Antony Sprigg

Silos are starting to dissolve in the infrastructure sector and whole-of-life thinking is going mainstream, according to chief executive of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia, Antony Sprigg, ahead of the council’s 25 October conference in Sydney.

The “What IS Next?” conference, Sustainability in Infrastructure Awards and Festival of Infrastructure side-events around the new iteration of the rating tool, IS V2.0 are evidence of the shift, with more diversity, in participants and focus and a greater understanding that in building cities, the right infrastructure leads to having the right built environment.

Sprigg says a good indication of the shift in thinking is the number and quality of international speakers who will present at the conference.

They include keynote speakers Bianca Nijhof, global account leader natural capital for consultancy firm Arcadis; Margaret Cederoth, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff sustainability leader for the California High Speed Rail project; and Anne Kerr, global head urbanisation for Mott McDonald.

Topics to be explored include change management, social licence, social procurement, valuing externalities and other elements of achieving triple bottom-line sustainability.

Many of the topics and the side events mirror new themes and changes to credits that are part of the development of IS v2.0.  These include incorporating a green (ecological) infrastructure theme that examines how infrastructure projects contribute to city resilience, and exploration of how IS nv2.0 extends ratings to cover whole-of-life profiles including operations, maintenance and deconstruction.

There will also be a new theme on workforce sustainability, such as well being of employees and the inclusion of minority groups.

Sprigg says IS v2.0 will ensure Indigenous values and representation are picked up in a more robust way in projects through developing partnerships and long-term relationships.

Presentations from Liz Root, principal sustainability advisor City Rail Link Auckland Transport, and Berenize Peita, Ngãti Te Ata, of Mana Whenua forum are good examples of this can work, he says.

Bianca Nijhof

In Auckland, the $2.5 billion City Rail Link project is working with Mana Whenua to incorporate Maori cultural values into the IS framework that will be used on the project.

The emphasis on Indigenous representation will also be reflected in the Sustainability in Infrastructure Awards night on 25 October.

Guest speaker will be 2014 Australian of the Year, Sydney Swans AFL legend Adam Goodes, an Andyamathanha and Norungga man, and chief executive of the Indigenous Defence Consortium, which is engaging with Defence Department infrastructure projects.

“This is a reflection of a genuine drive in the industry to address challenges,” Sprigg says.

“The Indigenous representation has come together so naturally.”

The conference attendees already registered shows a growing momentum around collaboration, with the diversity of attendees registered to date including owners and operators, service providers and contractors.

Sprigg says that while the industry is still polarised in terms of sectors and industries, the federal government’s commitment to cities has meant there is a “little bit more joining of the dots” starting to happen.

Awareness is growing that the right infrastructure leads to having the right built environment.

There are also improvements in thinking from a systems perspective, particularly in the utilities and transport sectors.

“Genuine systems improvement will feed into the built environment,” he says.

Anne Kerr

For example, in discussions around transit-oriented development, it’s not just about the property value uplift, there is a more genuine policy approach from government around liveability objectives.

An example is the ACT’s Capital Metro Light Rail: because the business case was put out to the public early in the process, there was better engagement.

“It is about redefining the liveability and opportunity for a whole region, and people being more included,” Sprigg says.

Another example is the Victorian Level Crossing Removal Authority, which also engaged early with the public.

In the lead up to the conference, ISCA launched a Materials Design Challenge for suppliers and designers to provide case studies that demonstrated a more sustainable outcome can be achieved by substituting one material or process for another. The four judged as most outstanding have been invited to present at the conference.

Sharing knowledge through the supply chain

Sprigg says that one of ISCA’s values is sharing knowledge throughout the supply chain.

The organisation often hears from suppliers that if project organisers asked them, they could assist in improving sustainability outcomes during the design phase. It also hears that suppliers need to articulate the sustainability benefits of their products better.

“It’s great to see the reaction of stakeholders when the light bulb goes on. Some solutions have sustainability benefits that are not obvious,” Sprigg says.

“It is a recognition also that smart design processes help elucidate smart sustainability. Projects need the supply chain, and the design and the client to work together to deliver on that.”

Sustainability in Infrastructure Awards

As part of the Awards night, projects that have earned the IS certification will be announced.

Sprigg says more projects are getting certified, and this also means more projects qualified to enter the awards. This year there is also a category that allows projects that have registered but not completed their IS rating to enter.

In general, there is a strong transport focus, including ports, in projects getting certified.

However, the organisation is also seeing more projects by councils, including small capital works projects, water sensitive urban design and renewable energy projects stepping up.

In part this has come about since the IS v1.2 was launched. IS v1.2 made the rating process more streamlined for smaller projects, Sprigg says.

“The asset classes are getting more diverse and the scale of projects is getting both bigger and smaller.”

With council projects in particular social licence and sustainability outcomes are increasingly important, as these are places where there is constant capital investment and the community is closer to the work underway.

Sprigg says the performance of so many projects that have been certified recently in Australia and New Zealand show the energy and enthusiasm of those involved, and they are also delivering quantifiable outcomes.

“There are amazing outcomes that sell themselves,” he says. “The industry is raising the bar inherently.”

  • Read the full ISCA 2016 Conference Program, details of side events and register to attend here

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