Friday, 24 October 2014


Waiting in George Street outside the venue for the 'Main Event'

Western facade of neighbour: classic 1970s
with street light

George Street entry, looking west - Brisbane's windiest city street

It seemed to be a tempting offer: all formal CPD points in two days for $120.00! It looked like a quick, relatively cheap solution to a potentially complicated and expensive, time-consuming matter, almost 'budget points.' CPD requirements appear to have opened up opportunities that have a lingering sense of blackmail about them. The obligation becomes somewhat onerous in its arbitrary application that recognises neither experience, nor special needs, qualifications or reputation. Might Frank Lloyd Wright have had to complete such CPD schedules? If one remembers that Canada refused to let Mies van der Rohe practice in Toronto (Dominion Tower) without the local registration requirements being completed, then the alarming response in this southern colonial outpost must, sadly, be ‘Yes.’

Being watched while waiting

The theatrette in the city library - the venue for the two-day event

George Street entry, looking east

The matter of attendance or not was resolved by another: a colleague had to get his numbers up for this year having not done so previously, so I promised to go with him to share the days’ events. Bookings were made and the wait started. There was a period of uncertainty about one’s attendance after having damaged an ankle, but medical technology made it all possible. This experience with a reduced mobility was interesting: it opened up one’s eyes to the real problems of access for the disabled. There would never again be any complaints on these requirements after this occurrence that could itself become the basis of a CPD talk. Instead of thinking that they were excessive, as frequently happens when one is designing and detailing a project, one was left wondering if the current standards for access were adequate.

The soffit detail extends the window slashes of the facade - origami?

The library with its vertical graphics
Are librarians used to reading lettering on the spines of books?

View from window of the column and facade opposite

The multi-storey columns, like skinny silos
What is holding up what?
266 George Street, Brisbane
DCM Architects

CPD ‘educational’ requirements have become a matter of concern that needs more careful and considered attention and revision; see -
After perusing the calendar for the two-day ‘Main Event’ that was being put on by the Australian green Development Forum, it looked as though these were the type of presentations that manufacturers and associations used to put on free of charge with the promise of drinks and a meal - lunch or dinner with an open bar, without today’s mandatory sparkling water and orange juice options. The Board of Architects’ requirements have changed the commercial promotional events into 'CPD presentations' with its limited interpretation of the Architects’ Act that insists on every architect accumulating twenty points, ten formal and ten informal, each year, irrespective of experience, skill and scope of work. The desperation of architects makes it possible for promotional bodies to now charge for these suppliers' talks and not even offer a coffee, let alone lunch.

'Service' city on roof tops

The 'lost' cathedral
This needs a CPD study

Ah! Those were the days. It must have been over thirty-five years ago now when one hardware manufacturer used to provide an annual, three-course, sit-down Christmas lunch for the whole office, an event that started at 12:00pm and finished late in the evening. Such an occasion would rarely been seen in these more 'responsible' days of beverage management and stringent frugality, even if the CPD requirements were different. In the same way, the practice of calling into the local pub for a drink and lunch when arriving at a country town for a meeting or a job inspection, would no longer be tolerated. My favourite stories on these experiences come from travels years ago with one member of the profession who loved shortcuts that usually took the vehicle many kilometres off the beaten track to a remote ferry. When on the ferry, after waiting for the ‘every half-hour’ scheduled return, the inevitable question would be asked: have you got any change? And on arrival at the destination, in the pub for the first drink, the partner of the firm would confidently order the pots and disappear to the toilet, leaving one to pay for the drinks when they arrived in his absence. Yes, those were the days! This reminds me of the experience of one builder who had been promised by the architect, (another one), that he would be taken out for lunch if he did a good job. So after putting in an extra effort, on completion of the project, the builder was taken out by the architect and given a pie with peas! Architects, it seems, can be rather mean!

The neighbouring facade - classic 1980s

One recalls several occasions where afternoon meetings in locations out of the office took place with a rather light-headed, partially inebriated attendee: and in the office too. One wonders how many staff today might get summoned over the hotel public address system with the demand that everyone come back to the office - and not get sacked!! On reflection, one felt extremely grateful towards the partners of this particular architectural office who were so understanding and tolerant of bolshy, boisterous students. Perhaps they had been much the same when younger and understood? One of the partners told the story of his student days when the afternoon on the drawing board after a visit to the local pub for lunch was taken up with hatching, illustrating the insulation in the walls and roof.

