Andrew Mather, former chief executive of WSP Australia and New Zealand, is spearheading entry to Sydney of US based “deep green” engineering company Integral Group, at a time when he says sustainability and green buildings are on the way back.
Mather is kicking off the company’s entry with recruitment of 10 engineers in environmentally sustainable design (ESD) and the mechanical and electrical spheres “at all levels”.
The large initial team is needed, he says, for a large mixed-use public-private partnership project in Sydney that’s passed the design competition phase and is now at preferred bidder phase.
But he anticipates more projects and more hires for projects on Australia’s east coast and New Zealand.
Mather says it’s a great time for a green agenda and green buildings are on the way back in Australia after being pushed back from a leadership position during the GFC.
“I think there has been a resurgence of the green agenda in Australia.
“Prior to the GFC Australia was leading the field and way out in front in terms of sustainability but it cut back and other countries caught up. Now there is a resurgence.”
Mather’s intention now is to implement some of that green agenda.
The US-based company already has offices in Canada and the UK and is working around the clock to help establish the Australian operations.
The company is starting up locally in response to client demands, Mather says.
“We had requests from some of our clients that we supported in design competitions in Australia and they said, ‘Why don’t you start up in Australia?’”
“We’re hiring. I’m busy recruiting,” Mather said on Tuesday.
Mather started with company on 2 September. He had been with WSP for 29 years, nine of those years through a company acquired by WSP.
At Integral Group he is MD Australia and New Zealand.
Mather says he is “extremely positive” about the outlook for his business right now, “despite the negative press you read, that the property bubble is going to burst.
“I personally don’t believe it’s going to burst any time soon. Property generally is going to carry on, maybe not at the same rate but we’re certainly not going to see a burst as a lot of the economists have been saying.”
Reasons include high inbound migration – of around 200,000 last year, which means “needing to build a city the size of Canberra every year”.
“And then we have the massive amounts of cashed up people in Asia looking to invest in other markets. Australia is a good home for that.”
Will the political situation derail growth?
“Politics in Australia is like politics around the world at the moment; it’s very mixed up.
“Obviously it’s having an impact but people are learning to progress in spite of the government.”
Mather says energy policy will have an impact on the types of projects that get up but overall he thinks the most recent approach from the government is to encourage sustainable development.
He believes the government will extend the renewable energy targets beyond 2020; the Paris accord will keep up pressure to do so.
“I think it’s a no brainer. I think they will continue.”
But he thinks there is a case for clean coal with “low emissions efficiency targets and mandates”.
“I’m very excited for property and also excited about the future for sustainability and green buildings,” he said.