Hey Queensland..Build it Back Green!

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be a part of Green Cross Australia’s Build it Back Green Queensland workshop.

Build it Back Green is a global movement established by Green Cross in response to the growing impact of natural disasters on communities around the world. With the recent Queensland floods, Green Cross has turned its focus to making sure Queensland is built back better and greener than ever.

The day was structured around a few presentations followed by a collaborative workshop.

One of the key themes that stood out for me from the presentations was the idea of ‘eco-resilience’. In other words, taking the view that intelligent design and development is based on an equal appreciation of sustainability and resilience. This was summed up nicely by one of the speakers, Andrew Zuch from RPS Group. He suggested that the common understanding of resilience as being ‘the power or ability to (urgently) return to original form’ is something that we should carefully re-think:

‘Resilience is not a static thing; just because we survived the last disaster, doesn’t mean we’ll survive the next one. We need to look closely as there may be unseen damage to our communities’.

Another key moment that stood out from the presentations for me was hearing from Stephen Hardy, at BNIM Architects, about his experience leading the rebuilding of the town of Greensburg following Hurricane Katrina.

Greensburg following Hurricane Katrina

Greensburg today

Stephen explained how the total devastation of Greensburg presented a rare opportunity to go beyond plain old carbon-copy restoration to instead rebuilding green. BNIM saw an opportunity to use green design as a catalyst for not only physically re-building the town but also rebuilding its morale and economy.

Stephen’s story really drove home for me the real-life advantages and possibilities that green development offers beyond just a positive environmental impact. Greensburg has created an entire new economy through this green building revolution! This town has developed a unique knowledge-base that is leading the way in the US in terms of green building capacity and infrastructure. The intense outreach that this program undertook by involving the entire community has had a profound effect on empowering individuals with the knowledge to create their own sustainable futures.

Greensburg is a great example of front-end, intelligent planning that is already providing tangible, positive outcomes and will obviously continue to in the future. There is no reason why this same ‘stop, collaborate and listen‘ approach can’t be taken in the sustainable rebuilding of Queensland.

The workshop side of the day explored a bunch of activity streams including residential building, green schools, commercial, government and public exemplar buildings, infrastructure projects and key local areas.

I’ve spent a bit of time working on school projects as an architect and I’m also passionate about  young people leading sustainability and disaster resilience so I joined the green schools group.

Our team explored the question ‘What will a Build it Back Green school look like?’. Our team comprised a broad cross section of individuals, from the private sector, Education Queensland, Council and Government so we came at this question from a range of perspectives.

Could the green school of the future could become a community hub that in times of disaster acts as the central evacuation centre and shelter?

Could the school become that place where young people and the community are trained in sustainability and resilience, not only through formal teaching but passively through the design and artwork environments of the school?

Could the school become the ‘model building’ in the community that demonstrates environmentally sustainable technology and builds the capacity and demand for a green construction industry?

Could the school become an information hub for the community that can be used to exchange knowledge on sustainability and dealing with disaster.

With all the high-level talk of disaster recovery and planning for the future its great to see opportunities like this for individuals to get together, share ideas and make a commitment to making positive changes.

Green Cross Australia is also a supporting partner of the Flood of Ideas initiative being lead by The Edge and The Healthy Waterways Partnership. You may have caught the cover story on mX (above) in Brisbane this week. Flood of Ideas is a unique forum for allowing anyone and everyone to have their say on what shape our future State should take in the context of floods and natural disaster. Through technology and social networking, the role of the individual in driving change has never been more powerful. If you have an idea for flood-proofing Queensland this is your chance to make a difference, so get on the site, share your ideas and join in the conversation of other ideas already uploaded.

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