Bob Marshman Building and Passive House Interview

16 November 2022

At Deicke Richards, we use design to achieve social purpose. As we all work to tackle climate change our Marketing & Communications Manager Emma Eldridge caught up with our client Phil Diver to discuss the principles of Passive Haus and how they guided the Bob Marshman project with the Construction Training Centre in Salisbury.

Emma: Phil, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. First, I’d love for you to tell me a bit about yourself – your background and how you came to helm the CTC.

Phil: I have a background in healthcare and private equity and came to Australia as a lifestyle change back in 2003 to get out of the rat race and stress of private equity. Casting around for a job I established the clinical simulation centre for Qld Health and having set that up looked for a new challenge and CTC came up as a turnaround proposition. I’ve stayed because no two days are the same in this job and the challenges of Covid, GFC and other boom-bust cycles have had to be faced head-on and seen off.

Some years ago, my interest in the environment was heightened and I decided to do a Diploma in Environmental Sustainability then qualify as an accredited Green Star professional with the Green Building Council of Australia. We began working on a range of initiatives that reflected the need to show leadership in this space. We have done carbon offsets since 2009 with over 20,000 trees planted. We set up a share economy (asset as a service) offering called Hot Leasing all the while looking to make incremental improvements to our footprint. Most recently I completed the Cambridge University Circular Economy Course and just started the Columbia University ESG Investing course to build the knowledge base.

The building and construction industry has a key role to play in addressing climate change. The stats are eye-watering. Our industry consumes 50% of global steel production, 25-40% of world energy consumption, contributes 40% of world CO2 emissions, uses a third of the water and creates 40% of world waste. If the climate is going to settle within tolerable temperature rise limits all sectors (not just energy) will need to play their part and that’s where CTC has seen its leadership role in the last couple of years and significantly into the future.

Waking up every day knowing we can lead by example and give something back makes it very easy to hang around. Just to remind ourselves about how important the challenge is we’ve put a massive doomsday clock poster on the front of our tallest building on the Precinct. The clock is ticking and we have previous little time to limit the increase in temperature before the existential threat is realised.

Emma: Could you share a bit about how you learned about Passive House– and whether you’d worked with it at all before the Bob Marshman Building project?

Phil: I’ve been aware of Passive House for a few years now due to discussions John Moynihan (Ecolateral) and I have had over the years (Irishman to Irishman). Over the years my knowledge has built and more recently it’s increased exponentially. I always felt that it was strange in this hot climate that we didn’t have double glazing (an analogue of my cold climate house in Manchester UK) to keep the hot out. In fact my house built in 2003 is the coldest and warmest house (cold in winter, warm in summer) I’ve ever lived in and I did a winter in Leeds in the north of England and 4 years in Saudi Arabia. So it really was a no-brainer for me to think we could/should build our houses smarter to take into account thermal bridging and keeping the ambient temperature within reasonable margins without using loads of energy to make it happen. Marshman is my first active involvement and will likely be the first of its type in Queensland therefore being a pathfinder for many buildings to follow.

Emma: The mission of the CTC in Salisbury is to ‘enable people to acquire the skills they need for the future and to develop the Queensland building and construction industry with the highest quality workforce.’ Can you tell us a bit about your work on the Bob Marshman Building project? Will students themselves be able to access passive house design certification?

Phil: At one level the Bob Marshman Building (BRB) is just a simple building for a tenant to occupy to train their students in some aspects of the building and construction sector, providing us with increased revenue so we can keep developing the centre. And achieving this will prove worthwhile in itself because it will explode the myth that you ‘can’ build green but it’s not commercially viable or preferable. But it’s much more than that. It will act as a Living Laboratory once built demonstrating to the estimated 17,000 students who will cycle through annually, the climate responsive credentials that otherwise might not be obvious. So, it’s not just about the passive design which means it will seldom need mechanical heating or cooling. It’s also about the sustainable concrete, the net zero carbon footprint, green steel, rainwater harvesting, the circular economy, the lights that will be an asset as a service (i.e. we won’t own any of the lights they will be cradle to cradle recycled material), the carpets made from recycled fishing nets from the Philippines etc. It’s about an indoor air quality that makes it easier to learn and less toxic through the reduced VOCs and formaldehyde.

The process of bringing BRB to life is also a collaboration leveraging relationships with vendors, consultants, stakeholders etc within the industry so working together in a way that isn’t the traditional approach. During the build, the workers will be trained in Passive House techniques and it’s our intention to create a film as a lasting legacy not only in demonstrating the new skills required, but also a narrative about the special features of the building. So yes, those apprentices and tradespeople who build the centre will acquire additional skills and in many ways will be the building’s first students learning even before it’s completed.

Emma: We’ve just emerged from an election cycle where climate change was a key issue; the new government’s climate legislation is being debated as we speak. With the construction, operation and maintenance of buildings contributing to a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, what kind of impact do you think passive design can have in terms of climate action?

Phil: We’re hoping this is the BRB legacy which is why it’s fitting to name it after Bob Marshman who was Director General of Training when CTC was established. As a person of vision, he was passionate about training the workforce of the future and we carry that torch forward. We all know that there is a ‘war’ for talent, not just due to Covid, but in coming decades with climate change creating a huge demand for skilled persons to build the solar farms, wind turbines and green buildings etc. to help Queensland survive and thrive. In many ways I see BRB as the first domino that starts the momentum to this golden age where long and satisfying careers can be built with that extra dimension of knowing that choosing a career in building and construction is a values-based proposition.

By taking the bold move to establish this centre as an exemplar we can demonstrate that buildings that are highly sustainable, circular with no carbon impact are possible. In tandem with our impact investor BERT Welfare, we want to be highly visible and get the message out there through the actual experience of being trained in a facility that has wellbeing at its heart safe in the knowledge that in doing so it won’t cost the earth. The great thing about the collaboration too is that it reflects our ownership which is the building and construction industry of Qld (Union and Employers) and the State Govt. There is no better stakeholder demonstration than this grouping all of whom want to see vibrant and meaningful careers within the sector which if we are to tackle climate change, we will definitely need. So there’s much more at play here than a simple 600square metre single-story building. Ultimately, I would see Passive House becoming de rigueur for how we build into the future.