Water sensitive design through international collaboration
Ginninderra is proposed to become a test-bed for the latest innovation in water sensitive urban design and infrastructure through an international collaboration between CSIRO and the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology.
As a generally dry country, Australia perpetually faces issues of water availability, storage and prudent use, according to Senior Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO Land and Water, Dr Simon Toze.
“A focus of our water management is to increase water availability in rural and urban environments for both human and environmental purposes,” says Simon. “In Australia we tend to have broad strategies and initiatives to capture, recycle and reduce the use of water where possible.”
“By contrast in Korea, where rain-fed water is relatively abundant, water sustainability issues relate mostly to improving the quality of environmental water. Korea tends to focus on mechanisms to treat and clean environmental waterways or to add recycled water and cleaned urban stormwater to increase environmental flows.”
Despite these differences, Australia and Korea share common interests in managing water quality and preventing contamination.
Both countries are experiencing issues relating to existing urban developments and the corresponding human and ecological impacts. Changes in climate, increasing urbanisation and growing population, along with increasing needs to protect and improve the local environments, are placing greater demands on regulators and urban planners.
In view of such common issues and complementary research skills and capabilities, Australia and Korea have taken key steps to bolster their collaboration and it is hoped that the Ginninderra initiative will be a prime beneficiary.
A Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 between CSIRO Land and Water and the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) establishes a collaboration project. The project: ‘Integrated drainage and supply through water sensitive design’ is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“As we work to combine and exchange the complimentary capabilities and research skills of each organisation, the benefits could be very significant for each country,” says Simon.
KICT research tends to focus on water engineering and treatment capabilities, while CSIRO has a wealth of skills and knowledge related to water quality, treatment assessment and water use efficiencies.
“Following our Australia-Korea Foundation Workshop in November 2016, we are proposing to work together at Ginninderra through an ‘Urban Living Lab’ to be a test bed for potential broad application of knowledge, technologies and infrastructure.”
Participants in the Australia-Korean Foundation Workshop met at CSIRO and
visited Ginninderra and various urban water management sites in Canberra
CSIRO Urban Living Labs are being set up in a number of Australian cities to encourage innovators from wide-ranging urban research backgrounds to come together to create, test and refine innovative products and services in a real-life setting, with the support of CSIRO and research partners. Some of the key activities and outcomes connected with Ginninderra are proposed to include:
- Developing the urban water design philosophy to be applied at Ginninderra
- Analysing, trialling and feasibility testing the effectiveness of specific water sensitive urban design / green stormwater infrastructure and Managed Aquifer Recharge facilities and
- Potentially applying the research findings from Ginninderra in the establishment of a new sustainable city (Sejong) in Korea.
Through the Australia-Korea Foundation project agreement, a follow-up workshop to develop the joint research activities is planned for Goyang, South Korea in February or March 2017.
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?’
Taking on the liveability challenge
Canberra is one of the best places to live in the world. Our beautiful open spaces, incredible sense of community and cosmopolitan lifestyle – without the traffic congestion typical in most cities – has now been recognised on a national and international level.
In March 2014 Canberra was ranked number one in the OECD Regional Well-Being Report, scoring highly in eight of the nine indicators including safety, access to services, civic engagement, education, jobs, environment, income and health.
Since then Canberra has continued to perform well in global assessments of liveability, ranking number 28 on the Worldwide Quality of Living survey in February 2016. While this is an achievement to be celebrated, can we actually improve on this?
Shaping and improving our future cities and their liveability is the focus of a range of CSIRO research. Achieving such improvements in liveability is also a key aspiration for our Ginninderra project.
“Liveability is typically measured using various social and economic indicators such as income, wealth, education, health status, economic, community and recreational infrastructure, and access to opportunities and services,” according to CSIRO Social Scientist, Dr Rod McCrea.
There are also aesthetic and environmental elements that contribute to liveability, for example features such as: air and water quality, environmental outlook and setting, and even native plant and animal presence.
