Sustainability crucial to $82 billion infrastructure plan

19th February 2008

As Queensland embarks on an $82 billion infrastructure program, a new design tool for calculating the environmental cost of construction materials and processes has been developed at Queensland University of Technology.

Professor Keith Hampson, CEO of the QUT-based CRC for Construction Innovation, said the new tool, LCADesign (Life Cycle Analysis of Design), enabled designers to plan whole-of-life sustainable building and infrastructure construction.

Professor Hampson, who will deliver a plenary address at the Australian Institute of Building's Construct 2008 conference this week, said all future construction research had to make sustainability, from drawing board to demolition, a key priority.

"Queensland is on the verge of a 20-year $82 billion infrastructure building program for new roads, bridges and tunnels and it is an enormous opportunity to ensure this infrastructure is designed, constructed and operated sustainably," he said.

Professor Hampson said the CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) for Construction Innovation had laid the foundation for calculating the environmental impact of construction at the design and construction stage.

"A key achievement of the CRC is the LCADesign which is an automated environmental impact assessment design tool for building designers," he said.

"LCADesign allows them to assess the environmental cost of different construction materials, products and designs automatically from their 3D CAD drawings.

"They can compare environmental impact ratings for alternative designs and then choose the most eco-efficient design."

Professor Hampson said he expected LCADesign to develop into an indispensable tool for calculating a proposed building's "embodied energy".

"Building designers need to know this to achieve true sustainability because the energy it takes to produce the building materials can far outweigh the operating energy of the building," he said.

"The focus on ensuring energy efficient lighting and appliances can obscure the high environmental cost of materials and the building process - a typical commercial building might take 20 years for the operating energy such as air-conditioning and lighting to equal the energy embodied in the building."

He said the CRC for Building Innovation would come to the end of its current term in 2009 and that a national bid for the Sustainable Built Environment CRC to replace it would be made in the next CRC selection round.

"The CRC for Construction Innovation has also made huge contributions to improving construction systems across the industry from safety to application processes and the new CRC will build on these achievements to achieve improved environmental, social and economic outcomes.

"It will also further develop the LCADesign tool to include operating and deconstruction impacts, and extend sustainability concepts into the design of infrastructure because the longer term cost is as critical to look at as the initial environmental cost."

Professor Hampson said the property design, construction and facility management industries were crucial to the Australian economy - and to the quality of life of all Australians.

"These industries account for 20 per cent of Australia's gross national product and their continued growth is dependent upon effective and efficient industry processes," Professor Hampson said.

"We must improve the construction industry's sustainability to ensure its contribution to minimising water, energy and carbon emissions becomes a national priority."

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1841 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au.

** High res photo of Professor Hampson available for media use.

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