when it isn’t bricks&mortar

Readers of the succession of subjects below will step between: on the one hand – outputs from the evolving technical research practitioner based items, and on the other – descriptions of the more eclectic hands-on events which in part inform the technical. Including the tasks in both response and recovery to adverse events on communities.

On 19th September 2018, the SA Veterinary Emergency Management agency carried out a combined team training and community outreach. Based around activation of its CovertexNZ  Air Shelter demountable field hospital. Carried out on the ‘last resort refuge’ site of Weymouth Oval at Coromandel Valley.

The event was instigated by an enquiry months earlier from His Excellency The Honourable Hieu Van Le AC Governor of South Australia and Mrs. Le.

They attended the September event, as did CFS Chief Officer Greg Nettleton. The Coromandel Valley CFS brigade contributed a 34 unit and crew. Simon Hackett, MD for the Hackett Foundation, sponsor of the field hospital, attended. As did Skye Kakoschke-Moore representing Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie. The day was supported by the Coromandel Valley Community Centre, their staff and Board. Attendees included representation for PIRSA, some Onkaparinga Council elected and staff, some media and public.

19sep during1

The event was run by 14 SAVEM volunteers covering the official party support and active field hospital erect/dismantle programme. Coromandel Community Centre provided afternoon refreshments.

The relevance to this built environment web presence, beyond Emilis as Logistics for SAVEM, is to remind us that solutions don’t always come in bricks&mortar. The Air Shelter is proven in military and refugee applications as functional for extended periods and flexible uses.

In the disaster response role, the potential is to be in-place quickly in distant/remote locations and where local resources have been destroyed – to be able to provide support to local communities at the beginning of the journey back to full functionality.


rating building performance

The continuing interaction by this practice with other like minded professionals include continuing interrogation and probing for measurables in building performance. In the public mind these outcomes will include the focus on comfort, low resource use, and thereby contained living costs.

1.             The accredited rating software for home energy assessment was reverse interrogated by this practice, with the underlying ‘energy use : Star ranking’ curve fleshed out as is shown on the graph below.          (Note: this curve is for a single building layout, single orientation, single climate zone. The curve itself is assembled from a succession of  differing ‘silver bullet’ inclusions in terms of building material(s) and construction. This is therefore one specific curve, and is therefore indicative only; as every other building layout, orientation and climate zone location will come with its own – albeit similar in form – performance curve).  This site acknowledges the work by architect Nick Ingerson in preparing the graphics.

C:UsersadminDocumentsEmilis Graph.pdf

The collaboration of architects has also assembled graphic interpretations of other contributors to building performance.

2.          The graph below assembles ‘initial construction cost + life cycle maintenance, refurbishment and operating inputs + accumulated asset value’ for the notional average building life – comparing bespoke building vs. a notional benchmark standard home.

C:UsersadminDocumentsAtelier Building Bar Chart.pdf

3.          Drilling down, this graph considers the inputs to 3 types of dwelling and the related asset values accrued. The particular emphasis is on the ‘demand management’ outcomes in the bespoke solution, which means low running costs.

C:UsersadminDocumentsREVIT FilesBuilding Bar Chart.pdf

4.         Finally, the social non-measurables are acknowledged. The best the collaborative could do, was try to give a vertical scale of comparative values. this demonstrates the extent of work yet to be done at the technical:human interface in trying to display the full range of ‘value’ in performance buildings.

C:UsersadminDocumentsAtelier Building Bar Chart.pdf



Blog sections below

This site explores a variety of interests via this architect’s office.

Reading ‘October 25 2016’ downward takes you through several years of this practice’s involvement as ‘re-building adviser’ after bush fires, helping fire impacted families. This work continues.

Reading ‘April 7 2015’ downward takes you through the ‘response’ phase to bush fires.

Reading ‘December 29 2014’ downward takes you through the variety of innovation and explorations of the architect practice.


The wider impact from disasters

This architect practice continues to be involved in the Recovery phase after emergency events.

At first this took the form of providing support to impacted families as they tussle  (beyond their daily life turmoils after being impacted) with the complexities of insurance settlement, regulatory approvals and builder contracts.

monarto fire fighting

(above) Farm fire unit based on this architect’s home property and the 1300 metre airstrip available for water bombers.

