Inside the push for net zero cities

Sustainable is the minimum standard - so how can we design beyond project boundaries towards regeneration? 

Civic leaders in more than 1000 cities have pledged their commitment to reducing emissions and achieving net zero by 2050, and Western Australia’s McGowan Government has committed that Perth will be one of these. 

As a team of designers, strategists, and sustainability advocates, Hassell, along with our industry colleagues from the private and public sector, has the ability to help make this happen.

As part of Perth Design Week (23 – 30 March, 2023), Hassell hosted a round table discussion to explore the ways regenerative design can help create net zero cities. While Perth faces many unique climate, the opportunities and lessons raised during the session will resonate with audiences further afield - as other cities look to repurposing - regenerating - existing infrastructure and population changes.

Hassell’s Sustainable Design Leader Karla Fox-Reynolds, self-confessed sustainability nerd’ the Hon. Dr. Brad Pettitt MLC and environmental scientist Prof. Josh Byrne hosted a conversation in our Perth studio alongside Hassell designers Ben Rees and Zannah Anderson. The conversation spanned commercial and residential, urban and public spaces and the potential for adaptive reuse in the transition to net zero.

Listen to the podcast via the player below. Listen, follow, rate and review Hassell Talks in your favourite podcast app. 

Hassell Talks

Season 5 Episode 6


Karla Fox-Reynolds


Professor Josh Byrne
The Honorable Dr Brad Pettitt MLC
Ben Rees, Hassell
Zannah Anderson, Hassell
Mark Taylor, Hesperia


James Campbell

52% of people and about 72% of emissions are associated with cities. So, if you get cities right, we actually solve a whole lot of problems.”

Honorable Dr Brad Pettitt MLC

Music plays, followed by voice of host, Karla Fox-Reynolds as she introduces episode.

From global design practice Hassell, this is Hassell Talks - A podcast series passionate about the transformative power of design to make the world a better place.

I’m Karla Fox-Reynolds, Sustainable Design Leader in Hassell’s Perth studio and I’m your host for this episode.

It’s an exciting one because we talk about how Perth could transition to a net zero city and what role regenerative design can play in doing that. 

I’m in Perth, Australia – on Whadjuk country and I acknowledge the Noongar elders past, present and emerging.

In March 2023, as part of the Perth Design Week we hosted a conversation in our Perth studio, inviting people from across our industry.

We asked them to share their perspectives, challenges, and questions. We had about 60 people there, and today, we’re sharing an edited version of that event with you.

As you’ll hear, the conversation was robust. 

We spoke about what benefits could come from being a net zero city, going beyond low carbon emissions and how designers, policy makers and other industry colleagues can play important - and collaborative - roles in getting us there.

Ideas were shared on how to challenge project briefs through engagement, and applying a more holistic view to a project.

We heard how homes are the low hanging fruit’ - an opportunity for public private partnerships, and that construction codes in Australia are not enabling industry - to design or deliver high performing buildings. 

Our MC, and an old friend of mine, Professor Josh Byrne kicked the panel event off. 

Josh, who Australian listeners may know from the ABC’s long running TV show Gardening Australia – is also the inaugural Dean of Sustainable Futures at Curtin University and Director of Josh Byrne & Associates, a multi-award winning, WA based consulting practice integrating the fields of landscape architecture, urban design and built environment sustainability. 

Enjoy the episode.

Professor Josh Byrne introduces:

So, let’s meet our group to get underway. Firstly, Dr. Brad Pettitt. So, Brad, as we all know, is a self-professed sustainability nerd. He’s well known to all of us as the much-loved former Mayor of Fremantle, and prior to his role as Mayor of City of Fremantle, he was the Dean of the School of Sustainability at Murdoch, taking over from Professor Peter Newman, of course, who’s now at Curtin.

In 2021, Brad was elected to the Legislative Council of the WA Parliament. Brad champions a ground-up approach to sustainability, and is leading the Net Zero Perth initiative, with a range of stakeholders from industry, government, academia, and civil society, and we’ll hear more about that this afternoon, I’m sure.

Next, we have Karla Fox-Reynolds, of course, who is now with Hassell as their sustainable design leader in the Perth studio, and part of the practice’s global sustainability team. Karla participates in national industry working groups such as the GBCA’s Sustainable Precinct Expert Reference Panel, and previously held roles at both Curtin University, where I worked with Karla, and also Climate-KIC Australia.

