ESD Consultancy

We Consult In Every State In Australia

We are a leading Ecologically Sustainable Development consultancy with offices in Sydney and the Gold Coast, spending most of our time working with architects and their clients to reduce our environmental footprint through efficient and well reasoned building design. Although we have a touch of ‘greenie’ at heart, our consultants all come from either Architectural or Engineering backgrounds and hold degrees in their relevant fields.  


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 Playing a major role in this process, architectural and building industries developed various regulatory processes and requirements (such as BASIX and BESS) which specified the limit of any one building’s impact on the environment (carbon footprint) and their required thermal performance. This saw the emergence of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) through which the building industry could regulate and encourage sustainable building practices.
Presently, ESD seeks to encourage the use of responsibly sourced materials and architectural design decisions which respond uniquely to their site and climate, through which passive heating and cooling can be achieved and thus, significantly reduce a building’s energy needs and its impact on the environment.
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What is Sustainable Development?

Since the acknowledgement of global warming and climate change attributed to unrestrained economic growth and the depletion of natural resources worldwide, government agencies found the need to regulate the world wide consumption of natural resources and ensure that the environment would be secure and healthy for future generations.

Sustainable development is most commonly defined by the Brundtland Report (1987) as a process that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. It requires humanity to respect the limitations of environmental resources and understand the need to manage consumption to reduce further degradation of the environment. This will assist in ensuring the longevity of resources for the future and an overarching healthy, natural environment.
Country-specific regulations and legislation have been introduced to protect the environment within borders, for example, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in Australia.  Programmes and agreements have also been created by intergovernmental organisations encouraging governments to ensure sustainable development remains a priority globally, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (2017) and the most recent G20 Paris Climate Agreement.
ESD seeks to contribute to the improvement of Australia's ecosystem by considering the environment in which buildings are located and asking individuals involved to consider modern, sustainable design processes. Through this newly found awareness, community resources can be handled in a conservative manner which enhances surrounding environments and ensures that “ecological processes, on which life depends,” can be maintained and simultaneously improve the “total quality of life, now and in the future”.
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Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

By the end of the 20th century various initiatives were formed and legislation was passed which would, as stated by the Brundtland Report (1987), ensure that we could “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
In Australia, this meant the creation of legislation and legislative bodies such as the “Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act” in 1999 (ECBC Act) and “Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development” (1992) which set out goals to improve the ecological conditions of the country by balancing the societal, economic and environmental requirements of the nation.

Ecologically Sustainable Development

Playing a major role in this process, architectural and building industries developed various regulatory processes and requirements (such as BASIX and BESS) which specified the limit of any one building’s carbon footprint and their required thermal performance. This saw the emergence of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) through which the building industry could regulate and encourage sustainable building practices.

Image of roof for ESD



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With the industry reaching new material heights, creating products which produce a net positive outcome for the environment is becoming increasingly vital and rating tools are now taking the next step towards aiming for totally sustainable and healthy development. Rating tools are now attempting to assess another crucial aspect of the ESD world, that being the social sustainability of buildings. Different from the pragmatic physical aspects of creating an environmentally sustainable development, rating tools such as Greenstar assess the social and psychological impact of buildings and how through considered design the health and wellbeing of the occupant can be taken into consideration.


Image of building for ESD


Socially sustainable development takes into consideration a building’s impact on the site including its relationship with surrounding buildings, and how it affects the communities with which it interacts, seeking to create a local identity, and therefore a stronger sense of community. Social sustainability in architecture takes into consideration the need to proactively promote human interaction and engage individuals with the space they occupy. One of the main factors which is taken into consideration when designing with social sustainability in mind is how the building affects the mental and physical health of the occupants. When designing, essentially a triple bottom line approach must be taken which equally considers the economic, environmental and social implications of building. Unlike BASIX which only considers the economic and environmental impact of a building. 

There are four categories which are thoroughly taken into consideration when attempting to design with social sustainability in mind. Those being “amenities and social structure”, “social and cultural life”, “voice and influence” and “space to grow”. By having people-friendly spaces which are open to the public realm and create spaces which promote sociability among members of the public, community involvement can be sustained and ensure that structures are able to adapt and change according to future social sustainability ideologies. 


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Designing For Others


Architectural Innovations Improving the Environment and Biodiversity

The effect of urbanisation and urban development on the natural world has been extremely harmful. The built environment’s impact on disrupting migration patterns, habitat destruction and the general effect on the decline of biodiversity has been extremely detrimental. Therefore, through the introduction of various architectural innovations within the city, habitats can be recreated and animal colonies can be somewhat re-established improving the overall quality of our environment and promoting biodiversity which is essential to the health of the ecosystem.
One larger example of how the built environment and infrastructure can improve and create habitats for animals is the 'bat-bridge' in South Holland (image top right). This project by NEXT Architects creates a highly functional and aesthetically pleasing bridge whilst creating shelter for bats. This both protects the species and also controls where they roost within the city creating a cleaner and more animal friendly urban setting.