Urban furniture

So it is that in this self-conscious, stolid era of sterile, responsible rigour, conscientious workplace accountability, and relentless CPD requirements, that one has to behave, collect points, and fill out questionnaires to tell the world what one has learned, as if everything has to be examined and assessed. Has no one today ever heard of learning by experience, or of understandings that cannot be put into words? It seems not. These days, one’s lunchtime break is expected to include earnest discussions on the ‘learning’s’ that one has just acquired through a ‘speed learning forum' to achieve certification. Oh for the fun of other times when a little madness was not a dangerous thing!

The day eventually arrived. The early start made sure that one would arrive on time at the correct place: the theatrette in the Brisbane Square Council library, 266 George Street. One would have to discover where this particular room was. The morning in the city was the usual mad rush of people and cars, all made to seem more flustered by the gusty breeze in Brisbane’s most windy street. The response to the question put to the uniformed staff member managing the public foyer solved the location problem. The theatrette was nearby. We were early: there was time for a coffee.

The seat steps

Nearer to the starting time we moved off into the space for the 'Main Event.'. The surprise was that it was a stepped theatre space with no fixed seating. One was supposed to squat on the thin mats spread out on the carpeted steps. The inadequacy of this arrangement was revealed when the array of chairs on the top step filled up before anyone chose to use the mats on the floor provided as a last resort. Why might anyone think that it would be satisfactory for folk to sit on the stepped floor without any backrest for four two-and-a-half hour sessions over two days? A couple of chairs were taken and placed in the front. These would do for us. Steps remained difficult to mount, even with the latest medical gadgets.

It was a relatively new building in the city, sharp and slick, complete with dramatic multi-storied columns and articulated forms, but it was already undergoing refurbishment. Council needs seem to change quickly. The whole layout of the ground floor had changed and the courtyard shops and restaurants were being refitted. Generally the interior  finishes were smart and shiny, and matched the external forms that were dramatically self-conscious in every aspect of their being there. More folk arrived, and the day started. The first session was ‘Green Concrete’ – Using Geoploymer Concrete. The list of presentations for the two days was:
Wagners - Using Geopolymer Concrete
Waterproofing Solutions
CSR Bradford Insulation: Roofing
Office Culture
Smart Cities
Surface Preparation
CSR Bradford Insulation: Membranes and Condensation
The Ecovillage

The multi-storey column

The venue - Brisbane Square Library Theatrette
266 George Street, Brisbane
DCM Architects

Name tags and folders were handed out to each attendee, complete with the certificate recording attendance. This seemed like an act of faith, as the schedule for the two days suggested that a certificate would be given at the end of each day after the requirements had been fulfilled. This was no real concern. One would still turn up to all sessions as the commitment had been made. The welcome was given and the introduction was finalised, complete with the thanks to the original, aboriginal owners of the land. This always seems to be a politically correct overkill, as if one never considers this unless it is stated. The event was under way.

The ‘geopolymer’ talk was interesting. The product was simply concrete that could perform in the same manner as Portland cement, but with a much smaller CO2 ‘footprint’ and other improved outcomes. ‘Geopolymer’ seemed to be an odd name, for the real difference was that, instead of using calcium silicate as a binder, alumina silicate, a material that could be made from fly ash and slag waste, was used. There was no mention of any polymer. That Wagners shipped in slag waste from China to make the alumina silicate seemed strange for what was being promoted as an efficiently ‘green’ product. One wondered if the transport had been calculated into the savings and benefits? The ‘green’ concrete created less heat when curing; had less shrinkage; and was resistant to acids and sulphates, so there were some advantages. Its standard off-white finish would be of interest to some architects; but it cost 15% more. Sadly Wagners was not wanting to become involved in the domestic market. At this stage of its development, this product was a material for large civil engineering projects only. Wagners had used this concrete for the new airport it was constructing at Toowoomba. So ‘green’? – yes; indeed, the concrete did strip green in colour and cuts green too, even when cured to its off-white finish.

