Tag Archives: journey to work

McMansion mash-up

An inspiring story which has come about through Taronga Zoo’s Green Grants program… it goes something like this:

Step one: Take one McMansion

Step two: Deconstruct it

Step three: Reuse the building materials to build a bunch of smaller, eco-friendly homes on the site.

This wonderful Reincarnated McMansion concept by architect and artist Mathieu Gallois is shortlisted to win the $50K prize in Taronga Zoo’s Green Grants initiative. It was one of 209 entries in the scheme, which focused on “reducing pollution and waste, guiding consumerism to socially and environmentally responsible products, providing local habitat for important Australian species and developing monitoring mechanisms for environmental action and progress.”

For those unfamiliar with the term, “McMansion” has become common parlance for those oversized Aussie homes (now the largest in the world, on average, in square metre terms)the ones built to a single, primary specification: cram as much floorspace onto the site as is humanly possible. Needless to say many of these ginormous edifices are obscenely under-occupied.

I use the term obscene because Sydney – among other Australian cities – is currently facing a chronic housing shortage and associated affordability crisis. The proliferation of McMansions is a symptom of poorly managed urban growth. This has a range of detrimental social impacts, not least among them the ever increasing journey-to-work times faced by those who are forced to the urban fringe in a bid to find affordable housing.

But the question of the social and economic drivers for this trend, and its associated impacts, is best left for another time.

The key question for Mr Gallois is the environmental effects of McMansions. The Reincarnated McMansion concept is a brilliant way to raise awareness of the ecological footprint of these elephant-homes, and to create something positive in the process.

All Mr Gallois needs now is someone to donate a suitable home and the funds to finance the rebuild of a low carbon, medium density scheme on the site. Any volunteers with a spare supersized home should contact Mr Gallois at reincarnatedmcmansion@gmail.com.

Commuter suburbs and the erosion of social capital

Disconnected, the new book by Dr Andrew Leigh, MP for Fraser, explores the notion of declining social capital in Australia.

Social capital, which may be defined as the connectivity and cohesiveness of a community, is one of a number of aspects of social sustainability which is inherently difficult to pinpoint or measure.  Indicators of social capital which are applied by Leigh include civic participation through organisational membership such as union membership or political party membership, along with participation in community activities such as volunteering or participating in local sports clubs.

The decline of social capital with which Leigh is concerned he in part attributes to our growing commuter culture, and the increasing distances – and associated times – people spend travelling to and from work.

Leigh’s hypothesis highlights the critical need for significant investment in public transport in western sydney. The issues associated with socio-economic deprivation in swathes of Sydney is exacerbated by chronic underinvestment in transport infrastructure. While I would not wish to simplify what are inherently complex social issues, one thing is clear. People forced to suffer long journeys to work have so much less time and energy to become involved in those activities which may enhance social capital in suburbs where it is so desperately needed.