The involvement then progressively broadens to other related areas of interest.

1. Research over the recent decades with people impacted here and elsewhere by emergency events (be these cyclone, flood, bushfire, earthquake, social disturbance or other) records that families who re-build their homes to replace the destroyed assets, and do so in a hurry, are more likely to then within a few years sell up and leave their community. (Dr. Rob Gordon 2009 The Course of recovery after Disaster, Victorian Bushfire Reconstruction & Recovery Authority, Melbourne). The reasoning includes factors such as – the new build has none of the ‘home’ aspects inherent in what it replaces. These forces and factors are key to how well we are able to advise impacted families in the future; and the advisers’ capabilities are still to evolve in these areas.

2. This practice’s refereed paper on current skill levels by advisers was published in October 2016 (Australian Journal of Emergency Management Vol31 No4 ps 54-59)

3. The built environment advisers’ attention is widening to consider how we might engage should an urban earthquake (a la Christchurch 2011) occur here.

4. The 30 Year plan for Greater Metropolitan Adelaide is currently undergoing Review by the planning authorities in the South Australian government. This practice has submitted a note to the Review; using our growing experience in peri-urban emergency locations which are within that Plan area – both Pinery and Sampson Flat.

The conundrum seen is that the Plan encourages perimeter growth to the townships in the peri-urban places. But such new subdivisions both –

  • extend the existing towns out into flood plains or riparian zones, where flooding and the fire front incoming from farmlands are heightened
  • and where the incoming occupants of these new dwellings are ex-urban families, who have the least awareness of emergency event impacts most likely in these places.

This list of emergent issues for built environment professionals represent important ‘mission creep’ extensions to our past activities described below.

learning by doing

The role of ‘independent re-building advisers’, to impacted individuals, families, businesses and communities inside emergency areas such as firestorm firescar localities, continues to evolve.

Both because we are increasingly seen as a resource with capabilities in both the technical and human-interface areas. Through this conversations are possible which trend from one to the other and back again. And as through application over time we gain knowledge and experience, which is then capable of being applied again and again more much more diverse situations.

The earlier blog posts below set out some of these early learnings. Right now these are being applied now in much wider circumstances.

  • In community settings, this is achieved by being a resource to community group and/or clusters of families in establishing a structured approach to problem solving. This permits progress to be achieved, because the gaps in either process or information needed is avoided whereby progress normally stalls.
  • To individuals, the provision of knowledge about their full range of options again enables progress through their enhanced confidence and empowerment.

In all cases, the impacted people are encouraged to act on their own choices. Where the external inputs from advisers are suggestions given pro bono; and the options are offered no obligation – thereby each individual circumstance moves forward to their own understanding of where they are at.

This approach comes very much from this architect’s daily practice philosophy – that at all times the project is and remains the clients’, with the practice’s multi-decade technical expertise offered to whatever level of complexity the clients are willing to aspire. (Since it is only once you arrive at this practice’s level of knowledge and application – that emergent and best practice outcomes can be targeted).

More recent examples from the Pinery fire scar include:

  • a family relocating to urban circumstance. They need to establish their base there before they can think in depth about how to re-establish their property within the fire affected area. Whether this relocation is temporary or longer term, nevertheless the effort needs to go into establishing the urban ‘home’ in both physical and emotional terms, to provide the stability from which the destroyed ‘home’ property inside the fire scar can then be dealt with.
  • a line of properties within the fire scar are impacted by land Titling issues on one of the properties. The resolution path is to draw in agencies across the spectrum from state and local levels as well as needing the collective action by all neighbours. This practice’s expertise and ability to advocate on all parties’ behalf in this situation comes from past experience – the resolution of public assets located on Not Under Act land being translated to Titled land and asset moving to private ownership.
  • The fire impact includes changing day-to-day circumstance. Where a family on a multi-Title land area is constrained to ‘fire repair/replacement’ rather than being able to have their wider development potential considered on merit. The adviser suggestion is to run both advocacies independently at the same time, so that the ‘complying’ re-build and the merit based development potential each are given their full weight. And where all necessary support measures (Titles, on-site documentation including photographs, historical external evidences, current parallel precedence in the Council area, aerial views, regulatory and procedural documentation) are all in hand prior to beginning.

from the Minister

The Hon Zoe Bettison MP, Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion, wrote to this practice at the end of April 2016. This is the wind down time for the Pinery fire Recovery Coordinator Vince Monterola, who has headed the Local Recovery Committee.