Geopolymer precast concrete

This talk turned out to be a standard manufacturer’s presentation that might have been given to an office as a regular lunchtime or evening talk, complete with lunch/tea; but here it was labelled ‘a CPD presentation.’ It seemed that businesses had already become aware of the Board’s rules and had adapted their promotions to take advantage of them, turning the usual sales talks into point-scoring events. One might have hoped that the CPD rules would have reached for a higher level of engagement and outcome, instead of ‘business as usual’ with a different name. Was it that folk did not ‘learn’ on ordinary occasions when points were not accrued? This restructuring seems to have been allowed to occur because the Board does not accredit any presentation made for points. Better is needed. Here we had a firm not interested in small-scale work talking to a group that was generally involved in small/medium-scale work. Was this useful ‘learning’s’? It might be an interesting subject to be aware of, but it is hardly critical for any architect working on smaller projects. Still, it gets the points! Surely that is the point, nothing else: so it appears, given that the Board doesn’t want to care about real outcomes other than as numerical totals. It seems that one can never be trusted to continue one’s own unsupervised education in the best manner possible, tailored to particular personal needs and interests. No, one has to go to classes, be punctual and fill out forms to make sure that the material was understood; that one was paying attention! Is there detention for those who do not? It seems that the punishment or threat of punishment is deregistration.

Roof insulation between purlins

Basement waterproofing detail

Waterproofing detail at pile cap

There were other standard ‘trade’ presentations over the two-day event. These were: Waterproofing Solutions (case studies of failures); CSR Bradford Insulation: Roofing; Surface Preparation (all about painting prep); and CSR Bradford Insulation: Membranes and Condensation. These sessions involved material that referred to specific products. The coloured brochures that were distributed seemed to cover most of the material presented. Condensation is interesting as our practices hardly give any attention to this aspect of construction in our forgiving, subtropical climate. One does not even see hot water pipes being insulated. Contractors just do not care. One only has to have some experience of building in a really cold climate for the problems of condensation and insulation to be come very obvious – indeed, critical. We need to get away from our ‘She’ll be right’ mentality and pay a lot more attention to what used to be understood as’ the science of building.’ CSIRO used to publish excellent studies on a vast range of subjects under the title: 'Notes on the Science of Building.' Alas, government funding cuts seem to have stopped this research.

Surface preparation required

So, of the eight sessions, five were just the usual trade presentations, effectively explaining properties and performances so that the products might get specified. The ambition was to sell more of the brand - it was all about sales. Information was being distributed for potential profit. Is this ‘education’ or something else? Is this desirable? Could it/should it be managed in a different manner?

The other three sessions - Office Culture, Smart Cities and The Ecovillage - were similar in format and subject matter to the typical architectural talks given to the profession with drinks and nibbles on an evening. Office Culture was a flash name given to the subject of the talk on the inner workings of the Donovan Hill office by one of its employees. It really was an idyllic story of the DH ‘club’: how everyone lived in an open and richly content, inclusive happiness that was facilitated by the office layout and design.The latent message seemed to be that good office 'culture' would produce good design outcomes. The unique office air-cooling system prototype included dripping pipes over drawings, a scenario that was presented as an acceptable quirkiness, as were the hidden receptionist and the regular social events. One was made to feel very awkward, backward, if one thought that these things were abnormal or unacceptable. Surprise and unusual difference seemed to be aim, perhaps to emphasize the 'creative' qualities of this firm? The daily event was the communal cooked lunch.The weekly office get-together allowed everyone to show and tell for the benefit of others who might happen to remember. These occasions made the office appear as a delightful group engagement churning out quality work, working day and night just for the love of it, as architects do. This was at Spring Hill, but the office eventually merged with BVN and moved into an ugly city high-rise, ‘the worst in the best street,’ as it was described, a most unlikely place for such a firm, but it happened. And, true to form, the ambitions for astonishment and alarming difference continued with this one tower floor office fitout. The client asking about when the ceiling might be completed, was snugly told that it was the only thing in the room that was completed: 'idiot'!

