs change, imagine if their houses had flexibility of design,” said Dr Crabtree. “For Ginninderra, I think we should be asking how it is governed – owned and structured – on an ongoing basis. The site is really quite special as it can set a benchmark and really push innovation in terms of affordability and sustainability for future developments.”
Mr Peacock said, “The Ginninderra site presents so many opportunities. One of the ideas that I’d like to see progress around is what a mixed tenure or mixed development type model might look like – catering to different groups of people at different stages of their lives. How do you bring together a wide range of individuals and families to build a community? Through a variety of housing, different types of stock, and potentially different forms of social infrastructure on the side.”
Affordability is just one of the sustainability issues that confronts our cities and urban environments. Some of the others are water, energy and resource consumption, waste and environmental impacts.
We believe that with a lot of planning, collaboration and co-operation, it is possible to address them all in a sustainable urban development at Ginninderra.
Bold green vision for Ginninderra future
Over the past few years a vision has been emerging for what a sustainable urban development backed by science and innovation could be like.
Our vision is to restore and improve our natural environment while setting a new benchmark for sustainable urban development.
The terms ‘benchmark and sustainable’ apply to the extent to which we can maximise and maintain the stream of future environmental, social and economic benefits, that flow from the development and its surrounding natural values.
The aspirations for Ginninderra are closely aligned with many of Australia’s key policy settings and targets namely in areas of national innovation, infrastructure, cities and built environment, energy and climate, water and the economy.
CSIRO is well placed to significantly address these important issues because of our coverage of relevant research areas and our capacity to draw on all of these and engage the right collaborators and partners.
We are looking to provide multiple benefits through combining a diversity of housing, community and recreational facilities together with some retail and commercial opportunities, all integrated with the restoration, conservation and management of the landscape and its important natural and heritage values such as the endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodlands.
We are absolutely committed to the management and restoration at Ginninderra of areas of threatened vegetation types and species that are protected by ACT or Commonwealth legislation.
Protection of trees regulated and administered by the Tree Protection Act 2005 is an essential component and CSIRO is developing guidelines that extend beyond its regulatory obligations to ensure their preservation.
This commitment has extended to comprehensive environmental studies that sees approximately 130ha of the site largely protected by legislation and a further 80ha that CSIRO has identified should be managed to protect ecological and heritage values.
Ginninderra residents and other water and energy users will draw benefits from the efficient and sensitive management and use of water and the leading-edge energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities that we are exploring for the site.
We want to contribute to the evolution of urban areas from being ‘consumer and polluter’ to being ‘energy and water efficient’ and ‘environment protectors’.
We want to help solve the issue of affordable housing, particularly for those in the lower 40 per cent of incomes.
Encouraged by the ideas and feedback generated at our recent gathering of experts – The Affordable Housing Think Tank – we are firmly committed to providing real and lasting affordable housing options, among the property mix at Ginninderra. This will extend well beyond the asking price for moving into the neighbourhood, to various other aspects that affect the cost of living including energy, water and transport.
These topics and others including urban food growing, waste minimisation, recycling and reuse have regularly been raised in our community conversations and we will continue to explore these in future planning together with our joint venture partner.
We are aspiring to urban planning and design that can promote such features, encourage social interactions and connections and maintain an accessible open space network.
CSIRO is committed to keep building this vision with the community and to plan the development with and for the community. There are many steps and stages in front of us before any development occurs and we want to work with the community throughout.
We see community innovation and opportunities for ‘citizen science’ as fundamental components in the creation and future success of this venture.
Citizen science and community activity is already underway and helping to deliver our environmental commitments at five sites across our Ginninderra property, led by the Ginninderra Catchment Group, Landcare member groups and some of its 500 volunteers. This group is extending its work with autumn burning to recover and restore native grasslands in the Ginninderra catchment.
This and other community-driven work will provide valuable insights on how best to restore and conserve areas of the endangered White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely’s Red Gum Grassy Woodland and Derived Native Grassland located on the site.
CSIRO is committed to remaining involved and achieving the exemplar in sustainable urban development.
The reason we are seeking a joint venture development partner is because we want to be closely involved with Ginninderra – firstly, to ensure that we can achieve these conservation, sustainability, liveability and affordability goals. Beyond that we want to realise knowledge and innovation from this development that can be applied more broadly for benefit in the ACT, Australia and beyond.
