Tag Archives: design

Stifling innovation #2: Overland Flow

This story is a follow on from the British Standard Fire Test of an earlier post. It is the story of how an attempt to be innovative with design in the aftermath of a major natural disaster foundered on the rocks of tick-box regulation.

Satellite image of Chelmer on the Brisbane River in January 2011. Source; ABC/Nearmap.

Satellite image of Chelmer on the Brisbane River in January 2011. Source; ABC/Nearmap.

Continue reading


Stifling innovation #1: The British Standard Fire Test

Fire Test

Whilst working as an architect in London in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s I encountered what has become my template for inflexible regulations that stifle innovation. An encounter with the British Standard Fire Test is now my metaphor for the architect’s equivalent of a Catch-22 situation – thank you Joseph Heller!

Continue reading

Thin Air – Stuart McMillen comics

How do trees manufacture mass out of thin air?

Stuart McMillen’s latest illustrated essay (he calls them comics, but I think that sells them short) is one of his best yet.  How do trees manufacture mass out of thin air?  How do our human building techniques and processes compare?

Fans of Stuart’s will know to expect a beautifully illustrated and well told story that will really get you thinking – they will not be disappointed with Thin Air!  Newbies please take some time to check out Stuart’s web site, not just his ‘comics’.

Thin Air trees cartoon – Stuart McMillen comics.

20s Plenty for Us

What a delight to stumble across the website of 20’s Plenty for Us!

My hypothetical Parallel Universe turns out to be in the UK…

In March 2010 when I first wrote about an imaginary futuristic world where the maximum speed of any powered road transport device is 30-km/h within urban areas the notion seemed plausible to me, but most readers politely suggested the idea would remain a dream.  It turns out that dreams can come true:  The 20’s Plenty for Us movement in the UK (20 mph = 32-km/h) appears to be gaining some real traction.

Already 5m residents live in towns which are adopting or have adopted this policy. Most importantly, through democratic debate those communities have decided that “20s Plenty Where People Live”. And it is those same communities who have then changed their behaviour to drive slower in residential streets and where people walk and cycle.

via 20s Plenty for Us.

Continue reading

Interviewed by Willi Paul @ PlanetShifter.com

In the short time I’ve been participating in the Linked In networking forum I’ve connected with some diverse and amazing people from all over the world.  These people have self-identified with certain interests in sustainability and ways toward a more positive resilient future.

A stand out contact is Mr Willi Paul from Northern California who launched his Planet Shifter initiative on Earth Day 2009.  Willi is proof positive that there are people out there doing marvellous things to help make our future look more optimistic.  I was honoured and delighted when he asked me to be interviewed and thereby join the extensive ranks of folks on similar journeys.

You can view the interview at:

The PlanetShifter.com Magazine & Networks Interview with John Cameron:

Consider this: ‘Is it wrong to assume that a huge step to finding solutions to global problems, and averting future crises, will be taken if we can think in the spirit of community and fraternity, not as individual entities? When we accept that this is a world of people all alike, of families all alike, of communities all alike – of countries facing the same challenges – of human beings ultimately seeking the same thing – then we will truly be in a position to foster well being, security and happiness’ The King of Bhutan (2008). The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is the home of the Gross National Happiness index.

Sustainable Office: Build new or renovate?

The Question:

Is it more sustainable for a company to build a brand new but eco-friendly office building, or to purchase an existing but not so eco-friendly property?

My Answer: Continue reading

Buena Vista Social Club Saves the Planet – part 2

Or, ways toward sustainability

Part 2 [Part 1 here]

The music has survived:

The Cuban experience is to me a case study of what potentially lies ahead for the developed world. The entire basis of the Cubans’ economy was ripped out from under their collective feet by a single event that may have been predictable for more than a decade, had anyone cared to look into it. Cubans literally awoke one day to a diminished world.

The end of abundant oil will be the end of a way of life built up over little more than a century, yet so utterly energy-dependent are we now that it may take as long again to find the alternative. What will life be like in the transition?  Do we have the music? Continue reading

Sustainability: BIM v CAD

Consideration of sustainability tools must at some point include BIM – Building Information Modelling.  Many see BIM as the groovy new 3D version of CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) and to some extent it is, but that is only a small part of what BIM is all about.

Anyone investing in commercial property, particularly with a sustainability agenda, might want to take a closer look at the potential benefits of an investment in BIM too, either directly or through their design consultants.

Buena Vista Social Club Saves the Planet – part 1

Or, ways toward sustainability

Part 1

In 1999 film maker Wim Wenders released a documentary in which he profiles the legendary Buena Vista Social Club musicians, recording their experiences as they perform in Cuba and abroad, eventually appearing at New York’s Carnegie Hall, thanks in part to the interest and influence of American musician Ry Cooder.  The film helped immortalise both the music and its now famous practitioners who had been living in near poverty, almost forgotten in their own country.  Wenders’ film is a window into another world through which we glimpse an inspiring richness of human spirit rising out of abject poverty to move the hearts and minds of people around the world. Continue reading

An architecture of prosperity?

Transcript of my address to the Brisbane Shape Your City Heart forum, November 10, 2009:

I think the art and architecture of an era is a reliable measure of the values of the society that created it.  Each golden age produces memorable buildings that not only capture our imagination today, but also crystallise the values, dreams and aspirations of their time.

So what might the role of Architecture be in a prosperous future for Brisbane? Continue reading