Broome, WA, at sunset

On some gorgeous presents for Christmas (not so good from the pollies) and outlooks from Joe Agius, Chris Hunt, and more

19 December 2013 – For Christmas we’re giving you two ebooks hot off the virtual presses to take to the beach. One is on the wonderful west and how to green it (more), starting with our Sustainability Salon for Perth and Western Australia. It includes a seriously impressive and influential line up of guests, who could help this to occur.

The other is Chapter 5 of our much loved Tenants and Landlords Guide to Happiness. This chapter is about getting the new green lease clauses written and agreed – a huge job that truly signals a breakthrough in the industry’s ability to strike new ground and leave behind archaic practices we no longer need.

Thanks to the valiant green knights in this industry who have been working for so long and so hard to make this happen (you know who you are). The cover, a stunning shot of Brisbane, is totally appropriate both for the subject matter and the New Year arriving. A celebration.

Both these books are chock full of great information and inspiration.

And we know we need both.

Because if you look at what some governments are handing out for Christmas, you really will need to steady yourself on the nearest Christmas tree.

Bad news from the Feds with their cuts to energy efficiency programs and the Environmental Defender’s Office, following the slashings on climate and sustainability programs early in their term.

In the west, Treasurer Troy Buswell followed suit the day after with his own version of the Feds’ Mid-Year Economic Forecast with a king hit to the MAX Light Rail – deferred for another three years – plus $450 million cuts to housing (no details available so far).

Is it ironic that the $1 billion sports arena with two super-screens and about 1000 television screens scattered throughout is A OK to rock on? Sigh… is this the equivalent of feeding the masses cake?

All this slashing in the west is to try to recapture the AAA credit rating the state recently lost.

It’s a really strange concept for people from the eastern states to grasp. For years the Reserve Bank banging on to the rest of Australia to “tighten their belts” to make room for the boom in the west.

So what happened to the money? You have to have some sympathy for the Greens who were furious at the loss of the light rail and wanted to know how the Barnett government had somehow managed to loose a AAA credit rating during one of the “biggest commodities boom in the state’s history”.

Ludlam was at our Sustainability Salon, and you’ll find some very interesting insights from him on the tensions between the resources industry and politics.

Increasingly the message we’re getting from business is that what the politicians say or do is increasingly irrelevant anyway. In fact there are those who say the best thing that has happened to the climate action agenda is a federal government who says it’s all a “load of crap”.

So enough about governments. What’s in store next year in this wonderful and growing sustainability industry we’re all part of?

Jobs jobs jobs

Everyone wants to know how the jobs market will be in the New Year because it wasn’t up to much in the current year.

Everyone pretty well stayed put. Warrick Peel, a director of Search 360, says that’s not unusual when people feel insecure. And a nine month election campaign will do that.

Peel has recently placed a few jobs in the sustainability and carbon reporting role and infrastructure but not much in the built environment.

“People staying put and being stable and secure in their jobs rather than moving around,” he says.

And next year the mood is lifting

The talk Peel has picked up from recent conferences, such as one on shared value by NAB, a sustainable agriculture and food security forum a month ago, and in chatting to people who attended the Carbon Expo is that “the conversation is really quite positive in general”.

“Everything from responsible investment, [environmental, social and corporate governance] within the funds, is a conversation that’s getting a lot more awareness and to an extent feeds into [Global Reporting Initiative] integrated reporting and financing companies and ‘what is GRI and how do we integrate it’,” he says.

Certainly Mirvac Group must be feeling positive about sustainability.

Group general manager sustainability Paul Edwards who we profiled earlier in the year must have been pleased that he was able to place some ads for two new sustainability managers on his team in the year’s closing moments.

After all he arrived back in Australia after several years in Europe with a mandate to carve out a new sustainability strategy for the company, so clearly something was going right.

We hear it will be a significant shift for Mirvac. We’re waiting with bated breath now.

Others looking for sustainability recruits include BUPA and EP & T, on the search for a sustainability engineeer on a package of about $60,000 and DEXUS, which is looking to fill a 12 month parental leave position Sustainability Analyst (12-month contract).

See our jobs pages for more details and to keep up to speed with the moves.

Recruitment consultant Rita Avdiev was a bit more circumspect and said the outlook was “patchy and varies from state to state and market sector to market sector”.

The good news is that some senior long-term unemployed executives are slowly being re-absorbed.

The investment market is on the rise, Avdiev says, and “confidence is certainly up, there is some action”, but still a “lot of caution” still around.

“It feels more cheerful in Sydney, steady as she goes in Melbourne, and a sense of waiting for a clear direction before making a commitment in Brisbane.”

Architects said the mood is go, especially in housing, and especially Sydney

It’s always good to ask the architects about mood and sentiment because they are the first to feel the winds of change.

Joe Aguis, NSW President of the Australian Institute Architects and a director of Cox Architects, says there’s a crazy but welcome “avalanche of tenders” in the lead up to Christmas.

It’s a bit tricky to meet 23 December deadlines, but “it’s a good problem to have rather than the opposite”, he said.

Nearly all the work is in residential, mostly muti-unit and mostly from Chinese and South-East Asian investors.

We’ve heard on the grapevine that many of these are not even leased, either kept for the occasional visit or simply locked up for the long term.

Certainly all these empty or near empty apartments do nothing to solve the housing shortage, that’s for sure.