Then we have Ben Rees, who is a senior associate architect here at Hassell. He was a project team leader on the WA Museum, and is now project lead for Murdoch Square. Ben is interested in how we better define buildings, and how we can apply systems thinking to optimise the design, delivery, and operation of our buildings so their resource and energy efficiency is optimised.

And then finally, we have Zannah Anderson, who is an interior designer here at Hassell. Zannah moved back to Australia one year ago after spending four years in Dubai, and is currently working on the interior design for Home Fire’s film studio. She is interested in the microscale of sustainability and regenerative design, and the impact of carefully considered materials and spaces. Right. With that, let’s get underway.

So, let’s start with Brad, and can you just give us your pitch for Net Zero Perth as an initiative? What are you trying to achieve, and how do you see it becoming a reality?

Dr. Brad Pettitt answers:

Yeah. Thanks, Josh, and getting carbon emissions down to zero is really important, so energy is a key part of it, but it’s also about built form and how we planned the nature of our city. Obviously, you could have a net-zero city that continued to sprawl, and just relied on electric cars and renewable energy, but that’s not a very livable city. It’s also about livability and rethinking the urbanform. Of course, that links in with transport, which becomes a really, another key, key part of it around how we move around, and what’s the best way to link that in.

And then finally, urban greening, which of course has become a really key part of that, because if you’re going to have a livable low-carbon city, then it’s one that’s going to be a green city as well. Some of the fine-grain stuff … which I know many of you have been involved with. How do we redesign the city block, and our neighbourhood blocks as well, all the way down to the households go, how we redefine our homes, make them part of the solution?

So, it’s got these 12 chapters, because you’ve got the four bits on energy transport, building reform, and greening Cities. We hear a lot about net-zero by 2050. That’s good, but it’s not actually matching up with what the science says we need to do. So, how can we speed that up, but do that in a way that inspires? I mean, I think there’s often the sense of, it feels like a bit of a hair shirt approach sometimes, the idea that … the transition, and I think it can be actually just better, and actually so inspiring how this idea of a low-carbon livable net-zero city can be a better city, I guess is what we’re hoping it will be, and the idea is we’ll try and have some drafts out around the middle of this year, and then we want to actually go back to committee and say, What’s missing?” and actually have it as a very collaborative project as we go forward as well.

Professor Josh Byrne responds :

A quick follow up question, if I can, just to help everyone understand how this might fit into other work that’s happening in the policy and legislation space at the moment in WA, of course, with the state government’s proposed climate change legislation. How is the round table that you’re chairing, and the fantastic industry and academic engagement that you do have in place through that? How is that aligning with the sectorial consultation work that’s happening, and the proposed targets that are meted for towards the end of the year?

Dr. Brad Pettitt responds:

That reminds me of my favourite numbers, which I always like to talk about when I think about Net Zero, about cities and carbon. Cities make up only 2% of land mass, around 52% of people live in cities, and about 72% of emissions are associated with cities, so if you get cities right, we actually solve a whole lot of problems.

And the government’s working really hard this year, and there’s some really good work happening around sectoral emissions reductions strategies or SERS, which is a process that they hope to go public on in the second half of this year, and what we’re trying in many ways is work alongside that, but inspire that to go further and harder, and better. Which is actually why it’s really nice we have had WA Environment Minister Whitby and his staff involved in the round table. Because some of that work will happen there. The government’s committed to legislating Net Zero by 2050, and to actually come up with a series of interim targets, and what I hope we can do is inform what those interim targets could be, and make those as ambitious as possible. There’s a whole bunch of low-hanging fruit out there in this space that I think is really exciting, that I think we can do.

Professor Josh Byrne responds :

Thank you. Karla, I might throw to you next. We know that, at the moment, the term net-zero’, it’s everywhere, and it’s one of those things like the cloud was 15 years ago. It’s net-zero; everyone’s kind of got that sort of, but no one quite knows what it means. What are you doing in your work, and where are you seeing the conversation from leading design firms in relation to this notion of regenerative design to go beyond net-zero?

Karla Fox Reynolds responds.

Thanks, Josh. Hassell has made a commitment to what they’re calling the sustainability framework, and in doing that, they have employed a global sustainability team. That started last year with the employment of Sam Peart; she’s the Global Head of Sustainability. And that’s not just focused in one area; that’s across all offices. The mentality is that sustainability becomes our base load. That becomes our minimum. And we’re working towards that regenerative design space, so we’re no longer working in this sort of green or degenerative area, we’re working from sustainable to regenerative design.

