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Sustainable cities


Resilient Solutions

Introduction Coast to Coast Light Rail, South Australia

Aurecon recently had a strong presence as sponsors and technical presenters at both the Enviro 2010 and Healthy Cities conferences held in Australia. In our view, these well attended forums clarified that there is an outstanding body of work already under way, but equally, flagged some of the challenges in the journey that lies ahead – those that need action now, and some that will need to be well thought out to manage the medium to long term. Aurecon’s Water, Environment and Property leaders and practitioners share their views of some of the trends emerging from recent conferences where climate, the built and natural environments and future trends were the themes.

One of the most pressing global issues is sustainability – meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Balancing economic growth with social development and the protection of the environment is a global concern. Sustainability is a fundamental imperative for business and government alike. Across sectors as diverse as transport, energy, infrastructure, and water, intelligent solutions are required to address the challenge. Sustainable communities are planned, built, or adapted to promote sustainable living. They are well designed and built, environmentally sensitive, well serviced and connected, well run and financed, thriving, fair for everyone, active, safe and inclusive. To ensure our cities and communities can grow in a sustainable way and adapt to the challenges of climate change, the integration of sustainable development principles into urban and community planning is critical. Read more on what Aurecon’s experts are saying about how we can meet future challenges and create more sustainable cities.


There was consensus from regulators and practitioners alike, that cities are complex organisms requiring an integrated approach to build capacity to deliver outcomes, determine the tools and regulations and account for the externalities.

Fusionopolis facade, Singapore

Another key issue is industrial ecology or symbiosis – the waste outputs from one organisation become the inputs for another organisation. This will need an understanding of the resource accounts for cities as well as the development of an understanding of the environmental benefits such as healthy water ways, reduction on demand for materials, green spaces and a reduction on the heat island effect.

A look at our future Knowing what we do today, the question we all need to ask is “what will our cities and communities look like in the future?” “Looking at current trends in cities, one thing is clear. Our metropolises are big, hot and crowded. I observed a strong theme emerging that as communities, we need to change our thinking and develop or move towards creating cities that are more liveable, sustainable, prosperous and resilient.” Mark Roberts, Sustainability Leader, Aurecon Water Group

Resilient Solutions

A prominent leader of change is Orange City Council in NSW who are using a stormwater harvesting scheme to supplement the drinking water supply. This is a first for an Australian city and many water authorities are now making the trip to Orange to see how this was achieved. Australia is now ranked as the world’s greatest emitter of greenhouse gas per capita. We are using more resources per person than some countries that are regularly referred to by Governments, as reasons why we should not do anything different – China and India. For Aurecon’s part, we will continue to work to establish meaningful policies in relation to the environment and support clients, governments and communities in their future efforts to create more liveable, sustainable, and resilient projects. Put simply, the longer we wait the more it is going to cost. Click here to read Mark’s paper


Jeff is passionate about sustainability and believes that rather than an environmental challenge, the property marketplace of the future presents myriad opportunities to reshape existing property stock to deliver future performance and value. In his presentation, Jeff took delegates through scenarios that identified: • The compelling reasons for the refurbishing existing buildings • Examples of sustainable retrofit options, from building tune ups to large scale refurbishments

Queensland Centre for Clinical Research

The sustainable refurbishment of existing buildings “The sustainable refurbishment of existing buildings is a great emissions reduction opportunity for our cities. Retrofitting or ‘relifing’ buildings can have enormous environmental, commercial and social benefits and should be an action on political and industry agendas.” Jeff Robinson, Aurecon’s Sustainable Buildings Group Leader, Asia Pacific

Resilient Communities

• Project case studies where Aurecon had delivered performance enhancements • How incentive programs encourage building retrofits

“To reduce the environmental impact of commercial and public buildings on the environment, new buildings constructed in the last five years have achieved 4, 4.5 and 5 Star NABERS rating. However 98% of the existing stock has a NABERS Energy rating of 2.5 Stars or less. In simple terms, greening the built environment offers governments the lowest cost abatement opportunities available.” Jeff said. The value and opportunities created by retrofitting buildings are clear and they are backed by industry research. Currently, there are 21 million m2 of underperforming commercial property in the Australian marketplace. Eighty one per cent of this stock is more than 10 years old. A Davis Langdon report found that 1.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved every year by retrofitting stock more than 20 years old to achieve NABERS 4.5 Star ratings. This alone would deliver a 38 per cent improvement in energy efficiency.


