Sympathetic Stupid

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Myriad Mutterings

So much time spent wandering the internet, so much time overlooking that which is under my nose. Thanks to marypage1, who pointed out in comments the new City Of Melbourne Council House (CH2). This is currently in development just across Little Collins St from the Town Hall, an imposing old edifice where I used to work. The CH2 is six Green Star certified; the only building to hit the top on that scale developed by the Green Building Council of Australia to measure the environmental friendliness of office buildings.

This sounds pretty impressive. They reckon it'll use 13 percent of the energy, and have 20 percent of the emissions of the existing Council House. (Part of this is just swapping CRT sceens to LCDs.) Solar hot water and photovoltaics on the roof, and a gas co-generation plant for power and heating. A water mining plant to recycle black water into non-drinking water. 80 bike spaces compared to just 20 car spaces, 9 showers for cyclists. And they're budgeting for a 4.9% increase in staff productivity, saving $1.12m a year! Which sounds like a fairy tale, honestly, but who knows?

Looking at the GBCA factsheet, the base building cost $29.9m and the nice bits an extra $11.3m - a 38% increase in the cost of the building. They're estimating payback in about 10 years, thanks to utility savings and staff productivity increases. It's due to be complete by the end of the year.


Cool Holiday Destinations. Yeah, it's a globalised world, but there's still plenty of places for the dedicated contrarian to go on holidays. The single qualification criteria for a certified CHD is that you've never heard of anyone else going there. Most of sub-Saharan Africa qualifies, except South Africa and some of the safari countries. Most of South America's out, every man and his dog is down there - oh, OK, you can have Suriname and Guyana, and some of the islands. Not heaps in Europe, except smaller places like Iceland and Liechtenstein. Though lots of Eastern Europe is still on the list - Bulgaria, Albania - and most of the former Russian republics - Moldova, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Estonia. Axis of Evil countries score extra points, of course, and if they're still communist that's a good sign. There's a few in SE Asia - Laos and Burma especially, but also Bhutan.

This is all a long-winded lead up to Ethan Zuckermann's interesting article about Bhutan. I couldn't even have pinpointed Bhutan on a map. It's a strangely isolated corner of the modern world which appears physically most similar to Tibet or Nepal, but politically seems most similar to Burma. Especially interesting is the development philosophy "centred around the maximization of 'gross national happiness'". This means very, very slow and controlled development - according to the national website, only 9000 tourists entered the country in 2004, and "the numbers in coming years are not expected to increase greatly". So you can count on it remaining a CHD, and a fascinating (if slightly regimented) place to visit.