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Keynote speaker David Hobstetter put forward the argument that seismic resilience and sustainability should be considered together. “The notion that you design a green building and not make it resilient to an earthquake doesn’t make any sense… there’s a huge amount of embedded carbon in that building that you’ve invested.” Hobstetter, a principal at KMD Architects, showcased the newly opened San Francisco Public Utility Commission headquarters. By working closely with a client that was keen to set an example in a city of people ‘very committed to sustainability’, the building boasts a LEED Platinum rating and the ability for immediate occupancy, following a significant quake.

Also from the United States was Wade Lange, Director of the Lloyd Ecodistrict in Portland, who posed the question “How do we live well in cities without damaging our habitat?” There are five Ecodistricts in the city working with local government, residents and business to answer this question by collaborating at a neighbourhood level, on projects in the areas of waste management, transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency and even district heating and cooling. A ‘triple bottom line’ approach – people, planet, profit –guides all decision making. To be a successful Ecodistrict, Wade spoke of the need for “a radical comingling of private and public capital” and that “the owners put the district first”.

Adam Beck, Executive Director of Market Development & Sustainable Communities with the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), opened with an invitation to ‘love sustainability’ again, as it is the best risk management strategy for owners and developers: attracting a rental premium, offering opex savings and, for major tenants, improving their brand and attraction. He asserted that buildings should be ‘placed’ rather than ‘plonked’ into their space – their sustainable value extending beyond the building’s envelope, out into the community. He discussed how the new GBCA-developed tool Green Star – Communities – of which ‘Environment’ is just one area, can measure how liveable and sustainable neighbourhoods are.

To close the Summit, Ivan Mercep of JASMAX and Tamati Kruger of the Tūhoe Project discussed Te Wharehou o Tūhoe: the Ngāi Tūhoe iwi’s national headquarters on their ancestral land in Te Urewera. Jerome Partington, Sustainability Manager at JASMAX summed up the ethos of the project. “A truly sustainable building has to earn the right to occupy the land it’s taking up. It needs to be of, and part of, that eco-system…” The project is the result of many creative visions, from one of New Zealand’s oldest practicing architects to a young Maori leader, and will result in New Zealand’s first ‘living building’.

RDT Pacific Director Simon Wilson, who attended the Summit, saw a definite thread running through the day: “Our speakers showed a clear need to focus on whole communities rather than individual buildings to achieve the kinds of step changes required to create truly sustainable neighbourhoods and cities.”

Watch this space, as we look a number of these topics in depth over the coming months.