We’re not saying at this point that we know exactly what regenerative design looks like. It’s going to have a whole host of different complexities. There are going to be a lot of different solutions dependent on the site, project, client, portfolio, location, and so on. But, what we’re saying is that we’re a part of the solution, and we recognise our role and our responsibility. This is a team sport. We all are going to play a role, and we’re sort of jumping on board. In doing that, we’ve recognised 12 principles 12 is a magic number. And that is, like you just said, we’re not just talking about carbon. We are talking about the site. We’re talking about ecology. We’re talking about materials. We’re talking about the social aspect as well.

So, I think one of the big pieces that design brings to this is about recognising that how we need to create regenerative design can enable thrive-ability for people and nature, and the environment. What can we be doing to enable these places for us to all live and thrive together?

So, that’s the vision that we’re working towards, and for Hassell, that means all people, all projects. So, as part of one of our tasks as the sustainability team, and the reason why we’re going to be spread across the business and offices is so that we can be working with architects and designers that already have their fantastic skills, they’re leading their field, but what can we do to bring them on the journey, enable sustainable mindsets, help them to recognise that actually they probably have most of the skills, they have the ideas, and what can we do to help them to recognise where the opportunities are, when to have the conversations? What are the questions that they need to be asking? Who are the clients that we want to be working with? Where do we align? How do we challenge the norm, go beyond business as usual?

So, like I said, sustainability is our minimum, but then we’re moving to regenerative design, and that means thinking outside of the typical project boundaries.

Professor Josh Byrne responds:

Okay. Probably a good time to throw to a couple of project architects who are working on the details, so we’re going from the sort of high-level concepts into the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts here, so I might start with you. So, as an architect working on some of Perth’s biggest, most exciting projects, what is it that you’re not getting adequate guidance from at the moment? So, with Hassell framing its new 12-principle sustainability framework, and moving towards this notion of regenerative design, and trying to put some structure, and some metrics, and some evidence-based sort of parameters around that, I’m intrigued to hear from your perspective working on the detail. What do you feel you’re lacking at the moment, given that there is some excellent guidance at a sort of design guider perspective coming out of the Design WA series, for example. There are some well-established sustainability frameworks at the moment. GBCA building challenge others, if we can stretch that far.

So, I guess my question is, what are the missing mechanisms that are not enabling you to take projects where you think they need to go?

Ben Rees answers:

I think the main question is, how do we measure performance in the projects we do, and there’s all sorts of qualitative and quantitative metrics around what success looks like, and in all of our projects we have to apply sort of multiple different lenses and different angles as to analysing how a project can be sustainable, regenerative, and all the rest of it. So, it’s kind of like you have to take a holistic view of everything everywhere all at once, and you have to think about sort of scales from macro to micro, and time, short time to long time.

And every project is sort of different, depending on the brief, the budget, the building typology. On a project like the museum, it’s actually quite easy to achieve a lot of success, because everyone’s behind it. It’s kind of a one-off for Perth. It’s a really, really important building, and so it achieved a lot of things in terms of adaptive reuse, regenerating the cultural precinct, and a high-performing building, but for me … and I think a lot of us … there’s an enormous frustration, in terms of the codes and the regulatory framework, about how we build buildings, and how to achieve a high performing building.

Because, to be frank, we’re about 20 years behind Europe in terms of what a high performance is and looks like, in terms of, say, the fabric of it. And I’m sort of referring to thermal and energy performance, air tightness, that sort of thing. We have these sort of leaky sieves where, every two minutes, all of the air in the building either has to be heated or cooled, because it’s all leaking out at sort of 15 to 20 air changes an hour. NCC22 is a minor improvement, but it’s not going that far, and we’ve kicked the can down the road until 2025 here in WA. The reality is we’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so those sort of standards are minimum standards for compliance. We need to get really aspirational.

How do we achieve, not just a car that’s roadworthy, but a high performance? That sort of thing. If you designed a car to the minimum standards, you probably wouldn’t want to buy it. You’d want to get something better than that, right? And it doesn’t necessarily cost loads more money to do it, but it does require a change in thinking that takes a lot more consideration on building science, and how buildings actually work more than what they look like, and I guess it also requires a major education drive, in terms of the community, the trades, and how those kind of buildings get built, because it’s different.

