By Tina Fox, Scott Carver Senior Associate and Sustainable Transformation Group Leader
Sustainability in architecture and landscape and interior design is an issue that spans industry, practice, projects and people.
Sustainable design requires a fundamental shift in the way we design and use buildings and source and consume resources. It also needs to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate and emerging technologies to plan for future resilience.
We must advocate for better policy, material selection and construction processes that are supported by robust research, considered design and strategic thinking.
As an industry-leading architecture and design firm, Scott Carver seeks opportunities for sustainable outcomes suited for our projects and clients at every stage of the design process.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but we can strive to meet the needs for the design and delivery of sustainable buildings and communities in all projects – big and small.
The building industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters, responsible for around 40 per cent of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Clean Energy Finance Corporation reports that steel, concrete and aluminium production each account for up to nine per cent of annual global greenhouse emissions.
In the past 20 years, the built environment sector has lessened its carbon footprint through the use of energy-saving technologies, legislated targets and onsite renewables.
The focus now is on the reduction of embodied carbon, which can account for up to 75 per cent of a building’s emissions over its lifespan, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This major industry issue is being mitigated through the adoption of lower embodied carbon materials and improvements in energy consumption.
As industry guidelines and building materials are updated at an unprecedented rate, it is important to be agile to ensure our designs are informed by the latest developments.
On the journey to sustainability, architects, designers and industry are collaborating in dedicated organisations and research groups to share knowledge, research and resources.
Sustainability has been a focus at Scott Carver for more than 20 years and implemented across our practice, projects and people.
Our pioneering micro-climate designs for the Royal Agricultural Society during the Royal Easter Show at Sydney Olympic Park saw the Munro and Grace Pavilions recognised with the inaugural National Architecture Award for Energy Efficient Design & Ecologically Sustainable Development in 1999 for our work.
In 2021, Scott Carver became a founding partner of the Materials & Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance (MECLA) with WWF-Australia, NSW Department of Industry, Environment & Planning, Presync and 40 other leading companies to accelerate decarbonisation in the building and construction industry.
Scott Carver is also a signatory to Australian Architects Declare and participated in an embodied carbon reduction research pilot project with the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales students to measure the embodied carbon of various design options and material solutions on an active commercial workplace project.
Continued action to work towards a sustainable, low-carbon future along with the reduction of energy and water consumption and addressing the impacts of our designs on biodiversity remains critical within the industry.
Leading construction companies and architecture, landscape architecture and engineering firms adhere to the legislated targets set by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and its Green Star rating system, NABERS, WELL Building Standard, Living Building Challenge (LBC) and others for a holistic and strategic approach to sustainable design.
Scott Carver’s team of thought leaders, creative collaborators and active industry members is committed to sustainable transformation across its practice, projects and people.
Our multidisciplinary approach to sustainability draws on architects, landscape architects and interior designers to test, challenge and inform sustainable outcomes.
As advocates of change to deliver sustainable solutions for private and public projects, we needed to conduct an internal review first.
Following a Carbon Reduction Institute (CRI) audit to measure the practice’s carbon footprint for FY 2019 and the purchase of carbon offset units in approved projects, Scott Carver is now a certified Carbon Neutral Service and Certified NoCO2 by CRI.
We undertook a review of embodied carbon BIM tools and achieved an ISO 1400:01 Environmental Management Systems accreditation, an international best-practice approach and framework that ensures the accredited firm is focused on enhancing the environmental performance of its practice and projects and fulfils sustainable design commitments, objectives and compliance obligations.
This ISO 1400:01 accreditation offers another tool to increase our sustainable design commitments and measure our progress clearly.
On Earth Day 2021, Scott Carver launched its inaugural Sustainability Action Plan, establishing a working group to translate enterprise-level values into projects that benefit the environment and communities with an annual review each Earth Day.
By focusing on decarbonisation and advanced technologies for environmental advantages and employing a holistic design approach with optimised energy-efficient features, we can work to achieve more sustainable outcomes on all of our projects.
Scott Carver aims to gain an average 75 per cent increase in sustainable targets and provide a sustainable outcome on 100 per cent of new projects from 2022.
