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In Search of Steady State

Sustainability           Resilience           Transition

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I first became aware of the issues of sustainability in the early 1970s while studying towards a Bachelor of Science degree. Although I graduated with an A+ major in physics and a Senior Scholarship in Science, my interest and concerns about the issues of sustainability motivated me to become a research architect instead of undertaking postgraduate studies to become a physicist. I enrolled in the Auckland Architectural School in 1975 and, in 1978, I completed a final year Architectural degree sub-thesis, “In Search of Steady State”, which examined the context of Low Energy Settlement Patterns in New Zealand. A summary of this sub-thesis “Ekistics and Energetics: A Sustainable Future Planning Approach’ was published in the International Journal, ‘Urban Ecology’, in 1979.

After completing my BArch degree with Honours in 1978 I then practiced architecture as a graduate in the Ministry of Works gaining registration as an Architect in 1981. In 1985 I joined the private sector working at a number of major architectural firms in Auckland. During this period I was one of the first CAD Managers in New Zealand.  

In 1980 I purchased my first computer, a Sharp calculator with 1.5 K of RAM, which I used to develop a reverberation time calculator. I graduated soon after to a Sinclair ZX81, learned BBC Basic on a BBC B computer in 1984, and Borland's Basic and Pascal on a DOS computer in 1989. These computer programming skills came in good stead when I enrolled in a PhD in 1990.

At the Auckland Architectural School my PhD thesis topic was titled ‘The Energy and Mass Flows of Building Stock in New Zealand”. My supervisors were Professor Richard Aynsely of the Department of Architecture and Associate Professor Basil Sharp of the Department of Economics. My original PhD topic narrowed down from a study of the energy and mass flows of building stock in general to that of housing stock in particular due to a lack of data. After a year of focusing on energy analysis, I realised that in order to model the energy and mass flows of a housing stock, I first needed to model the dynamics of that housing stock. My PhD, ‘The Mortality of New Zealand Housing Stock’ finished up as an empirical study of the dynamics of New Zealand housing stock from 1857 to 1980. In subsequent journal and conference publications I returned to my earlier thesis topic on the energy and mass flows of New Zealand housing stock. These publications also address maintenance and refurbishment.

Upon completing my PhD in 1993 I then worked as a Senior Lecturer for 11 years in the Department of Property, The University of Auckland, teaching Building Economics, Property Economics, and Construction. In my Construction and Building Economics courses I taught the principles of sustainable design and husbandry of buildings. Citations of my international refereed journal publications can be viewed on Google Scholar using the key words “energy and mass flows” and the impact of my research on housing stock dynamics can be viewed on ResearchGate.

In 2000 I extended my computer programming activities to develop an interactive tutorial on construction for first year property students using Macromedia Authorware. I left academia in 2005 to become a Building Research Consultant in the private sector and in 2009 I developed my first commercial interactive tutorial on CD, The Principles of Discounting & Life Cycle Costing using Macromedia Authorware.

Now that I am semi-retired, I am able to return to broader issues of sustainability that I initially investigated in my 1978 sub-thesis. Since October 2015 I have been updating myself on current issues of sustainability and progress made over the past 40 years. This process has involved collecting and reading relevant journal publications and books, and viewing videos, documentaries, and lecture series that address the multi-faceted and interwoven issues of sustainability. Because I am unsure what progress I will make in writing an update of my 1978 sub-thesis (I might instead develop a series of e-learning courses based on the resources I have collected), I am making the resources that I have identified or collected since 1990 made known or available to others in this website.