Thursday, April 29, 2010

AUSTRALIA'S FIRST ZERO-EMISSIONS HOME




Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry The Honourable Richard Marles MP launched Australia’s first zero-emissions home today at Laurimar in Melbourne’s north east, setting a precedent for sustainable living in Australia.

The AusZEH demonstration home will set a precedent for sustainable living and building practice in Australia and is expected to use up to 70 per cent less energy than a traditional home of similar size.

Designed and constructed by leading Australian builder Henley Property Group in consultation with CSIRO, Delfin Lend Lease and Sustainability Victoria, the home will be able to produce enough ‘zero-emission’ renewable energy on-site to supply all the operating energy needs of the household so its net total CO2 or other greenhouse gas emissions is zero.

Zero emissions is achieved through a combination of energy efficiency and demand reduction measures, on-site renewable energy supply and the application of a home energy management system, and not through any carbon offset programs.




The home’s performance will be evaluated against other homes within Laurimar to gauge the success of the project and help identify key areas for further improvement.

Delfin Lend Lease chief executive officer Toni Milis said the project proved zero-emission housing could be affordable and designed for ordinary families today and for tomorrow’s generation.

“Delfin Lend Lease has a national commitment to being sustainable, so we’re proud to have been involved in the development of the zero-emission house, the first of its kind in Australia,” Ms Milis said.

“Families right across our 25 communities are telling us they want to be green and they want to reduce their carbon footprint, but they want it to be affordable.

“The home will now be open as a display home and we will search for a family to occupy the home for six months while CSIRO monitors the home’s emissions.

“By investing in a scientific trial, we are making sure that zero-emission housing is a reality for all Australians and that it’s designed and delivered in the best possible and most affordable way, so it can be rolled out across Australia

“We congratulate CSIRO, Sustainability Victoria and Henley Property Group for their efforts in reducing emissions.”

The project is part of the CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship’s Low Emission Distributed Energy research program, which focuses on developing low-emission technologies and solutions for a quick response to climate change.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Impressions of Eurocucina

By now you would all have heard that we are stuck in Milan with the explosion of the volcano in Iceland so I'm going to be here a bit longer than anticipated.

I thought that now would be a good opportunity to rethink all that I saw at Eurocucina and in Milan and try to encapsulate that within a few themes. It's very interesting talking to the variety of people within the travelling group as all have picked up on different aspects of the show, depending on their experience and interests. So it makes for some great conversations as everyone expresses their impressions and ideas.

From my perspective, there were a few things that stood out straight away.

  • Repeat of the cantilevered benchtops that were seen 2 years ago but more natural wood tones being used
  • Hidden work spaces - areas allocated for prep or work space that are designed to be hidden behind doors which open then slot back into the cabinetry to keep them out of the way (and can close to hide the mess)
  • We saw lots of cupboards with stainless steel interiors, giving them an industrial appearance that was hidden behind the door. Saw this particularly behind lift-up units
  • Cube systems - lots of boxes of different widths and heights used together to make a feature of a space
  • More soft boundaries - using pieces to create a border between the kitchen and the adjoining room but making it a "soft" boundary ie. a more open structure to allow light and air to flow through (not a solid wall or structure)
  • Plenty of custom hoods that integrate the same materials used in the kitchen such as benchtop or door finishes
  • Some lovely curves - particularly on island benches to soften what is sometimes a very bulky item
  • More handles than I would have expected to see and, when used, very chunky
  • Lots of lighting features, particularly within cabinets with LED lighting strips and similar
  • And some lovely use of pressed stainless steel units that incorporate a sink, cooktop and drainer in one piece.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Eurocucina Appliances

Another packed day at Eurocucina with a lunch organised by Smeg at its stand in the section known as FTK or Technology for the Kitchen. After a quick bite we were taken on a tour of the stand where we had an opportunity to view the brand new range of Smeg appliances, on show for the first time.

These appliances are the result of 2 years collaboration with designer Marc Newson. Marc's main concept for the appliances was to ensure their simplicity - not just in use, but in design. At this stage the range will be available in Australia in three finishes - stainless steel, black and white - with the opportunity to potentially introduce some of the colour finishes at a later stage.

The range includes ovens, induction cooktops and gas cooktops, with some very cool linear hobs which are also brand new. Visit www.smeg.com.au to view more of this range.

Further updates later today once I get to the show...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eurocucina

After a long (and eventful) trip through the Swiss Alps yesterday, we finally arrived at our hotel in Como much later than planned so I was only able to spend a couple of hours at Eurocucina. Today we have a full day planned and I am looking forward to what I will see.

This morning, thanks to the Sydney Mobalpa team, I had an interview scheduled at the stand with Guillaume Malaise, the export manager for the Australian region. I was also lucky enough to spend some time with designer Antoine Fritsch from Fritsch Associates. Antoine has designed one of the kitchens featured prominently on the Mobalpa stand and one that is due in production later this year.

The design is called Iris and it is beautiful to view. Cabinets of bamboo are off set by a lovely thin Corian top with the sink and cooktop elements in a gorgeous flower pattern. I cannot upload images from where I am but take a look here www.mobalpa.com and search for Iris to see the range of combinations available.

Antoine says the inspiration for this design as to maximise the natural materials used and display a "lightness" within the design. A thick Corian base flows from side to side in a design reminiscent of a boat with a very thin benchtop above into which are set the sink and cooktop elements. The large base allows the cabinets to "float" from the ground. The lower cabinets are separated from the benchtop to allow accessories to be attached that can move along the length of the bench and be positioned where of most benefit to the homeowner.

Atop the island bench sits a custom rangehood that reflects the same natural design elements, very reminiscent of a water drop, and also includes colour and material elements to help it blend into the kitchen space.