The Community Water Supply and Sanitation Program, East Timor

Having worked in the South African and African water industry for years, particularly in bulk water resources management, planning and implementation it is clear that whilst the geographies of Australia and South Africa are divergent, both countries face major challenges in managing one of the planet’s most vital resources.

Sustainable resource management: water resource scenario planning “The greatest challenge to meeting projected growing future water demands is climate change, the estimation of its longterm severity, and what scenarios to adopt for water balance planning. In addition, decreasing water quality will also have a significant influence on water supply, putting increasing pressures on operational costs.” Erik van der Berg, Competency Leader – Water Resources, Asia Pacific

Resilient Solutions

In South Africa, continual monitoring of water supply systems is necessary to determine which scenario is unfolding because the actual future water demands depend on many potential permutations. South African and Australian water management have significant challenges in many areas. Both countries are water stressed, and most of the readily available fresh water has been allocated for use. The development of appropriate scenarios is fundamental to enable water authorities to achieve the desired strategic planning outcomes effectively and to efficiently adapt their provision of services and their operations to best meet the challenges of an uncertain future.

Click here to read Erik’s paper


Climate change is beginning to have measurable impacts on many communicites, affecting a large number of people and ecosystems globally. Policymakers are now being forced to consider present and future climate change when making plans for the future. Acknowledging that, this paper aimed to prepare local governments and the community for the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Gautrain Rapid Rail Link, South Africa

Climate change adaptation plan for local government infrastructure “Presenting and participating in Enviro 2010 workshops was a great opportunity to learn, share knowledge and contribute to the direction of research and development for the future.� Adolfo Fernandez, Mechanical Engineer, Buildings

Resilient Communities

It is critical to communicate the need to understand that one of the main outcomes of any climate change adaptation plan (CCAP) is that implementation of early adaptation strategies will decrease the risk of asset damage and failure. This represents potential economic and social savings to local governments. Other common themes emerging were that humans are the obvious cause of the problem, and therefore should be help responsible for coming up with solutions. Despite education and awareness efforts to date, a large proportion of communities are still struggling to understand the climate change message and do not know what to do to mitigate the effects. Simple solutions, such as converting to Green power, can minimise 80% of individual’s emissions overnight. Clever and effective marketing approaches are needed to come up with new ways of communicating sustainable aspirations and messages to get through to people across generations. Current research shows that cartoons, diagrammatic illustrations, photos, videos and film have been proven to have a bigger impact than words.


In the technical arena, carbon capture and storage (CCS) was seen as an essential element of Australia’s response to climate change. CCS is going to play an important role in the CO2 abatement in the future (and present) targeting 10% of the total measures. Although the technology is proven, there are some cost and safety challenges that need to be addressed to increase the amount of CCS plants. The vision is to capture and store the CO2 at the extraction point. Zero emission neighbourhoods (ZEN) is another initiative that aims to create communities for a sustainable future. ZEN is the only way of not contributing to climate change when developing our cities. ZEN program is based on four main pillars: zero energy, zero water, zero waste and zero transport, trying to minimise the energy usage (through passive design), efficient energy usage such as cogeneration systems, and promoting renewable energies. Australia’s first office to achieve 4 Star NABERS for waste is located at 40 Albert Road in Melbourne. This was the first office to achieve not only 4 but 4.5-star NABERS for waste. Automatic systems may be useful to reduce energy consumption and efficient fixtures to reduce water usage but this ‘waste’ achievement is totally dependant on the occupants of the building. An important part of the project was spent in the behavioural change, which identified that support from above (from CEO) was the key in the sustainable leadership that 40 Albert Road is playing.


