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image source: Bastiaan.

chow:hill sustainability quarterly 2009

out there
projects + people
small steps
chow:hill sustainable company responsibility +
image source: Infinite View

design guidelines sustainability reporting (crs)

Our expanded and enhanced sustainable design The Global Reporting Initiative is a European-derived model for the
guidelines were launched in April and are accessible reporting of company sustainability and ‘corporate’ responsibility
to all of you in the Intranet-housed Total Quality

pdate Framework. The guidelines integrate with our

foundation Design Guideline and we look to see their
use across client briefing, project planning, design and
project review activities. Our fundamental expectation
is for sustainable design principles to be ingrained in
all our design activities and not an expendable ‘extra’.
Their success relies on our commitment.
performance targets, and activities. Around 70% of international
companies have adopted this model, one which is adaptable for all
types and sizes of organisations and allows Chow:Hill the flexibility to
focus on the key issues and concerns of our stakeholders - our clients,
staff, community, suppliers and owners. The essential elements of
the Report have now been considered and agreed within the team,
monitoring is underway and in the latter part of the year we will begin
to design the look, feel and format of our report.

personal + professional development

An example of a simple yet valuable initiative in improving our performance, as measured by the
SBN, is in the indicator ‘Our business understands the Treaty of Waitangi relationships present
in our local community’, where we rated low. To address this we have engaged with Carin Wilson
to give design presentations exploring Maori influences on contemporary design referenced to
Treaty principles. Carin is a descendent of Ngati Awa and Ngati Rongomai and is passionate
about Māori development and the development of our nations identity. This is a beginning and
hopefully an encouragement for ongoing learning and understanding amongst us all.

get sustainable challenge We take

The Sustainable Business Network’s assessment of our “Get responsibility
Sustainable Challenge” performance notes “the organisation
is an active player in various guises advocating for
for leading the
sustainability, and their ongoing engagement at every level of transformation of
their business will add to their credibility in providing much
needed leadership within the sector.” While we are performing our environments
highly in some areas (commitment, future thinking, products
and services), in others (operating systems, relationships and
in the pursuit of a
influence, communication and staff) we demonstrably have
work to do. The focus for us is to truly engage at ‘every level’
sustainable future.
and with the involvement of those from each office who have
committed their time and energy we will be concentrating on
these latter areas. It’s not called a challenge for nothing!
cuban urban vertical farming

ut there
image source: Ambient Traffic

agriculture revolution
The collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1989 coupled with
the tightening of the US economic embargo plunged
Cuba into a dire economic crisis. The input of oil,
fertiliser, pesticides and many other products reduced
by over 50%. This caused, amongst other things, a
drastic food shortage and restrictions on the ability
to transport, refrigerate and store food.

Cubans responded by converting from a large scale,

high input, mono-crop agricultural system to a local,
Over the next 50 years, it is anticipated that the earth’s
human population will grow to 8.6 billion and that
80% of these people will live in cities. Using current
farming practices, an area of land roughly the size of
Brazil will be required to feed them. This is simply not

Innovative solutions for maintaining an abundant

and varied food supply without destroying the
few remaining functional ecosystems must be

smaller-scale, organic farming system. One solution is to construct vertical farms, where
food is grown inside tall buildings in the world’s
The greatest repercussions were felt in the capital urban areas.
city, Havana, where about one fifth of the Cuban
population lives. A combination of initiatives by the If we can engineer this, crops will never fail due
government and Havana’s residents has led to over to extreme weather, and produce would not spoil
8,000 urban farms springing up on vacant land across as it could be sold and consumed moments after
the city. The gardens are cultivated with minimal harvesting. A step on from the urban agriculture
external inputs and apply principles of organic revolution of Havana, produce will be available to
agriculture. In addition to increased food security city dwellers without the need to transport it great
and environmental sustainability, the gardens also distances and without taking up any land. Vertical
offer many social benefits. They have empowered farming will also contribute to the creation of a
individuals and communities, provided opportunities sustainable urban environment, provide employment
for social interaction and employment, and serve as a opportunities, improve air quality and re-use grey
source of leisure, exercise, relaxation and refuge. water.

