28/01/2009 - 22:00

Slowdown could take focus off sustainability

28/01/2009 - 22:00

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DESPITE the belt-tightening currently being experienced across all industries, including the engineering sector, designers and developers say sustainable design remains key.

Slowdown could take focus off sustainability

DESPITE the belt-tightening currently being experienced across all industries, including the engineering sector, designers and developers say sustainable design remains key.

And, it seems that going green is still a vital consideration for the majority of corporations, regardless of the associated costs in doing so.

Wood and Grieve Engineers director Matt Davis said he was optimistic that sustainability was still relevant.

"I'd suggest that maybe the rate of improvement in the sustainability of design might back off a bit because of the pressures we're under at the moment," he told the forum.

"If we didn't have the financial crisis and things were still booming there'd be an even greater emphasis placed on sustainability and we'd be moving to the next level quicker.

"But I don't think we'll move backwards."

Association of Consulting Engineers Australia WA division chairman David Porter said sustainability was now a core component of design.

"I think it's ingrained in us now," Mr Porter said. "It's been round so long that it's there and that's part of what you do.

"It still means they're going to evaluate projects on what you do, what it costs to do things and what it doesn't.

"But I think we've got to a point in our society where we can't afford to cause damage that jeopardises what we can do in the future."

Norman, Disney and Young's Perth office director Andrew Macgregor feels said there had been a marked decrease in the practice of sustainable building and design in recent times.

"The sustainability agenda to a certain extent has been temporarily derailed," Mr Macgregor said.

Mr Macgregor warned that since the private sector has been the impetus behind the sustainability charge, this could fall away if left solely in the hands of the government to spearhead.

"Yes, they [the government] have set benchmarks, they've improved the building code no doubt, but it was a relatively low benchmark and those corporations looking closer and closer at their margins are perhaps not going to want to pay the premium for the five-star building they paid last time," Mr Macgregor said.

But Arup associate, Josh Neil suggests now could be the right time to focus on sustainability.

"I'd argue probably that now is actually a good time to be sustainable because now is the time when businesses become sustainable," Mr Neil said.

URS director, Peter Erceg believes interesting times lie ahead.

"Those companies usually accused of not really thinking about sustainable development, like the oil and gas industry, are among one of the first to embrace energy efficiencies," Mr Erceg said.

"There are all kinds of opportunities."

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