CSIRO locks in affordable housing plans for field station site
Published on 24 April in the Canberra Times. Written by Tom McIlroy.
The CSIRO will explore innovative technology, finance and governance models to effectively incorporate affordable housing options into the planned redevelopment of its Ginninderra Field Station.
About 30 experts from universities, social service groups, charities, and banks joined a think tank event on affordable housing options for the 700-hectare site earlier this month, advising the research organisation to use technology to reduce the cost of living on the site and to incorporate place-making and a master plan to manage affordable housing.
The planning comes as the CSIRO waits for federal government approvals on required zoning changes. Once approved, a consortium or joint-development partner will be engaged for the redevelopment project.
Established in 1960, the field station replaced a research site near the Dickson shops. The area has been home to the development of a range of projects including novel grains and agricultural systems. The field station sits on the ACT-NSW border, framed by the Barton Highway, William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive and Kuringa Drive.
Some residents near the field station oppose changing the land’s zoning classification from hills, ridges and buffer spaces to urban area.
Design of houses and public spaces was raised by participants, as well as incorporation of CSIRO research outcomes.
Planners could consider allocating blocks of land and specific areas of the site as designated affordable housing supply, with the cost in part covered by higher value sales in other areas. Ballots or other allocation methods will be considered.
A community information session is planned in coming months to give local residents and other stakeholders with the chance to receive an update on the project and to suggest ideas and ask questions.
Think Tank generates ideas for affordable housing
Our Affordable Housing Think Tank on 8 April 2016 was a success – bringing out a wealth of ideas from an impressive gathering of industry, government, research and community experts.
The objective of the Think Tank was to generate shared understanding of the issues and to identify bold and innovative ideas for the delivery of affordable housing locally, and it did!
A range of ideas were discussed and broad agreement reached, that to deliver affordable housing that best meets the diversity of societal needs, the Ginninderra project should:
- Explore innovative finance and governance models
- Adopt and promote innovative sustainability technologies that also improve affordability by reducing the cost of living
- Commit to ‘place-making’ and to trialing and assessing a variety of approaches to the provision of affordable housing within the site
- Identify approaches to community consultation and engagement that will support the project aims and involve low and moderate income earners
- Develop a plan for the site that articulates a clear vision and aspirations
Thirty experts from the housing sector, ACT and federal government agencies, community organisations and CSIRO research teams took part in the Think Tank that will help inform a strategy for affordable housing in the Ginninderra project.
Think Tank participants suggested that planning and design should aim to ensure the site provides diverse housing types, meets the needs of diverse households, and in particular provides housing that is affordable to people and households across all income levels. Ideas supporting such multi-level affordable housing included:
- Considering the specific needs of particular cohorts identified as requiring affordable housing
- Providing a mix of higher and lower density housing on the site
- Providing a mix not only of different tenure types, household types and housing types, but also diverse funding mechanisms and governance structures to meet the needs of a differentiated market and to encourage diversity in the site
- Considering options to cross-subsidise affordable housing within the development
- Designing housing for the life course, so that homes can readily respond to changing household needs and composition
- Investigating investment sources including social impact bonds and superannuation
- Exploring ways of ensuring that housing remains affordable into the future
These ideas and those generated through further research and community engagement will be tested and evaluated to inform a living strategy document that guides CSIRO’s approach to affordable housing as a key element to the overall development of the site.
CSIRO is aspiring to an overall design that embraces the ideas of the community and considers energy, water, emissions, waste, economic activity, health and wellbeing, and the environment – as well as integrating affordable housing.
CSIRO remains committed to working with stakeholders to push the frontiers of sustainable and affordable urban design.
CSIRO Ginninderra development prompts formulation of affordable housing strategy
Published on 29 March in the Canberra Times. Written by Tom McIlroy.
Redevelopment of the CSIRO’s Ginninderra Field Station could be under way within two years, as the research organisation looks to experts for proper integration of affordable housing options as part of a new community.
Experts from universities, social service agencies, charities, banks and financial institutions will come together for an affordable housing think tank event in Canberra on April 8, before the CSIRO engages a consortium or joint-development partner for redevelopment, pending federal government approvals on required zoning changes.
Affordable housing products are provided for rent or purchase at prices that low and moderate income households can afford, while also meeting other living expenses. The CSIRO expects to deliver more than the required 20 per cent quota on the field station site.
