Wow, what a fantastic night the Perth Surround Sound was last night. More than 60 people energised, activated, engaged and passionate, letting us know what the biggest sustainability challenges are for Perth and the state of Western Australia, and what needs to be done to overcome the barriers.

The panellists entered into the spirit. The audience was on fire. How does Perth have so many “firecrackers”? So many jumped up on the soap boxes, with barely a moment’s gap. We even had duelling firecrackers at one stage, facing off from both ends of the room, the panellists and audience looking on in huge amusement.

Never underestimate these “talkfests”. They make new connections, they create conversations, like a whole lot of new synapses in the collective brain, sharing information, finding new energy and inspiration from shared thinking and commitment and the sheer energy they take away from the room.

Professor Peter Newman, CUSP; Debra Goostrey, UDIA; Michael Barr, Leighton Properties; Dr Brad Pettitt, City of Fremantle; Phil Hues, Aurecon.

This morning one of the panellist told us that even though he’d copped a bit of a “hammering” from the audience, he’d enjoyed the session tremendously – and the private conversations he had after. Plenty of food for thought, he said, and some of it just might change the way the company would go about ESD outcomes in multi-unit development.

Outcome!

But there will be more.

Remember where we were 10 years ago?

The technology is always available. So is the money. What makes the difference is people talking to each other, finding ways to transform capability into action. It’s conversation that rolls this big sustainable freight train forward. As Professor Peter Newman said last night, sustainability is now unstoppable.

Senator Scott Ludlam, Australian Greens; Dr Vanessa Rauland, CUSP.

So is this conversation. Our report of the Surround Sound and some fantastic photos will appear as the headline article in our upcoming ebook Greening the West Part II. Coming soon.

See below for some of the issues fleshed out by our pre-event briefing and the results of our survey we sent to prepare the best questions and issues that needed to be addressed in the Surround Sound.

But this list is just the start. What we learnt last night will keep informing our coverage of WA and the shared understanding in time to come.

In the meantime, a huge thanks to:

  • MC: Josh Byrne
  • Co-lead sponsors: LandCorp and Leighton Properties
  • Supporting sponsor: Norman Disney & Young
  • Event host: Aurecon, and in particular Aurecon’s Phil Hues, Carla Caroll and Kate Sinclair, and the company’s beautiful new 5 Star Green Star offices.
MC Josh Byrne

Panellists were:

  • Senator Scott Ludlam, Australian Greens
  • Michael Barr, Senior Development Manager, Kings Square at Leighton Properties
  • Darrel Williams, Director, Norman Disney & Young
  • Tim Urquart, Project Director, Waterbank at Lend Lease
  • Geoff Warn, WA Government Architect
  • Dr Brad Pettitt, Mayor at City of Fremantle
  • Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University Geoff Warn, WA Government Architect
  • Joe Lenzo, Executive Director, Property Council of Australia (WA Division)
  • Debra Goostrey, Chief Executive, Urban Development Institute of Australia WA
  • Ryan Keys, Executive Director Planning, Metropolitan Development Authority

Apologies:

  • John Carey, Mayor at City of Vincent
  • Carly Barrett, Director, Open House Perth
  • Kerry Fijac, General Manager Business Development and Marketing LandCorp
Surround Sound guests

Issues flagged for discussion at the Surround Sound, many sourced from our our survey leading up to the event

Ratings – The world of commercial property has changed radically in the past 10 years. Green Star now makes up 20 per cent of property rated by the IPD Index, and NABERS a massive 89 per cent.

But how green are commercial buildings really? Are they meeting the performance standards indicated in their design or As Built ratings?

What about the tenants? There are many tenants that occupy a 5 or 6 Star Green Star building and yet don’t bother with a rating for their tenancy?

Tenants/landlords – How can owners reach tenants and encourage them to become greener?

B-Grade buildings – What about second tier stock; where are the drivers for these to be retrofitted for higher energy and water efficiency? In the face of rising vacancies, will it be repurposed to residential as Brisbane is considering with its B grade buildings?

Dr Rocio Bona, Curtin University Properties

The CBD and city living – Does Perth have sufficient city dwellers? Should it draw from the example of Melbourne’s Postcode 3000, which brought apartments into the city?

Precincts offer a new perspective on outcomes. Their potential is to be more holistic to encompass the gamut of environmental outcomes together with economic and social.

New large-scale projects – What are the big new developments in Perth trying to achieve? Are the big developers better at sustainability and solid is their business case. In places such as Melbourne and even Sydney where there are minimum standards such as SEPP 65 for good quality design and BASIX for environmental ratings, not all big towers meet these objectives.

Panellists Debra Goostrey, UDIA; Geoff Warn, WA Government Architect; Dr Brad Pettitt, City of Fremantle

Politics and policies – How do signals from the state government and from Canberra impact on the markets? We hear that in the current “policy vacuum” big investment organisations and companies are taking responsibility for themselves and demanding a CSG framework.

Climate change – how is climate change risk mitigation factor driven by insurance companies factoring in climate change.

Drivers – Are market and consumer drivers enough? Do we need regulations? Can the market, on its own, drive outcomes? Do we have the time?

Chiara Pacifici, Psaros; Jo Thierfelder, Finesse Communications

Sprawl – Perth like most other Australian cities is grappling with the reality of how to house growing populations and an increasingly hostile community worried about over development, density and congestion. How do we begin to change the markets in driving urban sprawl? And how do we start to change the thinking and understanding of density in the community.

How do we transition from Business As Usual (BAU) to well designed medium density development, with Transport Oriented Development (TODs) and connected planned infrastructure?

What are the finance and governance models we need?

Place – Increasingly there is the call for “connection to place and community” and the “walkable city/village” with many big cities now re-examining car-dominated development.

Public engagement – Awareness, more awareness and supporting services – and education – is needed

Regional – What is happening in the regions to ensure sustainable communities. There are now many people looking to the North, and we can assume to the West as well, as logical areas for growth of the nation. But are these feasible or desirable? What areas can be further developed and where are the barriers to growth?

Joe Lenzo, Property Council

Barriers – some of the barriers to sustainability identified in the survey:

  • Status quo, the brick mentality and the perception that because we have plenty space we have to use it all
  • Cultural and institutional
  • State government’s position: not interested
  • Too many regulators/not enough regulation
  • Lack of government leadership, consumer behaviour and perception
  • Inaction by governments, uncertain future of government schemes, difficult local governments, the culture of some major bureaucracies like Main Roads.
  • Foreign owners with no local input, lack of vision beyond mining,
  • Single-minded thinking
  • Awareness, more awareness and supporting services – from government programs to green champions within companies.
  • Generational change – The young are getting impatient, and some of the older folk are on their side.
  • Ignorance by the older generations and political class, “the car rules” mentality
  • Cheap – always have to do things on the cheap. Public perception on the costs of sustainable design
  • Landfill levies that are too low still, energy and water prices not cost reflective, lack of knowledge in the industry