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Living Future Institute Australia Forum recap

13 July 2017

The recent Living Future Institute Australia Forum in Sydney provided a brief, yet compelling look at the great green challenges that lay ahead for the retail property industry.  

Designed to inspire, engage and dare attendees to go beyond the status quo in order to create positive and regenerative places, the event certainly delivered. 

Amanda Sturgeon of the International Living Future Institute spoke about Biophilic Design, illustrating how the discipline is not just about greenery but the powerful impact good indoor design can have in physiological and psychological health of the people that occupy it. By incorporating nature or mimicking natural systems we can reduce stress, encourage creativity and reduce absenteeism. 

There’s no doubt design of this calibre can be a challenge for architects and consultants. On our end, it must be included in the scope from the outset, allowing adequate budget for out of the box design. To put too much pressure around competitive costs can compromise design outcomes and this is to our detriment if we truly want to progress and push the envelope.  
Returning to the use of green space, Jock Gammon of Junglefy spoke passionately about urban agriculture as our next global movement. Based on his plans, to include extensive greenery in buildings like at Central Park, residents would pay $40 a week in additional strata fees to enjoy this unique design outcome. When the health benefits of plant life and general ambiance are considered this almost leads to an ROI on living infrastructure. 
Hannah Morton of Cundall talked about the WELL Building Standard and Human Health, really challenging whether the concept of WELL is for everyone, or just the fortunate few. If you’re not familiar with the theory, the Standard consists of seven concepts that not only address the design and operations of buildings, but also how they impact and influence human behaviours related to health and well-being. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the key concepts are air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, mind and innovation.   

The entire day drove many interesting discussions including the need for innovation in sustainability to be supported by Government at all levels in order to truly create momentum and change the industry approach. 

There are so many opportunities to improve development outcomes. Water for example can be captured, treated and reused but this is currently hampered by authority regulation. Another challenge in this area relates to the availability of materials not on the Living Building Challenge accreditation ‘Red List’ that contain worst-in-class chemicals. Although the Living Future Institute has launched their ‘Declare’ label in Australia – basically an ingredients label for building products - very few local products have undergone the process. 

Whilst overall these initiatives present a great opportunity for our industry, it is also a challenge that we as developers have to manage through allocating additional fees and resources to research all products. Green Star has embraced the GECA certification of products but there are some who would argue the certification process has loop holes by not identifying the full product supply chain process. 
Despite these challenges, it’s exciting times for our industry in this area and I look forward to seeing what we can all achieve in the next few years. 

- Joanna Russell