And there’s been some grumbles from people who say that it creates some poor street activation outcomes, as can be seen by anyone who frequents Sydney Theatre Company at Walsh Bay or treads the silent corridors of the Toaster at Circular Quay.

But at least our foreign developers and investors are demanding the highest sustainability outcomes?

No, was the flat answer from Agius. Though of course in NSW there are the mandatory minimum standards of the Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) currently up for review.

Along with the residential design guidelines it’s something to thank former premier Bob Carr for.

In Perth Nicholas Wolff, who is chief operating officer for LandCorp, but was formerly a Sydneysider says in the Sustainability Salon ebook that he would like to see something like that in WA.

The state has minimum standards – six star NatHERS – which takes care of thermal qualities of a building, but not its overall sustainability.

Wolff previously worked with Frasers Property Australia on One Central Park (with Sekisui House) so he’s got the bug for good design.

Now that we mention it, we think every Australian developer ought to be made to go and visit this project before laying pen to chequebook.

It’s got trigeneration energy, recycled water and a design that though high density, doesn’t feel like it. And an $8 million art program, thanks to a collaboration with the City of Sydney.

Sea Mirror by Yann Kersale. Image: by Simon Wood Photography

We visited the project earlier this month for the launch of the glittering heliostat that reflects light into parts of the site and during Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights now produces a charming light show. Local residents can turn up and sit on the lawn with their glasses of wine and gaze upwards at the show for free.

The irony was that Mother Nature had turned on the kind of weather – wild, cold and horrible – that only serves to reinforce the reasons that the precinct’s progenitor architect Dr Stanley Quek decided to go for the maximum he could – a 5 Star Green Star rating. He should be proud; it’s not a bad legacy to leave around.

Of course official spokeswoman for the precinct Lisa McCutchion said many developers do come and look – sometimes incognito – and in fact showing people around is just part of the broader social sustainability role, she quipped.

Chris Hunt and facility management

On the commercial front Chris Hunt head of integrated facilities management for Australasia at Jones Lang LaSalle says things are still tight in his patch of the market.

“Generally I’d comment that decisions on capital are largely slow to execute or constrained.

“Post GFC business controls and approvals and the appetite to mitigate risk has heightened.

“And the returns on investment thresholds have all been raised. So getting approvals take their time.”

“On the other hand there’s “a lot of capital around right now for investment in major assets with investors looking for good quality assets, but the leasing transactions for landlords and occupiers are all very slow”.

Hunt says the sentiment is not so much negative as cautious.

There is “definitely” interest in improving the energy efficiency of buildings “and that’s not going to go away”.

“So retrofitting and improving the efficiency of the workplace, whether through energy efficiency or in terms of making the workplace more productive.”

But the quantity of work is steady rather than on the rise, he says.

The other thing on the move is the interest in outsourcing from some government agencies.

“From an outsourcing perspective Australia is so mature that [work on offer] is as much cyclic as growing,” Hunt says.

That’s because much of the oursourcing has already been done. In the case of the Victorian government for instance, the work is being offered but it’s “third generation” because of contract cycles.

The NSW government, however, could be on the move.

“The NSW state government is starting to look at the successful federal model in outsourcing.  Some are further up the curve than others.

“Certainly NSW is rationalising and evaluating the benefits.

“Queensland is considering its options; it hasn’t outsourced in the past and in WA it’s bit fragmented. South Australia is largely insourced and they haven’t outsourced that I’m aware of.”

Trends for next year will include “continuing interest in the work place – activity based work and its contribution to productivity”, he said.

We hear there is a backlash to AWB, what does Hunt think?

“Not one size fits all,” he says. The group of corporates who have the most difficult time with it are the traditional professional services, which include legal services, he says, and possibly because of the sensitive nature of their work and need for privacy.

However, there’s no evidence we’re heading back the other way.

“We’re not seeing any evidence that we’re heading back.”

Those benefiting the most include pharmaceuticals, banking, finance and technology.

Interestingly he says the Australian military is taking and interest and started to investigate the AWB.

The key document driving these government investigations is the Australian Government Property Data Collection, which as the website says, has been established to provide a central database on the office space leased and owned by the Australian Government.

“This information will help agencies to identify better practices, and progressively improve the management and use of office space. The data collections will also be used to inform whole-of-Government property policy.”

Who cares?

What does Hunt think is the attitude to climate change and sustainability in the industry given the federal government’s stance against these issues?

“The whole climate change and sustainability thing is becoming almost a given. As a responsible society – and that’s probably our take on it – of course we want to look after the environment and why wouldn’t we?”

What a perfect note to end the year on.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Christmas and an excellent New Year.

Stay safe and go greener.

We’ll be starting back on the week of 13 January and fully back on deck on the week of the 20 January.

Broome, sunset again

2 replies on “News from the front desk: Issue No 173”

  1. Want to see a spectactular sunset? – one needs to go to Africa!
    Want to stay informed? – one needs to read The Fifth Estate!

    Increasingly impressed by the style, delivery and detailed content of each weekly publication. This one is right up there. Well done to all!

    Perhaps speak to Santa about distribution on a more global scale.

  2. Want to see a spectactular sunset? – one needs to go to Africa!
    Want to stay informed? – one needs to read The Fifth Estate!

    Increasingly impressed by the style, delivery and detailed content of each weekly publication. This one is right up there. Well done to all!

    Perhaps speak to Santa about distribution on a more global scale.

Comments are closed.