But, I think we should be looking at things like passive house, and those kind of technologies or building methods, and seeing what we can learn from them, how we can apply them. In Frankfurt, they’ve just opened a passive house hospital of 700 beds, all designed to … And for anyone who doesn’t know what passive house is, it’s super-insulated, triple-glazed heat recovery ventilation. It’s this sort of ultra high-performance energy-efficient building typology. And if it can be done in Europe … Yes, you need an enormous amount of kind of regulatory impetus, or a very visionary client, but all the tools exist for us to do really high-performance buildings, but we’ve got a real problem here. We need to build a lot more housing, a lot more social housing, and the fact is, if we build that to current standards, you’re talking about …

In 25 years time it’s supposedly net-zero, but if we’re building it to current standards, it’s going to be substandard then, and it’s going to need to be retrofitted, and who’s going to pay for that retrofitting? You’re just essentially, I think, risking creating a problem further down the track that is too expensive to solve, and I guess for us the frustration is that we could solve it now, but the framework has to be there, because the incentive isn’t necessarily there to go beyond the code, because it’s hard and it costs more.

Professor Josh Byrne answers:

We’ll come back to how we might de-risk policy change a little bit later on. I think, from my perspective, that’s one of the most exciting opportunities we have as a fraternity.

Ben Rees

Absolutely. Yeah.

Professor Josh Byrne continues:

By demonstrating leadership and providing the room and the space for regulators to actually fill. Zannah, so much of the conversation around Net Zero aspirations is around operational energy. From an interior design perspective, when you’re looking at, in terms of LCA, it’s the regular refitting and refurbishment of buildings, and specifically interiors, which, over the life of the building, really do start to add up. I’d be keen to hear any reflections that you’ve got in terms of trends you’re seeing in the space, and whether or not the kind of importance of Net Zero that we see from a … I guess a high-level policy setting, and project aspiration level … is that filtering down to the detail that you’re working on, and is that conversation mature in this part of the design?

Zannah Anderson:

Mm-hm. Well, it should be, right? It should be filtering down. And I think the more that you listen to the discourse, just generally, you can kind of get an understanding that interiors is sort of … well, for us, our options are quite straightforward, and they’re there. It’s the materials we choose, the furniture we choose, and the way that we choose to detail our designs. And so, in a sense, there’s a much more forward trajectory, straight, narrow path to follow than trying to do something aspirationally kind of in an urban setting, which is much larger.

I think it’s interesting to look at Hassell’s sustainability framework when it comes to interiors, and there’s sort of notions in there that should always be kept in the back of your head, and they’re things that, coming from the Middle East, I definitely … that didn’t cross my path. But, it’s coming down to board sizes of a material, and making sure that we’re not creating extra waste, and purchasing extra product, but then it can be further than that, that if you have that time for research, and the budget that allows you, you can start looking into materiality, which is much more conscious, and much better in a longevity situation.

Professor Josh Byrne responds:

I might just throw to Karla, just picking up on the idea of retrofitting. And you mentioned earlier … I know we’re sort of going from commercial buildings back to resi, but I want to focus on the residential housing for a moment, because I know that Karla, in her previous life at Climate-KIC Australia, was involved in an incredible piece of work with several universities involved … Curtin being one, UTS being another … called A Million Homes, and it was looking at the plans and processes and systems required to rapidly retrofit a million homes or more. So, scaling up the types of retrofitting practises that we all know work, and return very real benefits to households in terms of comfort and health and savings, just to give us your take on the opportunities in retrofit versus new build, we often get excited with new builds, but how about the retrofits?

Karla Fox Reynolds answers:

I get excited about retrofit! And mostly for homes, but also when you look in the city landscape, and I would love to know the numbers of how many buildings just within the city that sit dormant, and what we could start to consider what we could actually do with that, what policy would open up those opportunities.

But then, looking at residential … and Ben started to touch on it … If we are building new homes now that are going to need to be retrofitted in five, 10 … Well, in reality, they need to be retrofitted the day after somebody moves in the way they’re being built right now. We already have … There’s 10 million homes within Australia. Approximately eight million of those need retrofitting. Obviously, NCC2022 is progress for Australia. It took us 10, 12 years to have some progress. Hopefully, there is already, behind the scenes, a lot of talk about what the next NCC looks like … Yay! We have a visitor! And there is talk about, from the industry, driving that towards net-zero. We already have examples of that internationally.