The library office entry

BVN Donavan Hill new city office

At this stage of the presentation, the story of the new fitout was told; all marmoleum except on the floor ('clever us'!); ceilings and walls stripped and not replaced; entry through the library ('be surprised'!); communal group areas; places to lie down; places for private work; projections; pin-ups; etc. all on a polished concrete floor with cheap fittings and a receptionist that sadly had to be on front display ('we hate clichés'!). There were no plastic edgings anywhere. The conceited spiel was that “One cannot do beautiful things with ABS edging on the desks.” It sounded wonderfully arrogant, smartly proud, somewhat pretentious; but we all know how offices promote an image and push a uniquely desirable vision; how one might long to be a part of such a place, even work for the best architect in the world for nothing! We all know how time and reality strip anticipatory wonder and turn it into a boring, repetitive rigour – hard effort. One needs to talk to the 20 people who were sacked after the GFC in order to assess the magic of this office: to discover the true story. Offices usually sound fabulous to the outsiders. Participants rarely choose to expose the true order of things, as it might reflect on themselves - the duped. Ideas and strategies might appear quaint and magical but realities are otherwise when office managers start making efficiency demands and finances and deadlines are being taken seriously. Still, one could appreciate the story and the clever arrangements, concepts and outcomes.Architects are suckers for a good yarn. Whether these translated into personal contentment and satisfaction is another thing. Consider the cliché personal desk, complete with intimate images and personal items sprawled out into a communal identity. Can everyone work effectively in noisy open space, in full view of everyone, everywhere, every minute of the day? Research suggests that this 'arty' circumstance can be a problem.

Translational Research Institute at the PA Hospital, Dutton Park, Brisbane
Wilson Architects, Donovan Hill

Facebook world - map made with no geographical information

The muddled graphic does not suggest such a smart future - city by committee?

The Smart Cities session was itself smartly slick, fast, presented with the chopping changing of an Internet search, grabbing at visions for urban ipads while adapting words and concepts to become possible outcomes; predicting new worlds where the individual was important and could participate in everything and have access to everything in order to make decisions while playing with every possibility the digital world might offer in a total integrated interactive world. There was something surreal here, something like a bland, five-dimensional facebook involvement twittering away as the cup and ball trick flashed in front of the eyes. Where is the substance? Where was the sense of humanity – well, any humanity. There appeared to be no subtle presence here at all. Everything was digitally based, self-centred and self-important. Where was the quiet, the silence as experienced by the poet of old? Where was there time and place to ‘lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help’ (Pslam 121)? Might one now only see electronic signals coming from hills? That one might ever have to confront death, only seemed to give rise to the digital possibilities and challenges of one leaving messages forever after passing away. Everything could be digital: every idea was a great idea allowing one to be personally empowered - ME! There was no critique of any envisaged outcome; everything was grand!

The myth of connectivity

Facebook Europe - the ghost of communications

Federation Square was cited as the best urban digital environment in Australia! What? This poor public space gained importance only because of its digital possibilities allowing others, anyone with an ipad, to place messages on the screen. What about place and space? – see:  The concentration on self and ‘smart’ technology appeared to blind everyone to subtleties: things refined, tacit and emotionally vague. The message was that architects had to learn to let go: others had to be allowed to participate in all of the outcomes from homes to cities. What!? Does one allow anyone to come and fix up the Picasso; an Apple iphone; a Porsche or Suzuki; a . . . ? Think of design by committee! One already experiences the circumstance where no one knows what to do until one has started and presented a proposal: then everyone knows what is wrong; what must be done etc. Such a situation is likely to generate chaos; a certain irrational madness managed by enabled ignorance. Coherence and concepts have a relationship with feeling, intimacy, integrity. Kahn spoke of the numinous taking form in fact to become the numinous. How could random inputs achieve this? That this might become a world where councils and governments would listen to anyone is just naive. They might give the appearance that they do listen and care, as in development proposals that have to go out for public objections, but these bodies have all learned how to overcome all objections with clever words and conditions. Councils and governments do not want to know and rarely want meaningful participation.They do not like being told and do not like telling anything.# I have one letter from the ex-Mayor of Brisbane, now Premier of the State, that rudely says that he will no longer respond to the matter raised – ever, in spite of the facts being put before him. The latent message was: go away! A leopard does not change its spots.* That digital worlds might think that they can achieve full involvement in public matters and change things appears more than ambitious if not foolish in its lack of critical scrutiny; its total lack of cynicism. ‘Get real’ might be the answer; predict real worlds rather than dream worlds: ask questions; raise doubts. Believing that everything is wonderful and possible with a the exuberant excitement suggesting the possibility of eternal happiness, is one optimistic approach, but this blinds the eyes and minds to what is really occurring. One is reminded here of the talk given at Bond University School of Architecture: see -

