Abstract of paper presented by Dick Clarke at FEN Forum on Climate Change 2007 - Dick Clarke is a building designer based in Elanora Heights NSW, with a design practice of 27 years. He focuses exclusively on ecologically sustainable and culturally appropriate buildings, with the over-riding aim of producing a sustainable culture and built environment.

Practical responses to the need for stewardship.

What is stewardship? It is an approach to the planet and its people, creatures and systems which ascribes an intrinsic value to each of them, and recognises that they are not ours to destroy or devalue. Deriving this value from a theistic world view means they have value beyond the human framework. If they have value in God’s eyes, then what we do with them, and to them – both directly and indirectly – has a direct bearing on whether we respect something which God values.

Why is stewardship important?

Because of the fundamental character of God being love, stewardship cares for and protects both the people of this world and the ecosystems which support them, into which they are inextricably connected. To plunder and pillage the environment is to plunder and pillage the people – it is fundamentally unloving.

What does stewardship ask of our built environment?….setting the perspective.

Buildings – and the way we use them – typically account for 40% of human ecological impact. That impact probably needs to be reduced by 80% before 2050 for us to approach sustainability. This means our buildings must use 80% less energy and water, and must use 80% less energy and virgin materials in their construction.

How we should design and build to reduce our impact – exploring ways of making ‘zero impact development’ possible.

1. Operational energy: demand & supply…

  • Heating & cooling for thermal comfort: passive design for zero energy.
  • Appliances & systems: minimising energy demand from refrigeration, lighting, appliances, entertainment.
  • Renewable energy: on site (PV, wind etc); off site (GreenPower etc).

2. Water: demand & supply…

  • Reducing demand: 5 Star taps & appliances.
  • Harvesting rainwater: learning from John Wesley (catching, saving, using).
  • Using water twice: waste water treatment – squeezing extra value from a precious resource).


3. Embodied energy: repaying the damage…

  • What it takes to build a house: 1 brick house drives a car 2.5 times around the equator.
  • How we can repay that energy debt.
  • How to deconstruct a house.
  • No more waste: landfill must end.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.


4. Cities must have limits: sustainability is much harder if we sprawl…

  • A sustainable house in the outer ‘burbs may not be sustainable at all.
  • Covering agricultural land with houses is not sustainable.
  • It’s no one’s fault, but if we don’t act now, Sydneywill be all our faults.

How we use our buildings – exploring ways to reduce environmental impacts every day, without spending lots of money.

  1. Good design costs nothing – lines on a page are free, so put them in the right place. Passive design is free.
  2. Smaller well designed houses work better than big poorly designed ones, and are cheaper to build.
  3. Smaller house budgets make bigger sustainability budgets.
  4. Proximity to chosen work, schools, shops etc makes less VKT: worth tens of thousands of $.
  5. Live lightly!