“So in every city we see this trade-off between benefits such as: access to employment, health and entertainment opportunities and services; and the negative consequences of urban growth such as: housing costs, overcrowding, congestion and environmental degradation.”
“Increases in travel-to-work time and declining access to affordable housing can be negative impacts of urban growth when it is not well planned and executed.”
Rod and colleagues Professors Rosemary Leonard and Greg Foliente recently conducted a Survey of Community Wellbeing and Responding to Change across six local government areas in Melbourne. The survey was prompted by Melbourne’s current challenge of managing urban growth while maintaining quality of life and promoting community wellbeing.
While focussed on Melbourne, the research highlights the importance of community resilience and adaptability to successfully maintaining liveability and wellbeing amid urban growth and change.
“The planning and engagement of a community in urban growth and having a shared sense that ‘this is our place and we are growing it together’ are vitally important,” Rosemary says.
It is still early days at Ginninderra, with many opportunities for the thoughts and ideas of the local community to be heard and included through the planning process.
A participatory process that nurtures the liveability needs of future residents as well as those of people living in the area now, will help to produce a good outcome.
CSIRO launches tender for partner to deliver land development in Belconnen
Published on 9 May in the Canberra Times. Written by Natasha Boddy.
The CSIRO has begun the hunt for a partner to deliver a major redevelopment of its massive Ginninderra Field Station to make way for a new urban area on Canberra’s northern outskirts.
On Monday, the research organisation will begin advertising a tender calling for expressions of interest for a joint development partner.
The tender comes only days after the federal government gave the green light to a major shake-up in planning for the ACT, with the first comprehensive review of the National Capital Plan allowing CSIRO to sell off its 701-hectare Ginninderra Field Station and zoning it as urban.
Established in 1960, the field station is on the ACT-NSW border, framed by the Barton Highway, William Slim Drive, Owen Dixon Drive and Kuringa Drive.
According to tender documents, CSIRO currently uses a third of the land.
“This underutilisation of the land is inefficient for CSIRO and the community and greater benefits could be achieved through alternative use of this site,” the documents say.
“CSIRO wishes to partner with a suitable respondent for the purposes of establishing a new suburb(s) compromising residential, commercial, retail and community infrastructure and services.”
The expression of interest closes on May 19, which is expected to enable CSIRO to shortlist potential development partners.
Redevelopment could be underway within two to three years.
The planning changes, announced last week and reported first in Fairfax Media, will also allow residential development in Tuggeranong, west of the Murrumbidgee River, although it will be up to the ACT government to decide when the suburbs go ahead.
The parliamentary triangle’s East and West Blocks will be opened up for use as hotels, offices, restaurants, cafes or retail spaces and outdated federal government office buildings at Anzac Park East and West redeveloped.
Beating the heat at Ginninderra
We’ve all experienced the cool relief of seeking respite from a hot day under a shady tree. Recent studies have shown that tree cover plays a large part in combating the urban heat island effect.
Canberra is hot and getting hotter. Temperatures in the ACT have been increasing since about 1950.
Canberra sweltered though 10 consecutive days of 30-degree plus temperatures in early March, providing our hottest start to autumn on record.
This warming trend is set to continue, with recent projections of Canberra’s future climate indicating that temperatures are likely to rise further, resulting in more hot days and fewer cold nights.
This is exacerbated by the Urban Heat Island effect, where cities tend to trap and store heat during the day, staying hotter for longer than the surrounding countryside during the night.
To understand patterns of urban heat across Canberra, researchers in CSIRO Land & Water have used satellite thermal imagery to estimate land surface temperatures and map their distribution.
We recently tested this at Ginninderra Field Station, which yielded some very interesting results.
Dr Matt Beaty, a Senior Experimental Scientist in CSIRO Land & Water said, “As with other cities around Australia, there is a strong relationship between vegetation and land surface temperatures.”