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Another smaller example of how animals have been reintroduced and protected within urban areas is in the Elevator B project by Hive City, a group from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture. Recognising the needs of fauna in the city, and the huge decline of bees generally within the ecosystem, they created a para-metrically designed beehive tower which takes the colony above ground. Protected from terrestrial predators and natural influences such as wind and rain, the hive tower promotes bee populations within the city whilst also allowing for easy maintenance of the colony.
Related to these efforts to protect bees, are the actions taken to help increase bee and butterfly numbers in America by creating a “wildlife corridor” along the length of the migration routes. By creating pollinator gardens and sanctuaries along the natural migration paths, the pollinating species can be protected, boosting population numbers; an action which all members of the community can take part in.


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Environmentally Responsive Design and Green Architecture

Sustainability and environmental performance goals are presently major contributing factors to design choices. Each new building attempts to take one step further in being even more environmentally conscious than the last. Although this process is extremely beneficial to the environment and surrounding ecosystem, where is this race to create a totally “green building” heading? Structures are now emerging that look more like nature than building, with towering green walls and sprawling roof gardens disguising any distinguishable architectural element. This raises the question, are we going overboard? Surely sustainable design does not mean a building which is literally green.
Over the past decade there has been a positive trend towards making buildings which are ecologically sustainable and beneficial with minimal impact on their environments. This has been achieved in various ways such as renewable energy, recycled materials and more recently the implementation of “green” architecture, which uses plants and vegetated area to provide insulation, reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, purify the air as well as reduce the impact of stormwater runoff. Although, recently we have seen buildings which appear more nature than structure, with enormous green walls extending across every surface which obscure architectural elements, and expansive roof gardens which hide it from above.

Image of Green Architecture in Broadway



Several key terms appear when discussing sustainable design, these are biomorphism, organicism and biomimicry. Biomorphism refers to the structure having an innate biological quality; organicism refers to a harmony between architecture and nature, much like a commensality; and biomimicry refers to when a building or structure takes biological systems and the principles behind how they work and applies them to building, not just imitation of geometry like art deco and art nouveau.
Green buildings have been made at both ends of the spectrum, with some using green walls and other renewable designs as small features, and others using vegetation to completely immerse the building in nature. Examples within Sydney such as the Central park building in Broadway, boast huge green walls that still use a strict rectilinear grid to define the barriers between nature and building, outlining the feature that is the green space whilst not compromising the building’s innate architectural qualities. Conversely, other buildings internationally as can be seen in the below images are widely influenced by nature, with vegetation and green space taking over the building to become the main focus and drive the building's aesthetic appeal. 

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Advent of wind power as alternative energy source

The Vortex wind generator represents a radical change within the alternative energy market and conventional wind turbine design. This generator has no spinning blades (or any major moving parts at all), and appears to be a large cylindrical structure which oscillates in the wind producing energy. Instead of spinning like conventional wind turbines, its uses the principle of vorticity, which is the spinning and repeating motion of air and other fluids.


Image of Wind Power


The company creating these oscillating wind power generators, claims that its design can reduce manufacturing costs by 53%, maintenance costs by 80%, and a 40% reduction in both the carbon footprint and generation costs, when compared to conventional bladed wind turbines. The Vortex is also supposedly quieter, and presents a much lower risk to birds and the local environment, preventing birds getting struck by large blades.


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This device aims to generate more power in less space. This is achieved as the wind wake is much narrower than a traditional turbine, and unlike traditional turbines, installing them closer together is thought to be beneficial to the technology, based on wind tunnel testing.


Wind Turbine designs have improved significantly in recent years, but wind farms are still somewhat inefficient. This is attributed to traditional wind turbines tri-blade system which causes them to interfere with each other. Putting two or more large turbines in close proximity produces wind blocks and vortices that decrease the efficiency of the overall wind farm.


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Very recently, New South Wales had the first two certified passive houses (also known as Passivehaus) constructed in Sydney's North Shore and the Blue Mountains. But what exactly is a passive house and what impact could there be in the building and construction market?


Passivehaus was first conceptualised during the 1980's in Germany and it's purpose was to design airtight buildings that could protect occupants in Western Europe from the harsher winter climates compared to Australia. With efficient ventilation systems which control thermal heating and cooling temperatures, Passivehaus design has the potential to offer a higher level of energy efficient home compared to other makers.


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Source: The Fifth Estate - Passivehaus based in the USA

With houses already constructed throughout Europe, North America and New Zealand, it was only a matter of time before builders decided to try this out. One of the major issues to address is that all of the other countries listed have significantly colder climates than Australia.

Despite this unknown variable, one of the major benefits of Passivehaus' is definitely the energy savings being produced. In the United States, Passivehaus designs consumed 92% less energy compared to regular housing. Assuming that with the addition of climate control and ventilation systems, this new design  it could become the national standard for all builders, or even part of the National Construction Code.

Through a combination of ventilation, natural sunlight, internal heat sources and heat recovery, significant energy savings can be achieved. Each building is airtight to prevent heat escaping during construction, and the ventilation and insulation of each Passivehaus is then used to store heat accumulated from the sun to maintain thermal heating temperatures during the winter and released during summer time. This provides a natural cooling ventilation system without the need for a heater. Whether air-conditioning is still required, a larger sample of Passivehaus developments will need to be constructed. As seen below, the original Passivehaus movement built in Germany required a sample of 2,000 constructed homes before finding the optimal thermal climate.


Diagram of Passive House Data

Source: Passive House - Initial Thermal Heating samples, Germany 1993

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