A key example is 32 Ricketty Street, Mascot, a commercial workplace project that aspires to achieve a 6 Green Star rating through the use of an Australian-first hybrid timber, steel and concrete structural system with flexible design for future adaptation.
Together with university students on the aforementioned research pilot project, we analysed the embodied carbon of the material selection and construction methodology to assess the overall carbon footprint.
These learnings and our prior sustainability experience have guided several other key projects.
The Canopy Lane Cove precinct achieved a High Commendation in the Australian Sustainable Building Awards in Landscape and Urban Design for Scott Carver and our collaborating architect, Supermanoeuvre, for the Periscope Canopy, and we also won the 2021 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (NSW) Civic Landscape Award.
This project promoted sustainability, renewability and regenerative design through the highly visible and tangible integration of landscape and built design.
Creating a public domain and landscape setting over a parking and retail structure, the project introduced a shared environment that has become a new civic heart in Lane Cove.
More recently, the Oran Park Town Centre project also incorporated resilience planning and a commitment to sustainable outcomes, using mass hybrid timber and steel construction for the 15,000sqm retail development and a precinct-wide embodied energy network of photovoltaic panels to support the retail project and future adjoining buildings.
Cultivating social networks and enhancing health and wellbeing also embodies sustainability in practice. The public domain and design of projects can link the civic and public spaces of our cities, connecting on both social and cultural levels.
The Pemulwuy Precinct in Redfern, previously known as ‘The Block’, is considered a spiritual home in the city for NSW Indigenous communities. Our brief was to design a public domain that acknowledged the area’s cultural and social heritage and reflected new narratives about the contemporary Indigenous experience.
Through navigating emotional and cultural connections to Country and conflicting views in Community, the inclusion of integrated narratives in the public art and materials provided the connection and balance for a symbolic representation of First Nations history and culture.
A similar process was taken for the public realm design of the competition-winning mixed-use workplace and hotel development at 197 Church Street, Parramatta, where the architectural and public domain approach was shaped by conversations with our Indigenous partner, Matthew Fellingham.
The ensuing collaboration revealed opportunities to connect the architecture to Country through a design narrative of Indigenous pathways and geomorphological lines through the Parramatta region that informed a ‘travel line’, creating an intrinsic connection to place.
Public and community engagement with the built environment through social inclusion is an important element of long-term sustainable design solutions.
To be successful, a sustainability plan requires collective buy-in and commitment from the whole team. At Scott Carver, every team member took part in the audit and planning process and we discovered 95 per cent were overwhelmingly concerned about industry impacts on the natural environment.
Our sustainability principles start with a well-informed team who are empowered to drive meaningful behavioural change by identifying key issues to meet the challenges of today for tomorrow.
Social sustainability puts people first, both in company culture through internal team morale, commitment to education and clear career pathways as well as for the wider community through cultural and social inclusion.
Through design, we can positively influence the places people want to be and create a socially sustainable future that enhances life and allows communities to thrive.
Whether that is achieved through public spaces such as The Canopy, which weaves sustainable initiatives with emerging technologies and natural environments that adapt with its community, or the 32 Ricketty Street project that reimagines the commercial building as a smart building with enhanced features to promote a human-centric work environment, socially sustainable design can promote accessibility, opportunity and wellbeing for all.
Through consultation and inclusion, with both internal staff and the external community, we continue to make strides with social wellbeing and engagement.
In the design of sustainable buildings and communities, a deep understanding of sustainability is required from everyone who is involved in the design and procurement of the built environment.
Sustainable outcomes need the support of informed and passionate clients, a design team with a knowledgeable, holistic approach to opportunities and the adoption by end-users who appreciate the value of a future-proofed building.
More than ever, we must adapt to ever-changing market and community expectations.
From Green Star to NABERS and WELL, a host of rating systems can assist in the design of greener buildings, but sustainability requires the integration of sustainable values and strategies in all facets of practice, projects and people.
Scott Carver continues to inform our work by listening, engaging and, at times, challenging assumptions to ensure we lead by example and build real change within our industry.