Davina Rooney targets net zero energy and residential property as new head of GBCA
Davina Rooney speaking at The Fifth Estate's Tomorrowland, 2018

The Green Building Council of Australia has done itself an excellent service by picking Davina Rooney as its new chief executive officer.

Rooney is a sustainability star, no question. She first came to the attention of the industry and The Fifth Estate with impressive awards including the National Association of Women in Construction NSW 2016 Sustainability Award and the PCA 2014 Future Leaders Award. In 2007 she took home the Sydney University Engineering Young Alumni Award.

At Stockland where she was most recently general manager and corporate procurement, sustainability, Rooney was credited with being a critical part of the company’s sustainability achievements.

Close observers of her style say she has an enviable blend of great people skills and deep understanding of complex issues.

“She’s very quick to understand the dynamics around the room and to understand what’s being conveyed,” the observer said, noting her work on the Property Council’s national sustainability roundtable. 

“It’s very easy to underestimate her and she’s always pleasantly surprised at what she gets. I haven’t come across anyone who doesn’t admire her.

“She’s picked up in particular the built environment so it’s an innate thing for her now and she’s a terrific authority on it. She’s a real find.”

That was certainly the impression revealed in a long interview with Rooney in The Fifth Estate in 2016.

Among her background is some strong work on investment angles that enable sustainability to make the business case. This includes a “breakthrough” piece of thinking that showed that sustainability projects could exceed capital budgets, because they were accretive to income. 

Davina Rooney is the new Green Building Council of Australia’s Chief Exectitive

“That analysis allowed many projects to succeed,” Rooney said in the interview.

It’s proving that sustainability can deliver the brand promise of a “better way to live”, in particular meeting the company’s first of three strategic pillars – to “grow asset returns and customer base” and that this is “all about Stockland’s customers and their community”, she said.

Rooney also managed sustainability assurance for the company’s green bond.

On Thursday afternoon Rooney told The Fifth Estate that the biggest challenge she sees as she steps up to this challenging new role as head of the GBCA was probably the industry’s ambitions for net zero energy by 2030, and the need to better reach and activate the residential market.

She believed herself “very fortunate” to be appointed in the role and key for her would be to “extend the legacy of the GBCA working collaboratively with industry” and through partnerships established with organisations such as the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council.

If there’s a key strength she brings, she said, it would be that she’s “highly passionate” about bringing that more sustainable future forward.  

Key to that was about bringing a stronger customer perspective to the work.

“The challenge for sustainability is we need to reach our end customer and we really need to be focused in some of the sectors where we haven’t reached before, the residential sector. We need to bring the whole community with us.”

The GBCA under Romilly Madew had done a “wonderful” job to start the project but the journey would be a long one, she said.

On the tricky job of working with government and governments that were at the time not exactly on the same page as the sustainable built environment, Rooney again focused on the positive.

There were “fabulous industry and government partnerships evolving” especially through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and NABERS.

There was definitely “some hope” of building more collaborative solutions that would help with advocacy with politicians.

Maintaining “really sensible sustainability policies that are pushed through advocacy through a number of channels,” would help. 

And on a final message, Rooney said she had met a lot of sustainability champions in her time working in the sector but her hope now was to meet a great many more and see many more innovations.

A GBCA statement welcomed Rooney and said her “inspirational leadership capacity, together with her deep technical knowledge, will enhance the organisation’s industry perspective and capacity to achieve these goals”.

Rooney has over 10 years worked across “Stockland’s diverse business to develop and implement strategies for sustainable and efficient buildings and communities. Her responsibilities took her from the construction site to the policy table, giving Davina an outstanding insight across the lifecycle of major development projects.”

Rooney has also served on Green Star steering committee for the past three years, the Green Star advisory committee over the last 12 months and the Property Council’s national sustainability roundtable as chair for the past two years.

“She is the perfect candidate to take forward the GBCA’s impressive legacy in a collaborative way at what is in an exceptionally exciting time as we move towards the implementation of key projects including the next generation of Green Star and our Carbon Positive Roadmap,” the GBCA said.

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The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council has also welcomed Rooney to the role.

“Davina is a sustainability dynamo in the built environment sector.” said ASBEC president professor Ken Maher.

“Her expertise and industry experience provide a powerful platform to launch from into this important role.”

GBCA chair Rod Fehring, chief executive officer of Frasers Property Australia thanked outgoing CEO Romilly Madew AO for her “dedication, passion and commitment in leading the GBCA for the past 13 years”.

Davina Rooney would start in the new role after the long weekend ending 10 June. Acting CEO will be Jonathan Cartledge, head of public affairs and membership.

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