Taking early action “It was refreshing to see the industry leading the drive towards leadership in urban design demonstrating the way forward - rather than waiting for political direction. In fact, this theme came through very strongly throughout the conference.� Caitlin Pilkington, Civil Engineer, Water The push to go greenhouse neutral was another strong theme and a number of organisations are heading in this direction including major water authorities such as Yarra Valley Water and Melbourne Water. In the areas of cities of the future and water sensitive cities, the trend is to move to more sustainable cities incorporating water sensitive urban design, decentralised water supply and wastewater systems, open spaces for communities, zero net emission / resource positive developments. The aim of this approach is to foster resilience, prosperity and sustainability for communities. There was also a call to better

Vision East

Resilient Solutions integrate sectors – transport, energy, water, urban planning; in order to develop the best and most appropriate solutions for our cities as well as for rural and regional areas. Interestingly there is also a focus to move to zero net emission development in infill areas (factory/office conversion) and brownfield, rather than just new Greenfield developments. Accounting for the true cost focused on the importance of accounting for the true value and cost of benefits/resources in projects, looking beyond traditional measures such as net present value. Another interesting trend is the number of organisations who are starting to use life cycle assessment tools to compare and plan their projects, where they take into account other factors such as extraction from rivers, discharge of nutrients to river or the oceans, and greenhouse gas emissions.


Gilbert Rochecouste, Managing Director, Village Well presented a really interesting paper titled Creating Healthy and Resilient Cities – A Place Making Approach Activating Streetscapes. This was a fantastic presentation, with a great presenter. Mike Ritchie, National Vice President, Waste Management Association of Australia presented a paper that focused on Waste Management in a Healthy City – what does the future look like? This paper was very topical and while not very high on the list of many professionals’ “hit lists” for roundtable discussions, it is an increasing issue for sustainable design. Waste compaction

Healthy Cities – Sustainable Health Infrastructure “I felt that some of the best presentations and ideas, in terms of emerging issues, were drawn from across the breadth of areas covered during the conference proceedings.” Mike Hill, Property Health Leader, Aurecon Asia Pacific Dr Susan Thompson is University NSW, Co-director Healthy Built Environments Program at City Futures Research Centre. Dr Thompson presented on New Ways of Working: The NSW Healthy Built Environments Program which contained some really innovative ideas about city design.

In recent years we have seen a wave of sustainable office buildings in Australia designed to the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA) “Green Star” environmental rating system. The GBCA has now released environmental rating tools for other building types including healthcare buildings. These rating systems are making a significant contribution to our cities, and have the potential to improve the quality and sustainability of our built environment. The use of rating systems is part of a framework of activities that will lead to more sustainable cities. Healthy cities include hospitals and health care facilities as a significant component of the built environment. There are strong trends to integrate these developments, with tertiary hospitals/universities/accommodation offices being combined in city precincts. New hospital campus designs are beginning to embrace sustainable design planning tools and are expected to follow the lead of office buildings in utilising Green Star environmental rating system designs. Sustainable design solutions must be applied in a holistic manner to the entire built infrastructure if we are to successfully reduce our global footprint. A vision for healthy cities would be to also learn from the long term experience and successful use of energy efficient central energy designs for major tertiary hospitals, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the global footprint further across the city infrastructure.


Capital Wind Farm, NSW

Contacts Aurecon Water, Environment and Community Development key contacts: Matt Coetzee Development Manager – Community Development & Infrastructure P +61 2 9465 5611 E coetzeem@ap.aurecongroup.com Bruce Penman Asia Pacific Environment & Sustainability Development Leader Community Development and Infrastructure P +61 7 3173 8062 E penmanb@ap.aurecongroup.com

Aurecon – committed to a sustainable future

Mark Roberts Asia Pacific Sustainability Leader – Water P +61 3 8683 1735 E robertsm@ap.aurecongroup.com

Aurecon remains focussed on delivering solutions to address issues around climate change adaptations, water resource management and ecologically sustainable development within the Asia Pacific property marketplace.

Jeff Robinson Asia Pacific Sustainable Buildings Group Leader P +61 3 8683 1397 E robinsonjh@ap.aurecongroup.com

To do this, our designers are integrating sustainable thinking and planning for climate change outcomes from the outset. We are familiar with industry programmes, regulatory environments and rating and assessment tools, and understand how clients can apply these in a cost effective and practical way.

Blair Walter Asia Pacific Renewable Energy Leader P +64 4 4390 320 E walterb@ap.aurecongroup.com

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