Havana now has one of the most successful urban If vertical farming becomes widespread, a long-
agriculture programs in the world. Many believed that term benefit could be the gradual regeneration of
this would not continue once the economy recovered, ecosystems that have been sacrificed for horizontal
however in spite of increased food availability, farming.
the urban agriculture revolution is continuing and
growing rapidly. This indicates that urban agriculture
will continue to be part of the urban landscape of
Havana into the future, providing a model for the
climate-changed, post-oil world.

Visit to view an
interesting video on this topic from the BBC’s Around the World
in 80 Gardens series.
Chaplowe, S.G. (1996). Havana’s Popular Gardens: Sustainable
Urban Agriculture.
Murphy, C. (1999). Cultivating Havana: Urban Agriculture and Source:
Food Security in the Years of Crisis.
node/273. Despommier, D. The Vertical Farm: Reducing the impact
of agriculture on ecosystem functions and services. www.

rojects & people Sustainable future

for New Zealand’s
farming research
AgResearch is an icon in New Zealand and its
Ruakura campus has been a centre for farming
innovation and research for over 120 years.
AgResearch’s vision is to become the world’s
foremost research and development organisation
in the pastoral farming sector.

Like many former government institutions, the

Ruakura campus reflected ad-hoc development
over decades. Its best asset is a stunning
pastoral setting, framed by traditional avenues
of specimen trees. Located next to Waikato’s The master plan concept builds on fundamental sustainability principles:
innovation precinct, close to the University of
Waikato and a future town centre, the site also Environmental
benefits from a great location – home to nearly • respect and regard for the underlying natural features (topography, vegetation)
40% of New Zealand’s scientists. • strengthen cultural heritage with further planting and revegetation
• adapt and reuse existing building stock
• demonstrate best practice “green building” with new and redeveloped facilities
Working with Chow:Hill over several years, • reduce reliance on vehicles with strengthened links to public transport and related activities within
AgResearch recognised that it had to convert walking distance.
that setting to a hub for New Zealand science that
demonstrated sustainability in all its facets. The Social
setting needed to encourage collaboration, create • encourage collaboration by delivering spaces that encourage “accidental interaction” - pedestrian
a series of great places to work and congregate, routes, open spaces, accessible common facilities
• consolidate core research functions in the central campus
and to identify locations for future expansion. • co-locate activities and departments
• strengthen connections to Waikato Innovation Park, future town centre and university beyond
The master plan concept identified a series of • create a strong brand and identity for AgResearch and partner organisations.
villages or precincts. The plan consolidates
AgResearch’s core campus into the centre of Economic
the site, taking advantage of the best features • maximise opportunity to re-use existing buildings - relocate, reconfigure and connect to core campus
– the avenues of mature trees, the large open • invest new building budget in key facilities that brand AgResearch as world-leading - entrance, conference
centre, staff cafeteria
spaces and the high point with the best views. • consolidate core campus to release prime sites for university campus and future uses.
Peripheral sites can then be released for future
development. Contact Joanna Smith, Arthur Joe or Leigh Wilson for more information.
reinventing business for a
resilient future
'The next few
onnection Maurice and Bridgit attended last month ‘Reinventing Business for a
Resilient Future’, a Sustainable Business Network Forum held in Auckland.
The focus for the forum was sustaining business through the recession,
tied to dynamic change and paradigm shifts occurring globally. Workshops
looked at individual businesses, at communities and broader goals for the

‘The forum aimed to explore new thinking in sustainability, including ideas

years will be the
most extraordinary
in your business
Rod Oram, business journalist
about the next industrial revolution, and the bringing together of sectors
to create new business models which meet social, environmental and
economic needs and create investment opportunities.’ Sustainability equals
core business integrated with what it means to be a good corporate citizen,
not just ‘doing good’ but ‘doing good business’.

