The sustainable development challenges of cities are escalating in the face of increasing densification and deepening understanding of the climate change crisis. There are real complexities to be navigated as Australia’s capital cities grow ever faster and new challenges and constraints in affordability, infrastructure funding, health, amenity, density climate and resilience emerge.
The built environment – buildings, infrastructure and the places that surround them – is the front line of addressing these challenges.
Guy Templeton, President and CEO, Australia & New Zealand (ANZ) at WSP, said, “Through planning, design, construction and operation, the built environment can provide a pathway to more sustainable cities – cities with compact, affordable housing, multi-modal transit options, net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions buildings and infrastructure and supply chains that are resource-efficient and just.”
A decade ago the green building movement was gathering momentum in Australia and sustainability was focused on energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality and improving our systems and processes for management. Our premium buildings responded to the challenge, leading the world in independently assessed and assured sustainability ratings. Our professional services too led the world in Environmentally Sustainable Design consulting and building physics.
Mr Templeton added, “The skills that got the industry moving though are not the skills that will enable it to meet the real and complex challenges ahead. As we look forward to the coming decade, WSP sees trends in our sector that we need to navigate effectively.”
Some of the emerging trends in urban sustainability include:
- Responding to the carbon bubble | We see a shift towards a prudential risk-management approach to climate change that considers the asset value risk of future emissions reduction policy as well as direct risks due to climate change.
- Navigating the complexity of urban intensification | As Sydney and Melbourne head over eight million people by 2050, we see the intersecting challenges of land use, density, affordability, transport, resilience, infrastructure funding and urban competitiveness needing to be addressed in an integrated manner to deliver more sustainable outcomes for the environment and communities.
- Healthy cities | We see a shift from just good Indoor Environmental Quality and productivity towards an overall urban response to current health priorities – the so-called lifestyle diseases like diabetes. An urban health framework will consider active living, nutrition, wellbeing, biophilia, healthy buildings and healthy work-styles.
- Urban ecosystems | The value of urban ecosystems in delivering amenity, ecological services and broader support for socio-ecological systems will become increasingly important. We see a transition from a conservation-focused approach to biodiversity to an approach that recognises the local urban eco-systems and identifies strategic interventions to support and enhance them.
- Getting sustainability value out of digital disruption | The smart cities movement has linked the world of digital innovation to the built environment, but not all innovation delivers on sustainability. We see a trend emerging of the critical assessment of digital innovation (such as connected and autonomous vehicles, smart grids and pervasive connectivity) to support preferred outcomes for cities.
- Reconciliation | Most Indigenous Australians live in cities and Australia’s future is urban. We see a sustainability trend in addressing both Indigenous participation in place-making and Indigenous procurement in supply-chain management to better reconcile cities with Australia’s First Nations heritage.
Responding to these trends is where sustainability practitioners need to focus to truly move the needle on making our cities more equitable, competitive and sustainable.
Can we help societies thrive in a world we do not control?
Can we anticipate the unforeseeable, perceive the unexplainable, and plan something unbelievable?
Can we design the unthinkable?
Can we think international and still act local?
Nurture sustainable societies, connect communities, and seize opportunities?
Can we trace horizons, hold true to our ambitions, and hold ourselves accountable?
Can we design a place, where our friends, families and neighbours, can thrive?
What if we can?
Mr Templeton concluded, “I’m proud of our new global brand. It tells our story about wanting to create something different and inspiring. It unifies my colleagues and represents our vision to improve the societies we live in. A big part of that begins with sustainability.”
WSP is calling for the best sustainability practitioners to join its business. Practitioners who share a common purpose of wanting to help clients and industry to address the emerging trends and develop further expertise in delivering more resilient city-shaping projects.
WSP’s sustainability team works across the built environment – supporting buildings, places, infrastructure, and organisations, in Australia and New Zealand. This presents a lot of opportunity for innovation in bridging the divides that traditionally sit between sectors.
If you are interested in joining our dynamic team at WSP in Australia or New Zealand please contact Daniel Yip