“Newer suburbs, and industrial areas in Canberra with little vegetation cover, are typically much hotter during summer than older suburbs with established tree cover providing dense shade.”
The availability of water is also important. Not just to support healthy vegetation, but to drive the processes of evaporation and transpiration that provide cooling benefits in addition to tree shade.
CSIRO’s urban heat mapping for Canberra has been featured by the ACT Government in their draft ACT Climate Change Adaptation Strategy which is open for public consultation until 3 April 2016.
“There is a lot to be learnt from this urban heat mapping work that is relevant to the proposed urban development of the Ginninderra site and how we adapt our cities to climate change,” said Dr Beaty.
CSIRO heat mapping for the northern part of Canberra (shown below) identifies that during a hot summer day established suburbs are cooler than the Ginninderra site and surrounding countryside.
“This is due to the influence of suburban gardens and associated irrigation, which tends to result in cooler land surfaces than bare cultivated soils and dry sheep paddocks.”
The coolest parts of the Ginninderra site are the waterways and areas with existing tree cover.
“What this means is that large trees, irrigated grass and water will need to be a key feature of the design of any potential future urban development to combat the Urban Heat Island effect through the provision of shade and to drive the cooling benefits of evapotranspiration,” Beaty said.
Based on site investigations so far, approximately 150 hectares of the land on the Ginninderra site is unable to be developed due to its topography, heritage and ecological values, and is envisaged to form an open space network of connected recreational and conservation areas. This idea of ‘fingers of green’ through the site was reflected in the draft concept presented to the community last year.
But it’s not all about trees, other strategies for adapting our cities to increasing urban heat include the use of light-coloured construction materials in our buildings and paved surfaces. Light coloured surfaces reflect incoming solar radiation, reducing the amount of heat that is trapped in our cities.
Jacqui Meyers, another Senior Experimental Scientist in CSIRO Land & Water has undertaken research on the impact of climate change on the heating and cooling energy costs of a typical Canberra home. This research is also cited in the ACT Government’s draft ACT Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.
“The energy required to heat a typical Canberra home in 2070 may be one-third lower, but energy for cooling could more than double,” Myers said.
“An integrated response to urban heat is required, which includes a focus on climate-wise buildings, planning provisions that provide space for trees to shade buildings and pedestrians, and open space networks that support healthy vegetation and waterways to deliver further cooling benefits.”
Overall, there are many opportunities for science to inform the planning and design of the proposed urban development of the Ginninderra site. More tree cover is good for addressing the urban heat island effect, but would also provide many other social and economic benefits.
Aspiring for best practice at Ginninderra
As we welcome in 2016, some of the Ginninderra project team have been enjoying a holiday break while others are working hard to scope the vision and potential for a liveable, sustainable and resilient urban development at Ginninderra.
A team of CSIRO researchers, and experts in their fields, gathered in Canberra late in 2015 to discuss the areas of research, technology and innovation that could be included in the Ginninderra venture.
“The workshop produced a lot of ideas and energy about specific science and innovation that we could integrate if the project gets the go ahead,” said science leader Mr Guy Barnett.
“We have some exciting research knowledge and technologies that can contribute to a best practice urban development and we are now working those ideas into a consolidated vision.”
We look forward to revealing these ideas and seeking your input as the project progresses. Stay tuned.
As the vision continues to emerge, the process of seeking reclassification of the Ginninderra Field Station to ‘Urban Area’ also continues.
As mentioned in our last newsletter, we are still following through the processes that govern land reclassification in the ACT.
In the meantime, we’re continuing environmental, heritage and other studies to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the site and needs of a future residential community.
Bird, plane or scientific blimp?
Walking through the storage sheds at the Ginninderra Experiment Station, you would expect to find some interesting agricultural scientific equipment. What you might not expect to discover is a blimp.
However, like all shed items on site, the blimp has a story to tell. It’s part of a collection of items that also includes a ‘golf buggy on stilts’ or Phenomobile used to measure how effectively plants grow and perform under different field conditions.