From a scaling perspective, the issue that we found is that it isn’t about the solutions. We generally know what needs to be done for our home. We have the tools now. There’s the National Residential Energy Efficiency cap that can be done. It costs a few hundred dollars. Somebody would walk through a home, and go through the process, and give you a star rating, and then also tell you what they would recommend to be able to increase the efficiency of your home.

Something that we also found, though, is that people have got in the actual process, and even those of us that are involved in the industry sort of going through the process from that, I want to improve my home,” to the actual realisation of, That is a very difficult process.” You might now have a star rating, and something that tells you, but then who do you call? Do you know a trade local that is actually capable of doing that? If you were to find a plumber and say … or an electrician, and say, I’d like to remove all gas from my home. We’d like to electrify. We’re thinking about putting in a heat pump,” they’ll probably just try and talk you into having gas instantaneous, for example. That’s a tricky piece that we need to come over, and it’s a case of upscaling, and there’s a lot that can be done, from a government perspective, to enable that.

Professor Josh Byrne responds:What I loved about that piece of work, it’s not just reiterating the stuff we already know, in terms of how we go about making a conventional Aussie standalone detached house net-zero in operation, and more comfortable; it’s actually all about, how do you build the supply chains, and the business ecosystem in this country to actually make it a financially positive outcome as well?

Dr. Brad Pettitt responds:

Homes in many ways actually are the low-hanging fruit, because, I think we’ve all seen some of the work that Saul Griffith and the whole Rewiring Australia advocate for such as pulling gas out of your buildings, electrifying heating homes, and insulation. It’s not rocket science. It pays for itself really quickly. And I think, for me, a whole bunch of stuff in that space that just makes a huge amount of sense that we need to do quickly, and that actually, I think, just makes sense. But you need, again, investment in building up industry and capacity to do that, and enabling especially …

Because there’s a real challenge with these things, and it also applies to electric vehicles, even electric bikes, which we talked about earlier, where you’ve got this upfront capital cost, but then they just pay for themselves so beautifully over time, but how do you help people who aren’t wealthy to be able to get past that first hurdle and actually do that? And that’s a really important role for government, where government steps up. And I often look at the ACT, who do lots of really good stuff in the space. They actually offer low … or actually, sometimes no-interest loans to help people buy into it actually, so they can do some of this low-hanging fruit. And then, all of a sudden, those households … And Saul Griffith’s numbers are that, by the end of this decade, the average household will save $5000 a year on energy bills if they electrify. And by electrify, it means electrify your transport, your car, and electrify your house.

That’s huge savings, and if you can help especially lower-income households do that, I think that’s some of the best low-hanging fruit we can do.

Karla Fox Reynolds answers:

So, how do we do that? Do the targets play a role here? Is that something that’s being considered within the departments? Because now, obviously, I’m speaking from a WA state government perspective. We have a target, and everything, every asset, every building, every tenancy will have an impact on that target. Is that a way that it can be communicated that if we aren’t going to be trying to reach this target, then another building or another tenancy is going to have to make up for that.Josh:

Logic suggests that it must do eventually, but has it filtered down to that point yet, of working that out?

Dr. Brad Pettitt responds:

I think that’s the process that’s happening right now, through SERS, I think, is how … and who takes that weight in terms of actually meeting that target? 


So, this presents a really interesting opportunity, and I think we’re all wanting to take something away from this afternoon about how we look to operationalize or implement initiatives in various shapes and forms to nudge things along. And if the role out of SERS, and if there are these sectoral reviews that are happening, which would include the delivery of public buildings and assets, for those who work in the design fraternity, in that part of the industry, there’s an opportunity for particularly the big firms that are designing, that have significant reputations and are trusted for their advice. If they’re speaking up and saying, Here’s the opportunity to go beyond what you normally do. Consider adjusting the brief so that you can meet those returns of carbon emission savings as you’re required to do under the state government targets,” that’s an intervention point that is live now, between now and the end of the year.

Dr. Brad Pettitt responds:

My fear sometimes with the Net Zero language, though, is … and I think this is actually a real danger for how this plays out … is that we’re going to try and have a net-zero version of what we do already, and my fear is that eventually you’ll swap out every internal combustion car with an electric car, and we just may have every house with a solar panel on it, and we think that’s okay. I guess that’s what I was trying to say, is let’s don’t make that our solution to our carbon problem.