The letter in part:

“I have been told of the excellent contribution that you have been making towards the co-ordinated recovery effort, both through the Recovery Committee and in working directly with people in need.”

The posts below reflect a little of that work. Much of the detail isn’t being mentioned, as it involves emergent solutions for individual unique circumstances where the standard and regulatory means aren’t suited. From this it is expected that ‘alternate solutions’ with repeat application will develop. This fits in with the work by the ‘independent re-building advisers’ and the collaboration with others (Habitat for Humanity, Global Care, etc.) this involves.

re-building post the Pinery fire

At the end of 2015, the year was bookended with a crop fire to the north of Adelaide, South Australia’s capital city. The year had begun with the Sampson Flat bushfire adjacent to the north eastern suburbs of Adelaide as is described in the separate posting below.

In significant contrast to the previous week long large fire event, the Pinery fire crossed the cropping country driven by hot weather and strong wind, crossing 80,000ha in 8 hours. Damage included loss of the crops being harvested, stock, and 2 lives, in excess of 80 houses and hundreds of outbuildings; taking homes and complete livelihoods.

This practice has joined the Recovery phase of this emergency event, drawing on the knowledge gained inside the Sampson Flat fire ground, where recovery is still on-going. This includes having a seat on the Local Recovery Committee headed by Recovery Coordinator Vince Monterola, where about 3 dozen agencies with help to offer collaborate. The ‘re-building group’ now includes planners, architects and others noted below who offer their time and expertise pro bono to aid locals looking to re-build.
At the same time, the Sampson Flat committee headed by Recovery Coordinator Karlene Maywald continues its meeting schedule, now emphasising follow on actions locals are taking in spreading the awareness and capabilities so that communities are more resilient into the future.

During the year this practice completed the Red Cross ‘Psychological First Aid’ Certificate to add to the architect’s normal stock of psychological training and daily practice, in order to be more effective in this stressful environment.

In the Pinery fire ground, advice is provided at community meetings, over the phone, and face-to-face at individual meetings with families. The issues within this fire ground differ from elsewhere. Notably with regard to historic structures, where the intense heat impacts on traditional stone structures, and in site hazards such as the proliferation of asbestos materials.

Structural engineers have volunteered their time to assess stone structures beyond what assessors would do – in the effort to retain artefacts of value to the multi-generation owners. An example is a farmhouse where the front facade contains the ballast blocks from the original sailing ship which brought the immigrant forebears to this place. In that context, ‘demolish and build new’ doesn’t cut it. The search is on to identify whether the whole, part or front facade only may be structurally stabilised, repaired and retained. Knowledge continues to grow about fire impacted limestone and lime mortar construction.

At the people layer, the expected head space conundrums in each of the fire grounds continues. On the one hand are regulatory processes, expecting to deal with re-build as if these are new builds instigated by the owners. But this is not the impacted peoples’ stance – they see this as a regional event bringing impact on them, where having to build again is neither their wish nor their fault.

In that situation, misunderstanding and emotional upheaval can occur. Independent re-build advisers have a role in keeping the temperature down, and suggesting ways and means toward the goal. As innocuous request to fit a regulatory ‘tick box’ from an administrator can be seen as a punitive imposition by the impacted family.

The family knows that the re-build will go on the cleared site of the burnt down dwelling. The administrator wants a ‘site plan’. The resolve to the divide is to use satellite imagery of the subject land and add the regulatory information.

Similar distinctions occur between insurance, assessor and owner views on what is important or value-for-money. Independent advisers have a role in outlining the full scope of options and approaches. Both in regulatory steps and in contractual arrangements. That information made available when and where the families are ready to think about these things.