The technology was developed by the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre, which is the Canberra node of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility – a partnership between CSIRO, The Australian National University, University of Adelaide and the Federal Government.
The technology uses cameras that capture different light wavelengths and signals to photograph growing plants. The photographs created allow scientists to make measurements about the plants’ growth rates, their water use efficiency and how productive the crops are over the growing season.
Having lab and farm facilities on site allowed the scientists to develop the technology in the lab, then test it in the field. The Phenomobile can get above a row of plants without harming the crop and take detailed images. The blimp does the same and can photograph a whole paddock at a time.
Being able to measure the plant without disturbing the crop or destroying the plants means crops can be monitored throughout the growing season as the environmental conditions change. The performance of different crop varieties can be monitored during a drought to see which varieties preform best under Australia’s harsh conditions.
After being trialled, tested and perfected on the CSIRO site, (and surprising a few local residents), the equipment is now used to make measurements on the paddocks of research collaborators and farmers.
While there are now certainly smaller and more portable measuring tools, such as drones, that can fly over plants and crops, the blimp provided a steady platform for the development of the imaging and analysis tools that are used in photographing plants across large areas.
While the CSIRO blimp won’t be seen again in the Canberra skies, the technology it helped to develop continues to be used in farms across the country.
Canberra’s hidden reserve
The Ginninderra Field Station was established in 1958 as a site for agricultural research in anticipation of the closure of the Dickson Experiment Station to make way for urban development in that area, which eventually occurred in 1962.
The Ginninderra site is located in the northern area of ACT, surrounded by the suburbs of Gungahlin, Hall and Nicholls to the north, Giralang to the east, and Evatt, Spence and Fraser to the south.
While nearby residents know more, it’s an area many people have driven past every day and never realised what lay within.
Behind the unassuming ridges and rows of vegetation lies 701 hectares of grassy open space with 80 hectares of irrigated, arable land. The quality soil and water availability on the site has provided excellent opportunities to support CSIRO’s agricultural research effort.
There are three houses, a machinery shed, a workshop, a barn, shearing sheds and some scientific equipment and approximately 5,000 sheep on the property.
Australia is famous for its beautiful natural environment which is reflected throughout the site. A mixture of native grasses, Scribbly Gum woodland, Box-Gum woodland, Eucalypts and pines create the greenscape of the site.
A natural drainage system, Halls Creek, separates the upper and lower areas of the site. Surrounded by ridges and hills there are amazing views across to Belconnen Town Centre, Telstra Tower and the Brindabella’s from the highest points of the site.
Canberra is known for its ability to incorporate green spaces into the city. The future of the site will embody this, retaining green spaces, open reserves, and natural vegetation. Sitting within the north-eastern end of site lie two very special trees, Canberra’s oldest oaks. This unique part of the landscape will be preserved throughout the development.
The site is also home to native, endangered species including the Golden Sun Moth and Box-Gum woodland. Protecting the plants and creatures that call the Ginninderra lands home is integral to this project. Opportunities to improve the quality of woodlands and create natural reserves will arise throughout the course of the project.
A number of Aboriginal heritage locations have been identified on the site. When European settlement took place in the area homesteads were set up near the Ginninderra property. Nearby heritage listed sites include the Charnwood Homestead, the Palmerville (Ginninderra) Homestead and the Ginninderra Police Station. These sites are all important in better understanding Canberra’s early history and will be respected throughout the project.
Canberra CBD to Ginninderra Field Station [PDF, 4MB]
Draft Concept Plan [PDF, 1MB]
CSIRO in Canberra: from agriculture to space
CSIRO’s presence in Canberra is almost as old as Canberra itself, with just 14 years separating the establishment of Canberra and the creation of our national science body.
Since these early beginnings, Canberra has been a critical part of CSIRO’s research in agriculture and the natural sciences.
CSIRO’S Black Mountain offices opened in 1927, with the Department of Entomology moving into its own building in 1934. The Australian National Herbarium was also established during the 1930s.
