Follow the leader: or not

Here’s a bright idea: political leaders don’t lead, they follow.

The comment came in the closing fiery session of the 3rd International Urban Design Conference in Canberra this week from the moderator, the former Mayor of Hawaii Jeremy Harris, who proved he knows how to throw a bomb under political stasis. (Read some of his thoughts and session highlights here.)

So we don’t have a federal government. So what?

There is a new energy roaring around the property industry that’s shrugging off any nerves associated with the election.

A series of events in the past two weeks proves that the property industry – which in some European languages broadly translates property as “immobile” ­– in Australia does the opposite and keeps moving and transforming.

Arup last week launched its vision/thinking venture, The New Agenda, in Melbourne and Sydney, the 3rd International Urban Design Conference in Canberra drew hundreds of delegates and Lend Lease’s Rod Leaver ( threw his hat in the political ring to head up head up a new business group that urges action on climate change where the government does matter – on setting some frameworks.

Leaver’s move is hugely encouraging, not least because of the squillions of dollars in stalled investments planned for a carbon trading system, which somehow fly under the radar when the mining boys in their big boots start kicking around.

“We need to take a pragmatic approach and develop a visionary leadership group that can come up with solutions,” Leaver said. “This forum can set the agenda for how a carbon pricing mechanism may work, and come up with a fair and equitable approach which achieves a leadership position for Australia.”

Other big news recently included the stationary energy report whose launch we reported on thanks to Boris Kelly, who attended the packed ceremony in Sydney, but which we’ve now brought to you in easy-to-digest chunks on the recommendation of Arup’s Tristram Carfrae, who seemed quite impressed by the work.

Another leader in the sustainability space is Grocon, headed by Daniel Grollo, the grandson of the company’s founder who came to Australia in 1927, and who has transformed the business from a regular big builder and developer into a company that wants to transform the industry with its sustainable leadership.

Grollo, in his extensive interview with TFE, reveals that he thinks this is Australia’s challenge and opportunity on the world stage. We can’t make an impact through emissions reduction, he says (unless we stop mining coal – and why not, in TFE’s opinion) but we have some very clever, very innovative people, and their ideas and inventions could make huge a impact.

The vision thing again.

Grollo’s company is doing its bit in creating a model for an office building for the future in Pixel in Melbourne, and now hinting that Pixel Mark II might soon be about to push the boundaries again. In concrete too, where Grocon first made its mark as a builder, the company has come up with a mix that saves 60 per cent of emissions over regular concrete. Now that’s transformation. Especially when you think how much concrete the world uses.

Global readers

By the way, we can make an impact through TFE alone!

Our global readers are growing, and slightly in greater proportion to our hits growth. Previously dominated by the US, Canada and the UK, now Singapore has shot to third place in overseas readers and China is gaining fast.

Send us your news and views. The eyes of the world are upon us.

And in a bizarre twist, it’s hard to go past the major U-turn (or is it a hijack?) from arch climate sceptic Bjorn Lomborg on climate change. It seems he is now saying, “Sorry folks, I was just kidding around and yes, there is climate change after all and we better throw 50 million euros a year at it.”

A Hassell function in Melbourne last week showed why that city keeps on intriguing its visitors. In the firm’s sustainably designed offices – which senior associate Suzette Jackson says have been a huge boost to client decision-making on sustainability because they can see it/feel it – a bubbling client function featured unusual entertainment. Included were an artist who creates exquisite jewelled accoutrements for loved embalmed animals, and a flautist who provided haunting melodic pieces and samples of her soundscapes inspired by such things as episodes of Days of Our Lives.

Yes. Melbourne does do it different.

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