Karla Fox Reynolds answers:

Something I’d like to add in is the idea of a whole-of-life carbon measurement being done as part of the planning process. So, in some part, it’s, how do we change the measures of success, and how do we change our priorities? So, if we’re talking languages that go beyond … If we’re thinking from an economic perspective, it goes beyond just the dollar, right? We start talking about carbon, we start talking about comfort, we start to think about health, society, and all of those amalgamated as the same conversation, and we measure them in whatever manner we best can. And obviously environment in there as well, but that’s a tricky one, really tricky one.

And it starts to change what a building, or a precinct, or a city would look like, because our measure of success is different. So, I think that’s something I’d really like to see, and that needs to happen in planning and in process, but it also needs to happen, that shift of mindset.

Mark Taylor:

Mark Taylor from Hesperia. Great conversation. Thanks, everybody. I was just going to talk about our Net Zero projects strategy. We’re achieving net-zero now. Our current projects are set up to measure, reduce, and offset, and I actually think that’s a bit of a minimum. Now we’re trying to get away from the offsetting. By 2030 we want to be doing very little offsetting and still be net-zero, and by 2040 having zero carbon projects. That’s the trajectory that we’re trying to put ourselves on at the moment, I guess.

But I was going to say, around the focus on carbon, I think, it’s obviously important. We’re doing net zero to understand carbon, and what makes a difference, but the thing I notice again and again is that when we do try and engage with these difficult problems, we end up getting much better buildings. If you think, I don’t want to use concrete, I’m going to use timber on this one,” replace the steel in our sheds or something, it’s a much nicer building and all kinds of amazing co-benefits seem to emerge.

And I think that goes for landscape a little bit as well, as we try and repair, do some of this nature regeneration, we’re just ending up with better landscapes and better spaces. There’s also energy. As we move to renewable energy, there’s different ways we can think now, where rather than just wanting to be more and more efficient all the time, we can say, Well, what is actually a really good use of energy? What should we be using it for? Where do we need to be efficient, and where could we actually use a bit more?”. This is because we use it at the right time of day, or from the right sources. Recirculating air in buildings, for example, maybe we can just stop that because we can run the HVAC on renewable energy, with no carbon emissions, and then it’s a much, much healthier result.

I’m just saying, there’s a whole lot of potential co-benefits on this journey. For a lot of people here in the room, that’s actually our job. We’re already wanting to go there. We kind of get what we have to do, but to make it more compelling, I think there just is a good story there that will bring others around. It goes along with the hard work of change, and so let’s celebrate these unforeseen benefits and keep telling the good story. I never saw a project that didn’t get better in the effort to make it lower carbon or more sustainable. 

Professor Josh Byrne responds :

Well said. To wrap up, to Brad and Karla, as I mentioned earlier, I think we all wanted to sort of leave this conversation this afternoon with a sense of how, as a fraternity in this design space, we can all contribute to positive change. I think we’re all doing that in our own ways with the work we do, but maybe, Brad, if I can start with you first, what are some of the … I guess the two or three key ways that design practitioners, at this point in time, in Perth, can go beyond just collaboration, but actually contribute to fast-tracking the transition towards seeing really good design, and net-zero, beyond zero outcomes, and the broader sustainability outcomes in the built environment? How do we get to that point beyond collaboration?

Dr. Brad Pettitt responds:

Yeah. There’s a few ways, and collaboration is going to be, I think, remains key, but also talking up the successes, and how do we … And they’re happening, I just don’t think that people know about them. Actually sharing the things that are going beyond business as usual, that are getting us to where we want to go in terms of net-zero and nature positive and all this. And I guess that’s partly what I’m hoping to do with the Net Zero Project. You actually start to, in many ways, to find a new, better normal; meaning that we all feel like we can get excited about it, because I think that’s, in many ways, going to be part of it.

And then it’s going to be around push … I mean, I really do think government has a really big role to play here, and government cares a huge amount about what industry thinks. And I think there needs to be a really clear voice to government around … I mean, in many ways, it’s not fair to industry that the worst performers get to succeed because the regulations don’t actually support the best performers, so we actually need industries that actually ask and demand that government sets regulation that gets us where we need to go, and actually rewards the people in this room who are doing good stuff, and actually rewards those kinds of projects.