The use of bamboo on the lower cabinets allows the designer to make the handles almost "disappear" with a horizontal system of panels that is irregular by design - "in the same way that nature is regular but not perfect" in Antoine's words.

Lunch with Smeg now and an interview at Snaidero this afternoon so look out for more updates soon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So, what's in it for Blum?

The tour that I'm on with Blum is just one of many that are held throughout the year and includes kitchen and interior designers from around the world. I asked Australian Business Development Manager, Ron Redman, what value Blum sees in these tours, particularly given that they represent a massive investment of time, effort and money for the company.

"It's all about the relationship with the customer," he told me. "The better understanding our customers have about Blum and what we are trying to do, the better relationship we have with them. The company is extremely proud of our products, processes and services and we want to communicate that".

Ron firmly believes that a better understanding of Blum products, particularly the Dynamic Space concept, serves the designer or reseller extremely well. If they can speak with confidence about the product, this is a great sales tool to show the homeowner the extent of their product knowledge and the concept of functionality.

This week, to co-incide with Eurocucina, Blum will be hosting more than 700 people from around the world with most staying for 2-3 days in Austria and enjoying the hospitality on offer.

Although I am not a designer, I can appreciate the professionalism that this company exhibits and it's a real treat for me to be able to understand the "back end" of this company, not just focus on the products and what they do.

Day Two

After an exhausting day yesterday, it was nice to have a slower pace today. This morning we visited Plant 7 which houses the main logistics and shipping centre as well as the most amazing automatic warehousing system I have ever seen. To be fair, I haven't seen that many warehouses in operation but the pure scope of this operation has to be seen to be believed.

A massive central warehouse sits here and is completely run by technology. Pallets upon pallets of products are sorted, collected, distributed, packed and sent all around the world. The computer even is in charge of working out which products are used the most often and placing these products in the most relevant and easy-to-reach spots!

Afterwards, we visited the Blum Dynamic Space showroom in Dornbirn. This is a consumer space, where homeowners or kitchen designers can come and experience the Dynamic Space concept in a very real environment. In addition to a number of kitchen set-ups to display the Dynamic Space concept, Blum has kitted out the showroom with moveable pieces so that homeowners can put together the kitchen that has been designed for them and see, in a very real situation, how well the kitchen will work. The drawers are filled with items so the homeowner can "make" dinner and see how easy it is to access certain items and determine if any sections or areas need to be relocated. What a great idea!

Blum Plant Tours

Day one with Blum proved very interesting and quite tiring but I feel very priveleged to have seen the extent of the company's operation and feel I have a much better understanding of its goals and background. Plant 5 was an amazing space to see. this is where many os the small steel and plastic components are made. To give you some idea of the scope of this plant, they go through 4500 tonnes of steel here every month and in Plant 3, where the drawer runners are made, they use 15000 tonnes of steel. MORE SOON...

DAY ONE

What an amazing day with Blum. Yesterday we were treated to a day of sightseeing through some of the most picturesque countryside I've ever seen and a ride up into the Austrian Alps. There was even snow! today we spent the whole day touring a variety of Blum factories, warehouses and admin centres. It's this type of visit that gives you such a great insight into the scope of the operation both here and overseas. MORE LATER....

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Technology for the Kitchen


A very special event, called FTK (Technology for the Kitchen), is held concurrently with Eurocucina at the Milan Fairgrounds. An opportunity for appliance companies to showcase new designs as well as exciting new prototypes, this year the organisers are expecting 25 major business to exhibit.


Some of the names on display are well known to Australians - including the likes of Gaggenau, Neff, Bosch, Siemens, Electrolux, Elica, Franke, Miele and Smeg. Close to 7000 square metres of exhitibion space will be packed with the latest in gadgets and gizmos to showcase what is on offer for the future. Pictured here is “Gravity” from InDesit, a wall-mounted system of co-ordinated appliances with power-assisted opening and positioning and automatic module weight control for optimum ergonomic comfort that was on display two years ago (and one of my personal favourites).


Designed as a showcase for innovative technology, the focus is mainly on built-in appliances but also includes rangehoods.


When I visited Eurocucina two years ago, it was FTK that really made an immediate impression on my jet-lagged, sensory-overloaded brain. Some of the concept appliances on display were simply amazing and it was a real treat to be able to view and touch a number of prototype appliances.


The products exhibited at FTK are required to display a number of key elements such as the design component, eco-compatibility, ergonomics and ease of use. Having been given a sneak peek by a couple of companies into what will be on display this year, I can't wait to get to the fair and take a look for myself.





Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First stop - Austria!


First stop on my whirlwind trip to Eurocucina is Austria - home of Blum's head office in Vorarlberg.

I'll be spending two packed days with the folk from Blum, touring a number of the six factories and seeing much of the operation in action. Some of the technology in place has to be seen to be believed. Many of the warehouse functions, for example, are fully automated with self-driving vehicles to pick and deliver items as needed.

What I find fascinating is that, in order to create many of the products it produces, Blum also designs and manufactures the technology and machinery needed. Meaning that, as well as holding numerous world-wide patents on its products, it also holds patents on the machinery needed to produce them.

It might interest you to know that Blum was originally founded in 1952 by Julius Blum, an iron fitter and blacksmith, who had quickly progressed to the production of hinges by 1958. Still family-owned and -run, Blum boasts close to 5000 employees world-wide and its products have won numerous international design awards.

I'm hoping to meet with a variety of people at Blum and will definitely be asking about new product releases scheduled for Australia later this year...check back for more when I'm on the ground.

http://www.blum.com/au/en/index.php