A world of intersections with Urban Infomatics at the centre of everything

The Ecovillage plan

The last session, The Ecovillage, covered the experiences of the development called this in the Currumbin Valley. It all sounds ideally environmental, but the social and 'green' issues and problems were revealed in the talk that was frank and refreshingly open and honest. It set the example on how best to approach Urban Informatics. One might suggest that for the very best of outcomes, the developer should do everything and sell the buildings off as a complete part of a controlled and carefully managed whole. Having others involved only challenges the vision and opens up endless possibilities for argument. Groups are always ‘interesting’ socially, a real challenge: just look at the Body Corporate problems experienced by most communities, including this one. The real-life experiences of this village highlight the problems with having every Tom, Dick and Harry 'Urban Informatics' fan or not, with an ipad, iphone or any 'i' complex, having a say in what happens everywhere.

Common village area

This presentation finished with the statement that the village would keep developing. It was an apt conclusion, for the whole idea of CPD needs to keep being questioned, developed and refined to ensure quality outcomes. I still prefer the arrangement where the Board itself might organize quality events to set the example. The Board needs to become far more proactive instead of being the policeman/woman. Why not start funding publications, research, papers; presentations that, if one attended say two thirds of these 'CPD events,' might get the points – if points are to stay! Increase the fees and be creative rather than itemizing and checking numbers from re-named trade affairs and casual chitchats. If this ‘Main Event’ of the ‘Green Speed Learning Forum’ proved anything, it was that normal office life was doing everything that was needed to ensure one was kept informed. CPD needs to be netter than this if it is to be useful; if the effort is to be rewarded rather than adapted to become a clever, shrewdly arranged accumulation of scheduled points. Here less could indeed prove to be more: less 'schoolyard' overview of the profession that is responsible enough to be concerned with everything around it and about it. Why else do architects work all hours for nothing?

While one must finally appreciate the effort involved in organizing this 'Main Event' in Brisbane. CPD should be more than an endurance test; more than a cunning game of clever opportunistic, point scoring if it is to truly be useful. One’s private reading is much more meaningful than trading information or chat fests. Why is this ignored? Why is there distrust? A good chat at the pub can be more useful than some two-point presentations, even if one has an ipad, just as it was in the old days when drawings were completed on drawing boards with pencils and pens!

Going home

# The favourite expression of the Irish journalist Claud Cockburn was: "Never believe anything until it's officially denied."

* There was a similar response given on another occasion when I had discovered that the hand-delivered hard copy and the E-mailed electronic version of my objection to a development had both 'gone astray.' There was not one person in the Brisbane City Council who was interested in talking to me about this serious lapse in its system that removed all of my legal rights to take the development to court. It seems that anyone in the Council could just throw out any document that was not liked, and no one would care. It appears more than naive to believe that one might co-operate usefully with any public body.

