James Cook University and the Tropical Green Building Network in Cairns have together released a comprehensive series of Tropical Sustainable Design Case Studies from Queensland, well worth a look.

Covering residential, commercial, civic and civil building projects, these case studies present tropical design principles and theories (for environmental and social sustainability) put to the test, often with innovation and experimentation and striking results.

Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre.  Top photo: Sunbird House, Cairns
Cairns Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre.
Top photo: Sunbird House, Cairns

The website discusses each building or project’s performance across a range of indicators:

  • Planning and management – including the site planning, the engagement with suppliers and specialists and sustainable choices made, environmental issues during building, maximizing social as well as environmental benefit and so on;
  • Site – including how the building affects site ecology, the natural features of the site and how these are worked into the building design and so on;
  • Design – including building orientation for maximum breeze capture and minimum heat gain from the sun, incorporating views, and all the key tropical design rules (elevated, lightweight materials, shaded, ventilation);
  • Materials – the life cycle analysis of materials chosen, the hardiness in tropical conditions of products and materials, materials’ ability to withstand cyclones, toxicity and so on;
  • Energy – the energy efficiency of the house and the products within;
  • Water – water efficient design, indoor and out, factors relating to water use in Wet/Dry tropical conditions and so on.

Here is a selection of the residential case studies:

The Tropical Green Building Network is based in Cairns but with members from all over the tropics (Australia and internationally), is non-affiliated and consists of members from construction, local government, Qld government and academia. James Cook University tropical geographer Dr Lisa Law partnered with Emma Thirkell of TGBN to produce these case studies. Together with COOLmob‘s* range of tropical sustainable living info online, these are handy tropical sustainability resources.

(*Disclaimer: I used to manage the COOLmob program. A few years before I started, a range of guidebooks with excellent info were developed which remain popular.)

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