Digby Hall, Principal Sustainability Consultant based in Umow Lai’s Sydney office, has received excellent feedback following his presentation at the Green Cities ‘Connect’ conference in Melbourne last month (17-19 March). He is also excited about some of the ideas, innovations and suggestions for providing effective outcomes espoused by leading experts from around the world.
“My presentation was titled “Carbon Neutral: do it with meaning,” and was focused on how we might deliver carbon neutral projects through localized offsetting and creating community uplift, or ‘shared value,’” Digby explained.
“The key idea I wanted to get across was that for proponents who wish to create ‘carbon neutral’ buildings, the law of diminishing returns suggests that there is always a departure point in a project where it no longer makes sense to continue driving down the carbon footprint on-site. However if we entertain the idea of local off-site carbon mitigation via the project, then a world of opportunity opens up to the point where projects can act as generators of shared value with no additional cost.
“The key concept I put forward was a ‘carbon offset fund’ that could be administered by the local Council, channeling developer contributions into a ‘green infrastructure’ fund that would deliver local de-carbonising projects such as green streets, urban forestry, energy efficiency refurbishments and renewables roll-outs. Such projects would build local community resilience at both physical and social levels. Tools such as Green Star now have pathways that allow projects to be recognized for off-site initiatives.
“For me, one of the highlights of the conference was the room-silencing view from the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), where Rob Whelan, ICA executive director and CEO, stated that climate change risk is already being priced into asset insurance premiums. Rob made it clear that if we want to remain insurable we need to be acting on property climate resilience plans now.
“I can’t help but see a link between the opportunity of using projects to generate local uplift and carbon reductions, and the need to make our communities more resilient (and insurable) to the impacts of climate change.
“Among the many themes explored was environmental surfing, the need to create eco systems with collaborative partnerships at the core, and the need to drive cultural and structural change.
Other speakers who generated keen interest and discussion from the audience included Professor Rob Adams, Director of City Design at Melbourne City Council, who spoke about the City’s plan to re-generate street tree canopy in order to reduce heat island effect. Craig Davis, Board Director of Conscious Capitalism Australia, inspired the audience with a focus on humanizing the workplace and how our own businesses can be agents of change and can deliver meaningful outcomes for people, and Holly Ransom, 2014 G20 Youth Summit Chair and Challenge Strategist for the G20 Youth Summit, opened our eyes to the drivers and mechanisms of corporate change, encouraging us to keep our businesses agile and innovative in a rapidly changing world.
Shane Esmore, who heads Umow Lai’s Sustainability team, noted that Digby’s presentation provided a breath of fresh air in how we can look at emissions beyond a simple building basis to achieve more cost effective outcomes.
During the conference, Associate Director Eben Simmons led a group on tour around 990 La Trobe Street, the highly sustainable headquarters of Melbourne Water.
“People were impressed with the building’s water efficiency, including vacuum toilets, which is unusual to see in a commercial property,” he said. From the conference, Eben welcomed the move towards re-focussing buildings back onto people again and discussions around finding ways to better deliver more effective communication about the importance of sustainability to the wider community.
Principal Sustainability Consultant Digby Hall speaking at Green Cities Conference held in Melbourne in March.