Left to Right – the Investa team: Michael Cook, Emma Fletcher, Ian Lieblich

“The best way to know the future is to design it” – Johann Galtung

If ever there was a perfect campaign slogan for this industry this has to be it.

We found it on the website of Pollinate, the research and strategic advisory run by Howard Parry-Husbands, who was our lead presenter and MC for our amazing Mad Men for the Planet workshop on Wednesday morning.

That’s the genius of really clever marketing and promotion, to understand the human mind – what makes it tick, what makes it sing and what makes it change.

When you strip it down, that’s really the business this industry is in. It’s a revolution in the making; and that’s about winning hearts and minds.

Every step of the way this industry has had to convince someone else to come along for the ride. First the bosses, then the tenants, the analysts, the investors. It had to prove that green buildings were better, saved money, saved carbon, were better for our health and so on.

We now have a solid business case, a solid moral case and a solid environmental case.

But the reality is that we have not penetrated the hearts and minds of the people who use these buildings. Quite often Australia’s leading corporates sign up for a green building because they know it’s great but then ride on the back of those big star ratings and massive hard work by the owners and do little else to contribute to sustainability through their fitout or operational practices.

If you had to think what’s the best way through to a corporate’s heart and mind, to make them rise to the challenge in a real way, you’d have to say it’s through their most valuable asset, their staff.

Gabrielle McMillan in a moment of “no paparazzi please”

We’re in the consumer business

So maybe it’s time to reach out beyond the choir to the consumers of our buildings, the individuals who populate these buildings on a daily basis for eight, or 10 or – unspeakably – more hours every day.

It’s good to remember that those consumers of our offices are the same consumers that are shopping at farmers markets and buying organic food and sustainably sourced fish in everyday supermarkets. It’s the reason big retail chains in fashion and department stores are reviewing their supply chain to be ethically and sustainably more robust.

These retail giants don’t embark on such strategies on a whim: they spend millions on the research and indepth analysis of the major trends. Believe them when they all say this is way to the future.

With this thinking in mind, Mad Men was billed as a workshop in how to reach that consumer marketplace of office buildings and rebrand sustainability. So that a 5 Star NABERS building is as aspirational as a 5 star hotel.

Left to Right: Nick Jones, Energy Action: Dave Palin, Mirvac; Laura Mariakinaite, Equiem
Dave Palin, Mirvac (centre)

We want sustainability in buildings to resonate with the same triggers that are shifting retail patterns – on an aspirational level because clean and green is better for us personally, but also because support for climate action is well and truly back and will only continue to grow.

So Mad Men was an exercise in shaping our future.

It delivered, in spades.

Huge apologies to the many people who guessed it would be great (better than we could, obviously) and didn’t manage to get a ticket.

See our article here for the details of what transpired because we are committed to sharing our content with all our readers, whether they can come to our events or not.

A massive thanks to the great companies who quickly jumped in to take up tickets and fielded teams – DEXUS, Investa, Stockland, Nett Zero, Cundall, CIM Environmental Group, Equiem, Energy Action, Envizi, Magnetite, Eureka – Real Assets, DWP Suters, Property HQ and CBRE.

Massive thanks as well to our presenters who blended seamlessly to create three parts of a whole.

And of course to our collaborative partner in this project and sponsor, NABERS and venue sponsor Mirvac, we are extremely grateful for the much needed support.

Donations to Beyond Zero Emissions

By the way in a nice turn of events, our participant teams raised more $1076 for Beyond Zero Emissions, which was chosen for the great work they do to advance the built environment’s path to decarbonisation.

The presenters brought equally weighted areas of thought that together made up the whole – a goal and potential strategy that felt like the start of something new and fantastic.

Gabrielle McMillan of Equiem focused on the building as place, or village. We spend so much time in these giants and often don’t even know who’s on the next floor or on the other side of the same floor.

Equiem’s platform can do anything from organise a yoga morning to monthly monthly themes and mothers clubs one of which had more than 70 in its group.

Even romantic connections are made because building occupants can ask to notified when a certain someone is getting their lunch.