The 701-hectare area sits on the ACT-New South Wales border, framed by the Barton Highway, William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive and Kuringa Drive.
First established in 1960, the field station replaced research sites at the current site of the Dickson shops. The area has been home to the development of a range of projects including novel grains and agricultural systems.
ACT Shelter executive officer Travis Gilbert welcomed the think tank event and said the CSIRO was committed to incorporating the needs to affordable housing consumers.
“I think what the event will do is provide an opportunity to bring some leading experts into one room to have a discussion about how we can guide the aspirations of CSIRO and those of housing people, to get what I think could be a good quality development and something a bit different to more rent housing developments,” he said.
“One of the issues when we talk about affordable housing is price … and what that can sometimes mean is putting as many tiny units per square metres of accommodation as you can get for the price and selling them at a price that is technically affordable but still maximises profit.”
Mr Gilbert said affordable housing didn’t mean cheap housing.
“What ACT Shelter is really interested in pursuing is how affordable is a home to live in? A higher energy efficiency rating, for example, makes it much cheaper for people to heat and cool their homes.”
The discussion will include shared equity and innovative purchase structures, shared housing arrangements and comparisons between ownership and rentals.
Zeroing in on sustainable energy and emissions
In previous posts, we have talked about the idea of ‘sustainable urban development’. To understand what that could mean at street level we are going to zero-in on some of the research that CSIRO and partners are doing in this area.
This week, we focus on CSIRO research in recent years for ‘houses or dwellings’, specifically the Zero Emission House project (AusZEH). This project was set up as a demonstration of how we could achieve a more sustainable and climate-friendly future.
Through this project, CSIRO and partners successfully overcame the challenge of designing and building the first affordable, net-zero emission house. This was tailored for Australia’s climate, lifestyle and the volume housing market.
The CSIRO team also developed new AusZEH Design software for designing new Australian houses or retrofitting existing houses for zero-emission outcomes. The software allows for different local climates and context, house features and household size and occupancy pattern.
The AusZEH arose out of an understanding that homes and buildings were producing about a quarter of Australia’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These emissions are due to a heavy reliance on mostly high emission electricity generation (such as coal-fired power) for heating, cooling, lighting and appliances.
“The essential aim of the project was to produce enough renewable ‘zero emission’ energy on site to supply all of the operating energy needs of a typical Australian household,” according to CSIRO’s AusZEH leader, Dr Greg Foliente.
Over the course of a year, a net-zero emission performance is achieved when the total onsite renewable energy production is the same as the total energy consumed by the residents.
The energy and emissions embodied in all the construction materials and technology used in the AusZEH house were also offset. This means that on completion in 2011, it was also the first house with net-zero lifecycle carbon emissions.
The demonstration house in Laurimar, 30 kilometres north of Melbourne CBD, achieved an eight-star energy efficiency rating and the net zero emission standard by using ‘off-the-shelf’ building and renewable energy generation technology and future-ready energy management systems, specifically:
- 6 kW roof -mounted solar panel array for electricity generation
- optimised building envelope design for the Victorian climate
- high-efficiency appliances
- smart meters and an integrated energy management and monitoring system
- high efficiency reverse cycle heating and cooling system
- high efficiency solar hot water system
- rainwater tanks for toilet flushing
- grey water recycling system
- a power charging system for an electric vehicle, the first Australian house to have this.
“We estimated that Australia would be able to avoid 63 million tons of GHG by adopting zero emission houses in all new housing developments over the decade up to 2020,” Dr Foliente said.
This emissions saving is equivalent to taking 13 million cars off the road for a year or closing 16 coal-fired power plants for a year. (US Dept of Energy greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator).
The team also developed a way of modelling the broader impacts of energy-efficient and zero-emissions technologies on building stock at a precinct, city, region or state scale.
Given data on population and housing stock growth and trends in consumption (appliances, lighting, hot water and heating/cooling), CSIRO can analyse the impacts of different actions and technologies on energy and carbon footprint scenarios for decades into the future.
With these modelling capabilities and new developments in renewable technologies and energy, there’s no reason why houses, and even an urban development like Ginninderra, could be a net energy producer while meeting the zero emission standard.
In the AusZEH house, CSIRO worked closely with industry partners Delfin-Lend Lease and Henley Property Group and a consortium of AusZEH partners.