Dear Spence,
Main Event - 21 & 22 October 2014
Green Speed Learning Forum
Architects' Learning Group
10 hrs of Formal CPD Activity
Each day needs to be booked separately ($59.95 per day). 
Direct link to book on 21 October Event (Go to the bottom of the booking page and there will be a “submit” button. “Click” on “submit” and follow the  booking prompts)
Direct link to book on 22 October Event (Go to the bottom of the booking page and there will be a “submit” button. “Click” on “submit” and follow the  booking prompts)
A confirmation email booking confirmation will be sent to you automatically. If you experience any problems please email me on
A PDF copy of the presentation topics at Main Event will be located at the registration page in the next few weeks (in a PDF above the "submit" button, on the web page from the links above).
Tony Sgroi
Australian Green Development Forum
Director of CPD Events
Main Event 
21 & 22 October 2014
Green Speed Learning Forum
Architects' Learning Group
10 hrs of Formal CPD Activity
at the "Brisbane Square Library" Theatrette at 266 George Street Brisbane. 
(Lunch not included, many local cafes / market in area)
Only $59.95* (each day for members and non-members)
Limited seats, so book soon!
The "Main Event" is part of the Green Speed Learning Forums (GSLF), which are a Green Continuing Professional Development Learning Series.
This two (2) day event provides, through the Architects' Learning Group (ALG), – 10 formal continuing professional development (CPD) activity hours. These presentations/workshops are coordinated by the Australian Green Development Forum (AGDF).
Day 1 - Tuesday 21 October 2014*
Venue - Theatrette
9:45 am       Welcome and Opening of Event
10:00 am    Wagners - Using Geopolymer Concrete (Tom Glasby – Earth Friendly Concrete Manager)
11:15 am     Waterproofing Solutions: A series of case studies (Geoff Seamer - Training and Applications Manager  Parchem - Northern Region)
12:30 am  Workshop break for lunch
The Queen Street Mall has numerous venues to have lunch and discuss the learning’s with other attendees from the event (lunch not included).
1:30 pm     CSR Bradford Insulation: Roofing (Ed Hanley – CSR Technical Sales Engineer)
2:45 pm     Office Culture (Michael Hogg – Practice Director BVN)
4:00 pm   Day 1 Close and AGDF "Certificate of Attendance"
Day 2 - Wednesday 22 October 2014*
Venue - Theatrette
9:45 am       Welcome and Opening of Event
10:00 am     Smart Cities - A key to urban liveability or yet another tech fad? (Professor Marcus Foth - QUT Urban Informatics)
11:15 am     Surface Preparation (Chris Suter - Business Development Manager Taubmans Paints - PPG)
12:30 am  Workshop break for lunch
The Queen Street Mall and Wednesday Markets Brisbane Square has numerous venues to have lunch and discuss the learning’s with other attendees from the event (lunch not included).
1:30 pm     CSR Bradford Insulation: Membranes and Condensation (Ed Hanley – CSR Technical Sales Engineer)
2:45 pm     The Ecovillage: A work in progress (Rob Norman - Director, Symbiosphere)
4:00 pm   Day 1 Close and AGDF "Certificate of Attendance"
About the Event
This 2 day "Main Event" - GSLF provides predominantly green presentations/workshops that will give participants the opportunity to have significant interaction with CPD activity presenters while obtaining new learning and skills.
These presentations/workshops are intended to be CPD activities, which will be attended by the AGDF, ALG and other professional participants form the building industry (significant numbers of architects will participate in sharing experiences and new knowledge in relation to significant green design/construction topics provided by presenters).
The stated learning outcomes of the presentations are reviewed during the workshop segments.
Be quick to book as there are limited seats available ! ***
The presentations/workshops will include cutting edge research, practical building solutions and building case studies.
The stated learning outcomes of the presentations are reviewed during the workshop segments are provided as a PDF attachment at the bottom of the registration page and can be downloaded (provides details of the interactive presentations and presenters).
"Main Event" is held at the "Brisbane Square Library" Theatrette at 266 George Street Brisbane. 
Ticket price is only $59.95 each day for members and non-members.
Limited seats available, so book early and arrive early to secure a good seat***.
A link to this can be found on the "Events & Education" page on - under on "Main Event - GSLF".
(***Select seats have been reserved, so be quick.)
Limited seats available, so register here now  (October 2014), and arrive early to secure a good seat.
(**Should you be experiencing any difficulties in registering please check with your Internet network provider that you have access to external registrations or click refresh on your browser.  If these actions do not assist please contact event organiser by clicking below**)
If you have a query please contact event organiser
*Ticket price is only $59.95 each day for members and non-members (excludes lunch), and the AGDF reserves the right to alter the program and presenters. 
Thank you
Tony Sgroi
Australian Green Development Forum
Director of CPD Events

Australian Green Development Forum
Director of CPD Events
Sent by Australian Green Development Forum, PO Box 833 Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
Refer a friend


This ‘PDF’ provides details of the day, even what one has learned!

Step lights reflected in door viewing panel

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