I think if we do those things, I … I keep coming back to this fact that we have the technology, we know what to do, and now it’s just a way of, how do we ramp that up, and inspire, and actually collaborate, but also actually start to join up some of those things for what hopefully, and in fact must be a decade that is totally different, where we actually start to totally reimagine how we do the built environment, how we design our cities. Because that, as I said at the start, that’s just some of the key changes, some of the change that we can do right now. It’s exciting, but it’s going to require a huge push from everybody asking for something that is different.

Professor Josh Byrne responds:

Thank you. Karla?

Karla Fox Reynolds answers:

This is an opportunity for public/​private partnership so that we go beyond collaboration. We can partner. We can all bring something different to the table. I’m going to throw it out there and say that architects can make the ordinary extraordinary, but it’s about adding a bit of fun to this. It’s hard work. It’s complex. There are a lot of many, as Mark said, boring steps that need to be in process; however, there’s so much fun to be had in that process, and we need to envisage what we want the future that we want to be a part of. What does that look like? And I know a lot of people, they refer back to their meaning being about their children, and that is, for some people, their driver. But this isn’t just for our children. It’s going to impact us this decade.

So, it’s about, what is your … What do you envisage the world to look like? What do you envisage your neighbourhood, your community … What do you envisage being the base minimum being? Because there will be some people where, because they have so much money, they will be able to adapt, but there will be many people that won’t be able to adapt, and if we’re not being able to lift them up as a part of the community, we are failing still. So, it’s about everybody getting there together, being creative, being brave, being human, which I think we all learned from the pandemic. That was a bit of a … They were able to be a little bit more vulnerable with each other, so let’s run with that, and achieve the vision. I think that’s it.

Professor Josh Byrne wraps up the event:

Well, thank you to both of you for being part of this conversation and a big thank you to those of you who were comfortable to come forward and take a seat and make some comments. A big thanks, of course, to all of you for coming along. I believe this event booked out within a matter of hours, which is really testimony to the concept, so well done to Hassell for hosting us and putting this forward. I’m sure it’s going to be one of the highlights of Perth Design Week.

I guess the last comment that I’ll make before closing is, just picking up on that point that Brad made in his closing words, which is around … We have a unique opportunity, I think, right now … and certainly between now and the end of the year, when the SERS process concludes, as the state government continue to work through their consultation process for setting these targets that will be legislated on how we make our way to net-zero and beyond … for the thought leaders, of which many are in this room, can contribute to raising the bar and the standard of conversation that is happening with industry and the wider community.

And it’s about process of … normalising’ is the behavioural science term in this aspect, is that we’re moving away from the idea of having exemplars. They are important. They raise awareness. They excite people. Clients love exemplars. But we need to normalise this, and have it as part of a conversation that people get. We have to move beyond language of just net-zero, because it is rapidly becoming a buzz term that no one quite understands, but it’s okay, net-zero’s sorted, so we’ve got a positive future. We have multiple challenges in front of us; obviously, the biodiversity challenge, the toxicity and persistent materials and chemicals challenge, and of course climate change, which is arguably the most urgent at the moment.

And so, to really address all of those, design is about doing things better, and I think as was pointed out on a couple of occasions, designers need to do more than just focus on their own projects. They need to work together, and I think collectively we have a huge role to play.

Karla Fox Reynolds concludes the event with her outro.

It was really encouraging to see and hear about the connections being made between setting targets, measuring impact and the responsibility to deliver aspirations at project level. 

We know that the process isn’t easy and, in some places, quite complex and challenging.

But - there are obvious opportunities for us all to work together the environment that allows for creative and brave partnerships, where we can challenge our priorities and our measurements for success. 

Ultimately we all want to be a part of the solution that empowers us all to live and thrive with country and its creatures.

In the time since the event, the Perth has been energised by the conversations that have continued. 

Hassell’s sustainability framework gives permission to our designers to think systemically and to explore with clients and partners what it means to design regeneratively. 

It also helps them to see the role they play in creating and realising the vision of a net zero Perth. 

There are so many good stories to come!

Thanks again to our MC Josh Byrne, to everyone who contributed to the conversation and the many people working behind the scenes to create this event.

And thank you to our listeners – we know you’re as passionate about the role design plays in creating a beautiful, resilient, and inclusive future – as we are.

I’m Karla Fox Reynolds, you’ve been listening to an episode of Hassell Talks. 

Follow, rate and review us – we love to hear your feedback and your reviews help other people find our podcast.

This episode was produced by Siaw Chai and Prue Vincent.


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