CRC for Low Carbon Living: Research is changing the eco performance of schools, buildings, concrete and tourism

CRC for Low Carbon Living

CRC for Low Carbon Living research is changing the eco performance of schools, buildings, concrete and tourism
Geopolymer/Low Carbon Coastal Protection – L-R: Peter Engelen, General Manager Planning and Infrastructure, NSW Ports; Ben Modra, UNSW Water Research Laboratory and CRCLCL Project Leader UNSW Professor Stephen Foster at Port Botany NSW. Photo: MediaKoo

Want a quick boost to lift you out of the climate change doldrums? Four uplifting short videos have been released by the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL), a government funded university and industry collaborative research centre, that describe how six years of their innovative work Towards Zero Carbon is paying off in reducing the carbon footprint of Australia’s buildings and concrete production, schools, the tourist industry. 

Australia – along with the wider world – needs practical, real world solutions to reverse climate change and improve our quality of life. These videos show how effective the work of the researchers and practitioners in the CRCLCL has been, and how the results are being rolled out nationwide.

Schools stepping up for the future

It’s not just electricity and gas, but water and waste that are being measured and tackled. In a two year pilot project led by the CRCLCL’s ClimateClever Program that involved 8729 students in 15 schools in Western Australia, pupils got their hands dirty and together managed to save 83 tonnes of carbon emissions and lots of energy and water.

Children at one school planted over 100,000 trees. Kids tended gardens, composting, kept chickens in their backyard, taking all these ideas home. It was so successful it started rolling out across the country at the beginning of 2018, priming the next generation for a low carbon future.

The challenge in buildings

But this future, in which Australia aims to reach its goal of being net zero carbon by 2050, won’t happen unless there are urgent changes to the country’s National Construction Code, which is being updated this year. Around half of the buildings in the middle of the century will be built between now and then, so it will be crucial to get this right. 

CRCLCL has helped there too. Another video shows how the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks Australia have developed a new evidence based report showing the benefits of designing much more energy efficient buildings. 

Called Built to Perform, it is already informing the debate that will lead to the rewrite of the Code, with modelling that illustrates how stronger energy standards would let new buildings slash energy bills by up to $7 billion and save 78 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030.

Concrete using flyash is getting there 

Still in the construction sector, the video about concrete shows how an amazing, new high-density Geopolymer form of the material can be made from a waste product – fly ash – from burning coal in the steel industry. It therefore has half of the carbon footprint of conventional concrete. It’s also stronger than regular concrete.

“In only three years we’ve taken a product that didn’t exist before, developed it in the lab, upscaled it and turned it into a commercially viable product – none of that would have been possible without the CRCLCL’s support,” says CRCLCL project leader Professor Stephen Foster in the video.

The video shows how this novel material is being trialled by NSW Portsin tough marine environments, to make a seawall to protect the coastline at Port Kembla from storm surges.

The CRCLCL is developing a comprehensive guide for engineers on the specification, production and use of Geopolymer concrete so it can be used anywhere.

Eco tourism swings into clever mode

The final video shows how Low Carbon Living Australia is helping the tourist industry. Scenic World which attracts around a million visitors a year has minimised its carbon footprint using different techniques, including generating electricity from the descending scenic railway, while the Hydro Majestic Hotel diverts 1900 wheelie bins a year of food waste from landfill and uses that in a bioreactor to generate electricity.

This project has helped 80 Blue Mountains businesses really cut their carbon footprint. It’s also led to a partnership with Eco Tourism Australia and a national rollout is happening, starting with the NSW Southern Highlands.

“I think everyone from the hospitality industry needs to be involved in reducing their carbon footprint,” Adam Holmes, the Escarpment Hotel Group’s operations manager tells viewers of this video.

UNSW Scientia Professor Deo Prasad AO, who is CRCLCL’s chief executive officer, said that all of this research has gone a long way to helping the CRC meet its founding goal of saving 10 megatonnes of carbon emissions by 2020, which would yield a projected $684 million benefit to Australia by 2027. 

“Our research collaborations with industry and government have proved that a low to zero carbon future is not pie in the sky.”

“This is a nationally significant program and we shall begin to see nationally significant results as we address climate change,” says the project leader of Low Carbon Living Australia associate professor John Merson.

The CRC is going to release more videos in this series before it closes its doors at the end of this financial year on 30 June but there are hopes a new CRC one will emerge soon. Each video is great viewing, perfect as you kick back with a cup of coffee – fair trade, of course!

Low Carbon Tourism – Scenic World Managing Director Anthea Hammon with CRCLCL Project Leader John Merson at Scenic World, Blue Mountains NSW. Photo: Mediakoo
Low Carbon Schools – Dr Vanessa Rauland with a teacher and students from Neerigen Brook Primary School, Armadale Western Australia

CRC for Low Carbon Living

University | Australia