Oct 29 2020, by Fleetwood Urban

Sustainability: Obstacle or Opportunity?

Highlights from Fleetwood’s latest Learning Session webinar

It seems everywhere you turn in 2020, governments, businesses and communities are heralding the importance of ‘sustainability’. But what does sustainability actually mean, in a practical sense, for those of us who are employed to create, shape and define the built environment for current and future generations? 

In our latest thought-provoking Learning Session, attended by industry professionals via Zoom on Thursday 29th October, we heard from two globally-respected authorities on the topic of sustainability in the built environment: Professor Sara Wilkinson from the University of Technology in Sydney and Rory Martin from Frasers Property Australia.

Calling upon their vast experiences, both domestically and abroad, Sara and Rory shared fascinating examples of sustainability best practice. They also offered valuable insights into some of the key obstacles – and opportunities – facing today’s industry professionals. Below is a short summary of the key discussion points from the session.


Sara Wilkinson


Rory Martin

Professor of Sustainable Property
Faculty of Design, Architecture & Building
University of Technology Sydney

• ‘Green building’ is an essentially contestable concept that can mean all things to all people – we might think we’re talking about the same thing, but we’re not
Mandatory or voluntary? Liberal economies have spent decades saying we should let the market determine things – but it hasn’t really worked when it comes to sustainability
• Annual energy cost for a 2-Star building in Melbourne is about $43 per square metre – but for a 10-Star building it would be just 13 cents per square metre!
• Many Australians still don’t appreciate just how much they could be saving – one of the biggest issues is you can’t see sustainability
• Projects begin with the best of intentions, but overspends mean sustainability initiatives often get cut
• Innovation goes hand-in-hand with higher risk – so companies still tend to be quite conservative
• Simple things can make a big difference – e.g. energy-efficient retrofits and upgrades, effective insulation in roof spaces and better external shading
• Skanska case study in Sweden – using virtual reality to test people’s willingness to pay for green infrastructure.

Sustainability Manager
Frasers Property Australia

• ‘Cost vs Value’ – a small but important mindset shift that’s changing the conversation

Grand gestures show us all what’s possible, but often it’s the hundreds of little touches that make places better
• Momentum is growing as the industry gets better at articulating the ‘sustainability’ value proposition
• Carbon offset scheme – applying ‘airline’ thinking to property development (Frasers)
• Geothermal homes trial in western Sydney harnessing ground-sourced heat (Frasers)
• Passive House trial at Point Cook in Melbourne (Frasers)
• ‘Plug and Play’ future – buildings and communities are likely to become far more connected through both hard and soft infrastructure.

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