The first site for agricultural research in Canberra was a site at Duntroon Farm, which later became Canberra Airport. A story in The Canberra Times in May 1931 said the costs of operating the farm would be covered by a £6,000 per annum contribution from the Empire Marketing Board, and that:
“Special attention is to be paid to investigations of wheat resistance and diseases, while a special section will be set aside for testing new grasses and forage plants to be introduced from abroad.”
This research site shifted from Duntroon to the Dickson Experiment Station in 1940, and experiments into crop and pasture trials continued here. Scientists also looked at how land could be used productively for livestock and crop farming, and housed a large flock of merino and Border Leicester sheep.
CSIRO’s history in Canberra is about more than agriculture, even though this has been a key focus. In 1965 the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex opened at Tidbinbilla, and has worked with NASA on space exploration missions ever since. For nearly 60 years, the Gungahlin Homestead property at Crace was used for CSIRO’s Sustainable Ecosystems research program.
As urban development began to encroach on the Dickson farm, it was time for the field state to be moved once again. CSIRO acquired the 701 acre land for the Ginninderra Experiment Station in 1958, moving all research there by 1962.
The Dickson area turned out to be much-needed land for urban development, as the ACT population almost doubled from 55,000 to over 90,000 in the five years between 1960 and 1965.
Photos from the time show the rapid pace of development in Dickson and the surrounding suburbs once this land close to the centre of Canberra was repurposed.
Meanwhile, the Ginninderra site over the years has provided space for multiple research projects, including testing varieties of crop seeds, animal farming and other agricultural experiments.
The site has contributed to Australian science including the development of BarleyMax and dual purpose wheats, crop and pasture improvement, sustainable farming, plant breeding and the effects of climate changes on crop production and soil carbon.
Once again, the city of Canberra has grown up around a CSIRO research site. Neighbouring suburbs include Hall and Nicholls to the north, the Belconnen suburb of Giralang to the east, and Evatt, Spence and Fraser to the south.
The story of CSIRO’s agriculture research in Canberra continues with the creation of the National Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Precinct, a $190 million investment bringing together research partners at CSIRO’s foundation site at Black Mountain. This initiative will bring together researchers from all over the world to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges in plant and environmental sciences.
Seizing new opportunities
For nearly 100 years, CSIRO has driven scientific innovation in Australia. Since it was established in 1926, CSIRO has built on its initial mandate to carry out scientific research in farming, mining and manufacturing.
CSIRO has been in Canberra since 1927, and currently holds seven sites and properties in the ACT. One of these is the Ginninderra Field Station, which has been used for agricultural research for over 50 years.
The city of Canberra has grown up around the site, with suburbs surrounding nearly all sides of the property, which has led the CSIRO explore the site’s future urban development opportunities.
Exploring the site’s future urban potential also offers the opportunity for CSIRO to reinvest in its infrastructure to make sure it can continue carrying out world-class science.
CSIRO holds an extensive property portfolio across Australia and internationally. Property holdings
are regularly reviewed through an ongoing strategic review processes to identify sites that are underutilised and opportunities to reinvest in CSIRO’s infrastructure to continue delivering world-class science.
Agricultural research sites in Canberra have already shifted multiple times to accommodate urban development.
CSIRO Agriculture Director, Dr John Manners, recalls;
“CSIRO has used the Ginninderra Field Station since 1958. Prior to that we had field facilities where the current airport is located and also where the Dickson shops are located now. Part of this site has actually already been rezoned and used for urban development in Crace.”
The facilities at Ginninderra, he says, are aging and need renewing. Given much of the land at Ginninderra is underutilised, moving agricultural research to another location means the new space can be used efficiently and incorporate new technology into CSIRO’s research.
“The Ginninderra field station occupies about 700 hectares of land. A lot of that land at the moment is underutilised in our research, so if we start a new site for experimental research we can optimise our use of the land,” says Manners.