It’s a small step with this program to engage those stakeholders on sustainability. And in fact there is already a sustainability component on the platform.

Craig Roussac Of Buildings Alive spoke to the psychology of behaviour change, drawing on the work he’s been doing as a Fulbright scholar for most of last year at Stanford University and in his PhD. There are a lot of misconceptions driving behaviour change, but Craig was clear that we need to not ignore the people who “don’t get it”, they are still in the majority. Post Trump, that’s a sobering message. The ration is about 30 per cent engaged in sustainability and climate action and 70 not. We need to stop talking amongst ourselves and reach out to those who don’t get it.

We actually think that 30 per cent is a pretty good number. It’s a bell curve after all and there are going to be people you can never reach – don’t worry about them; worry about getting to the tipping point – is it 50 per cent or less? Whichever, 30 is encouraging.

But how do we reach those teetering on the edge?

That’s where the strategic analysis and then marketing come in.

In this Howard was brilliant. He organised, energised and informed the workshop by turning serious research into learnings that resonated like a bell – you could almost hear the “kaching” as they fell into place.

We change he said, not in isolation but in groups. Change is a social thing. So clearly we need our mavericks and we need those mavericks to infiltrate enough of the herd so that we all change. But first we need to understand the way Australians see themselves and what their value systems are.

So bring the learnings of Roussac, apply the “village” platforms of Equiem and blend the two together with Pollinate’s understanding of how you get messages to fly and then stick and you have the ingredients to cook up something fabulous.

The competition – intense

That’s the broadly the challenge we set the teams for the competitive part of the event. They had to come up, in oh, 10-15 minutes, with a winning idea.

Everyone pitched in and all were all fabulous, but some more than others.

The three finalists were Mirvac, Eureka Real Assets and Envizi and we’ll contact teams in the weeks and months ahead to gain feedback and insights on this topic and to see how their ideas evolve. There will also be a national competition to follow so that Mad Men can be as inclusive as possible.

The winning Envizi team

But on the day, the Envizi team blew everyone out of the water.

They seemed to take all the messages aboard and came up with a concept that ticked all the boxes. It was a giant tree projected inside the building that would demonstrate each achievement as part of the tree: the more achievements were made, the more the tree would grow.

At night, said Envizi chief David Solsky, the tree would be projected on the outside, riffing on the Vivid festival, with beautiful lighting.

It would leverage technology and not just for the people in the building but for the whole precinct, Solsky said. “So that if you are walking around you would say, ‘wow, we’re in a precinct of healthy buildings and they would be presented as these beautiful flourishing trees’.”

The concept was called Flourish. Howard said the name alone was enough to win.

We also allocated points for the dress up part (something Mad Men in attire) because this workshop and our work in the industry is as much about messaging as anything else.

The Magnetite team won most points for best Mad Men attire. L to R: Richard Hamber; AWA and WERS; Ian Harkin, Magnetite; Dr Aila Khan WSU Marketing; Adrian Lafleur MD Magnetite 

Most points were won by the Magnetite team with MD Adrian Lafleur taking a prizes for the single outstanding attire.

The future is a scary place, if you are a taxi and not an Uber.

We think there was so much interest in Mad Men because all of us understand that we need to craft our own future – be an Uber driver and not a taxi.

In just two decades this industry has gathered the science, the research, the metrics and the deep knowledge to create fantastic buildings. We can even build net positive buildings through standards such as the Living Building Challenge. There is innovation going on in the manufacturing industry through prefab and a big swing to using timber instead of concrete and steel, even in mid rise, that no one could have foreseen a few years ago.

Recently Investa said it would take its portfolio to net zero by 2040. There’s leadership back. We lost it for a while but that spirit is now out and open again. It’s a gauntlet tossed to the floor. So who’s going to rise to the challenge and make their public promise to be net zero by 2039? Or earlier?

That’s how this industry started nearly two decades ago, by single leaders individually standing up in the front of their staff and their peers and declaring they would outperform. The team had to step up. And so did their competitors. It’s always the one that inspires the many.

Here is Investa designing its future.

And designing the future is exactly what it felt like we were doing at Mad Men.

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