It was noted that we are experiencing unprecedented change, which brings,

as well as challenges, exceptional opportunities. The opportunities exist
when we challenge the way we think, challenge the way we perceive a
problem, change the way we ask questions and seek answers. For many sector
of us the focus has been on the challenge to minimise and reduce negative business
effects, the ‘unintended negative consequences of processes of production sector public
and consumption’, including development. Often this has been addressed
by minimising our ‘footprint’ whereas the challenge is different when the sector
focus is shifted to maximising the benefits – creating ‘good’ instead of less
bad. It was proposed that ‘achieving a sustainable system of consumption
and production is not a matter of reducing the footprint of our activities on 'What can we learn
this planet, but transforming this footprint into a source of replenishment
for those systems that depend on it.’ from each other?'
Justine Munro, Centre for Social Innovation
It is necessary to reframe the question:
• resource use that benefits ecosystems, is it possible? e.g. waste +
image source: Top Tech Writer US

• trash or treasure? - mining material from the waste stream - rubbish into
product - there is no such thing as waste - everything is a resource
• why pay more? - spend more, buy less - a return to quality - value +
• re. truancy, rather than ask the question why wont students stay at school 'Don't wait; just
the question was asked (of the students) - what type of school would
you fight to get into? How do we then design a learning environment?
do it and people
will follow you'
Solutions come from unexpected sources - through cross sector relationships Kokako,
and ‘fresh sets of eyes’. Convention and conventional reference points are
being and will be shattered. We must create space for innovation.

For more on the workshop go to

fairtrade coffee break + cake stall
As reported in the recent edition of iNews, the Auckland office participated in
Oxfam’s ‘Fairtrade Fortnight’ on Friday the 15th of May with a Fairtrade coffee
break and cake stall. As well as making a significant contribution to sustainability

ommunit through Oxfam’s ‘Make Trade Fair’ campaign, other spin offs included the social
interactions that occurred within our office and with other people in the building
and the locally made baking made using largely unprocessed ingredients. Many
thanks to Bonnie Parkes for organising this wonderful event.

For more information on Oxfam’s Fairtrade initiatives, visit

creative quarter chow:hill community day

In the Auckland office we are exploring the opportunity Our Community Day is an opportunity for you to engage with those in need within
of bringing together other creative groups within our your community - neighbourhood, suburb, city, region. The day can be any one
Newmarket area for a sharing of design with members of the year and is a paid day too, so Chow:Hill has a real commitment. Giving
of our Sustainable Business Network. These groups, time to your community is a valued and important action when you consider
local galleries, represent artists of differing cultural sustainability from a people-planet-prosperity perspective. Think about what
backgrounds and perspectives, and our intent is to might suit your talents but most importantly think what might make a difference
exhibit examples of our own design work with the to others lives. If you don’t, you’re denying someone else a real benefit.
painting, sculpture and weaving of others. Our aim is
to enhance existing relationships and facilitate a joint The following suggestions have been made in relation to our Community Day:
marketing opportunity and raised awareness. • ‘We should so do this as another CH community day - guerilla parks take
over car parking for a day. So fun!’ Joanna Smith
• ‘Just a thought for future Chow:Hill Community days, which I think are a
great idea. You could perhaps encourage some of your clients to join in
on these days.’ Mark Bayfield, Project Manager, Tomorrow’s Manukau
Properties Limited.
community initiatives
How are you engaging with your community to address
issues? Michael Crawforth is involved in ‘Xtreme
Waste Inc.’ in Raglan, a community initiative with a
image source: Sean Dreilinger

vision ‘to establish a waste management system for

the Raglan/Whāingaroa community that is based on
the principles of zero waste to landfill’. Xtreme Waste
Inc. is a non-profit community enterprise working
in partnership with the Waikato District Council
to operate a recycling centre and transfer station,
kerbside recycling, pre-paid bag refuse collection,
street waste and recycling bins and miniskip hire. It
also offers a comprehensive education programme
for schools, businesses and the community.
Visit for more information.
image source: Pete Ashton
office consumables + waste
We have begun the process of reviewing some of our consumables and products such as coffee (Kokako organic fairtrade
coffee in recyclable paper bags), waste bags (compostable), paper towels, cleaning products and to examine further recycling
opportunities through different bin systems allowing composting of some waste.

mall step composting + worm composting

The Auckland Regional Council has some useful information and advice on their website about establishing a compost bin or worm farm.

