Emcee Chris Maxwell speaking to the HotHouse crowd.

27 March 2014 — HotHouse, a new quarterly sustainability event series from the folk at Green Capital, launched on Wednesday night at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, the lofty building a perfect setting to discuss our relationship with space, in particular our workspace, and how it is intricately tied to happiness, social cohesion and sustainability.

After some warm-up drinks, the event began with seven rapid-fire “speed dating” presentations – all happening in the space of an hour – tackling case studies of successful green fit outs, cutting-edge trends in green office design, biomimcry and even peering into the future at how work might look for the upcoming Gen Z.

Angela Ferguson, Futurespace

Emcee Chris Maxwell of UTS Business School, introduced first speaker Angela Ferguson, managing director of Futurespace, who told the 200-strong crowd she wasn’t thrilled when she first heard about the sustainable workplace movement in the ’90s.

“I thought the hippy movement had been resurrected,” she said.

However, now she’s a convert, after firsthand experience of seeing that sustainable offices could be sleek and sexy.

“At Futurespace, everything we do sustainability is embedded in, both at a project level and a practice level. It’s no longer an add on to a project.”

Three case studies were presented – Google, Wotif and Jones Lang LaSalle – each focusing on one of Futurespace’s “three pillars of sustainability”, people, place and technology, respectively.

Mary Casey, Living Future Institute Australia

Next up was Mary Casey, chair of Living Future Institute Australia, who presented on the Living Building Challenge, the certification standard, framework and philosophy known as the “most rigorous design and construction standard”.

“In designing a system, it’s really important to understand the rules in which you’re operating. Its really easy to misidentify the governing system,” Ms Casey said.

“If you can change the rules of the system it’s not the governing system,” “So what are the rules for the built environment? Is it regulation? No, humans made those rules; we can change them. Is it economic circumstances? No, humans made those rules; we can change those too. The governing system is nature.”

Nature creates conditions conducive to life, Ms Casey said, and biomimicry was an example of how we could use the governing system to create a better built environment.

Natalie Roberts, WWF

Following this was familiar face Natalie Roberts, operations and facilities manager at WWF, who talked about her organisation’s move into sustainable digs, which has been covered in The Fifth Estate’s The Tenants and Landlords Guide to Happiness.

Next was a tech showcase with Steve Batley from V-Gardens, who, along with with associate professor Sara Wilkinson from the UTS Faculty of Design Architecture and Building, presented a vertical garden solution to the crowd.

Interestingly, he said there were many square kilometres of unused roof space in Sydney that could be converted into garden, which could become an important source of low carbon food, seeing the average vegetable travels 1200km to get to our plates.

Tanya Hillman and Cathy Jameson from Geyer

A focus on people was next up for the speeches, with the comedic duo of Tanya Hillman and Cathy Jameson from Geyer battling one another to try to get to a middle ground on the issue of “collaboration”.

It was a word they both eventually agreed was ill-defined and had to be tossed. Emphasising diversity and flexibility, and having “improved granularity” was the key message for well-functioning workplaces.

Next up, Brad Krauskopf, chief executive and founder of HUB Australia, took us into the future with a look at Generation Z: the free range workers, a fluid and decentralised global workforce that will have a range of positive and negative outcomes.

Less full-time employment, more global competition, no fixed address, people who have never known the single employer–employee relationship. Mind-boggling and perhaps a little scary.

Finishing off the speeches was James Dellow, general manager of the Ripple Effect Group, who asked us if technology was enslaving us or liberating us.

Gone are the days of leaving work at work. But if work now follows us home on ever-increasingly integrated smart devices and technology, how do we get away from it? Are we going to be imprisoned in an “omnipresent digital workplace”.

“People don’t want to be cyborgs,” Mr Dellow said, and we needed technology to be for humanity – to enable the human condition.

HotHouse

Green Capital projects and events manager Andrew Tovey said the whole energy of the event changed after the speeches, with hands-on workshops dedicated to solving the problems broached during the speeches.

“Design thinking and rapid prototyping” were used to come up with solutions to a range of problems, including how to create more nurturing workspaces. Mr Tovey said he was surprised to see the solutions being created were a bit more “wacky and conceptual” than practical, though it was all a lot of fun.

The event finished with an hour of party and networking time for the youthful, sustainability-minded crowd.