Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
Building Tours Accompanying Meetings with Australian Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (ACTBUH), November, 2008

Brisbane Skyline      Sydney Skyline
Brisbane Skyline from Mount Cootha   Sydney Skyline from Botanic Gardens

By Antony Wood, CTBUH Executive Director

Click here to read a full report of the conference

After the best part of a week in Australia, from the 9th – 15th November 2008, I am very pleased to report that the Australian Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (ACTBUH) is very much alive and kicking. The driving force behind this trip was delivering two presentations, one in Brisbane and one in Sydney, in support of the ACTBUH's bi-monthly seminars on tall buildings and urban habitat in each of the major Australian cities. The trip provided great opportunities to meet many regional tall building experts as well as visit and photograph seminal buildings in both Australian cities.

Both presentations, in Brisbane and Sydney, fostered some excellent thought and discussion however this visit had objectives beyond just delivering a presentation. It was essentially a fact-finding mission for the Council, to see how the situation in Australia is currently (both economically and environmentally), to see how we can better support the Australian chapter of the Council and, of course, to bring organizations which are not yet involved with the Council into our network and initiatives. I am very pleased to report that all three objectives were met. Economically (although there are quite clearly the same tell-tale signs of plunging stock markets and job losses as seen recently in the US and Europe) Australia seems to be, at worst, a few months behind the western world in feeling the brunt of the credit crisis. At best, however, there are many who believe that with much of the economy benefiting from natural resource export to China (coal, iron ore and copper ore), it is actually much better placed to weather the economic storm than many other nations.

Riverside Center     Riparian Plaza     Lumiere
Riverside Center, Brisbane
Harry Seidler

  Riparian Plaza, Brisbane
Harry Seidler
  Lumiere, Sydney
Foster & Partners

I was also extremely impressed with some of the sustainability initiatives being implemented there, in particular the post-occupancy, performance-based ratings system for measuring energy and water consumption, waste handling and building occupier satisfaction developed through the NABERS scheme (see Especially after reading Henry Gifford’s paper entitled “A Better Way to Rate Green Buildings” on the plane on the way back to Chicago (furnished to me by a colleague at Bovis Lend Lease – I would encourage you all to read this at, I am becoming more and more convinced that this is the path that LEED and BREEAM and others need to start following: an energy rating based on hard consumption data produced after a year or two of operation, rather than noble intentions (often untested in their effectiveness) at the design stage, often several years before occupation.

Brisbane Skyline    Brisbane Skyline
Brisbane skyline from Story Bridge   Towers under construction in Brisbane

So during my five days in Brisbane and Sydney I had meetings with the Queensland Government Department of Public Works, Laing O’ Rourke Construction, Leighton Property Ltd, Cottee Parker Architects, Cundall Engineers, JPW Architects and Meinhardt Engineers. I also attended the November luncheon of the Australia Property Council at the Westin Hotel in Sydney – along with 700 other people – and heard the newly-in post New South Wales MP / Minister for Planning Kristina Keneally outline her vision for urban infrastructure in Sydney. Of all the people who graciously met with me and gave of their time, I must make a special mention to colleagues at Bovis Lend Lease who received me in both Brisbane and Sydney, giving me a tour of their fantastic ‘The Bond’ headquarters on the quayside in Sydney.

Aurora Place     Capita Centre     Governor Philip Tower
Aurora Place, Sydney
Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  Capita Centre, Sydney
Harry Seidler
  Governor Philip Tower, Sydney
Denton Corker Marshall

In between all these meetings and presentations, I managed to capture about 500 tall building photographs for the CTBUH Tall Building Image Database, and delight in the many new developments that have occurred since I was last in Australia 14 years ago – Harry Seidler’s Riverside complex in Brisbane and Renzo Piano’s Aurora Place in Sydney to name but two. In particular I was impressed with how many recent Australian tall buildings seem to meet the ground positively (something many other cities struggle with) – creating multi-layered, public urban domain that is just a pleasure to be in – Australia Square in Sydney or virtually the entire Brisbane River north shore from Story Bridge to the Botanic Gardens to name but two. Yes, as I sit aboard a Qantas flight on my way back to Chicago writing this, I think we could certainly learn a thing or two from the Australians, in more way than one. My great thanks in particular to Brett Taylor and Jim Forbes for making such a worthwhile trip possible, and to Jim for the incredible couple of hours on his boat in Sydney Harbour!

Sydney From Top Of Sydney Tower     Sydney Opera House
View from the top of the Sydney Tower
  Sydney Opera House, Jørn Utzon