They describe composting as: ‘a natural process of decomposition that turns garden and kitchen waste into a fertile, organic soil conditioner.
... Plants grown in freshly composted soil will flourish and often have more resistance to pests.’
Visit for information on composting.

Worm composting ‘is a composting method using worms to eat your fruit and vegetable scraps. The worms, usually Tiger Worms, are exactly
the same as those in a compost bin or heap but are contained in a smaller transportable bin that can be indoors, outdoors, on a porch or
Visit for information on worm composting.

'Ideally we believe 'To most city people soil is simply

that simply by changing mud or dirt, not a substance in
from suit to jeans, which food is born.'
digging up a bit of
lawn, and planting
vegetable seeds, the 'Sunny days are 'tanning days', not
city person will begin givers of food energy.'
asking questions
about his environment
and about his urban 'There are no such things as
behavior and thinking 'beneficial insects'. They're all big
patterns.' game for a can of 'Raid'.'

These thoughts were shared by the founders of the ‘City Farmer’ initiative in 1979, when they talked about the small steps and mind shifts
required to achieve their vision of urban agriculture. These ideas are still valid today. Visit for more inspiration.
products tech talk
The Leigh Marine Centre, the University of Design Chemistry
Auckland’s marine biology campus at Goat Island, Refers to the incorporation of broader
is undergoing a makeover. The first step was the scientific and ecological knowledge into
installation of an on-site wastewater treatment To input, comment
or debate please existing product analysis and redesign,
system. The Chow:Hill landscape architecture or into new product design based on
team was called on to plan the planting of the contact the Environmentally Intelligent criteria.
disposal field, which is a 6,000m2 area that the editorial team...
treated wastewater is distributed over. Plants Bridgit, Maurice, Downcycling
are to perform the final process of the system - Susan. The practice of recycling a material in
evapotranspiration. such a way that much of its inherent value
is lost (e.g. recycling plastic into park
To fit within the budget and achieve a dense, benches).
eco-sourced, native vegetative cover across
the disposal field, we specified a new product Eco-Effectiveness
called EcoBlanket, supplied and installed by Cradle to Cradle Design’s strategy for
Groundcover NZ Ltd. EcoBlanket is a compost/
l o g y intelligent and healthy materials use,
mulch blend applied to the site with a pneumatic
h no designing human industry that is safe,

blower. The EcoBlanket had a combination of profitable, and regenerative, producing

grass seed (to establish an initial vegetative cover)

economic, ecological, and social value.
and native seed injected into it. Groundcover

provide a guarantee for the germination of the Upcycling
seed, so we are now watching with interest as the The practice of recycling material in such a
field starts to grow. way that it maintains and/or accrues value
Visit for more information.
culture over time (the opposite of downcycling).

Waste Equals Food

The first design principle of the Next
Industrial Revolution: all products are seen
as nutrients within biological (natural) or
industrial (technical) metabolisms.
books websites Source:

Forthcoming book: ‘Ecological Intelligence’, by The German Sustainable Building Biomimicry

psychologist Daniel Goleman - understanding Council (DGNB) has adopted a new This is a new discipline that studies
the global environmental consequences of our building rating tool that examines nature’s best ideas and then imitates
local choices. Goleman wrote the 1995 best- sustainable design across six weighted these designs and processes to solve
seller ‘Emotional Intelligence’. ‘Quality’ topics. The Drees and Sommer human problems. Biologists are at the
‘Ecological intelligence is ultimately about more Building in Stuttgart received Gold design table: Biologists are uniquely
than what we buy. It’s also about our ability to Certification in January 2009. adept at combing through nature’s R&D
accept that we live in an infinitely connected labs and translating nature’s strategies
world with finite resources.’ Metro magazine into strategies that effectively meet your
TreeHugger is dedicated to driving company’s challenges.
Magazine: ‘DETAIL Green’ is a specialist journal sustainability mainstream and strive A solution seeking tool - what would you
for all aspects of sustainable planning and to be a one-stop shop for green news, ask nature? how would nature solve it?
It will be published twice a year in solutions, and product information. Source:
the form of special editions. Visit