UniSA leading the way in low carbon living industry engagement

Industry Friends of Low Carbon Living Forum 1

Industry, government and academia stand together as one to meet the challenge of a low carbon built environment, which was demonstrated at the inaugural ‘Industry Friends of Low Carbon Living’ Forum on Tuesday 17th May held at the University of South Australia.

Former Premier of South Australia, the Hon. Dean Brown AO, Chair of the UniSA Research Node for Low Carbon Living, was delighted that over 60 industry, government and research leaders had such an opportunity to engage, share experiences and build contacts.  Dean stated “This is what it’s all about – bringing people together, building partnerships, and finding solutions.”

The Research Node for Low Carbon Living is South Australia’s hub for multi-disciplinary industry-driven research into transitioning the local economy into a more sustainable and prosperous low carbon built environment.

Scientia Professor Deo Prasad AO, CEO for the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) which co-funds the Node along with the University of South Australia, was delighted with the response from local industry, stating “The UniSA Node is leading the pack in terms of industry engagement and making a real difference for the transition to a low carbon economy. Industry, government and research collaboration is essential for an innovative economy”

At the Forum a number of industry leaders took the opportunity to present on their experience of creating low carbon buildings, precincts and organisations; whilst government representatives informed the audience of the key policies and programs that will shape the a low carbon future for Adelaide and South Australia.

The not-for-profit organisation, Uniting Communities, celebrated its carbon neutral achievement whilst also sharing the tough deliberations it had made to reach that milestone. As a major service organisation, Uniting Communities chose to invest some of its resources in areas other than direct client assistance for the greater good of their clients’ future. CEO Mr Simon Schrapel noted that research has showed that climate change will affect most people in our client base – the socially disadvantaged, the elderly, and people on lower incomes. “Aiming for carbon neutrality was part of our strong moral compass to serve our clients as best we can” he espoused. Importantly, the carbon neutral investment decisions have paid off, quite literally - with the organisation saving $1M over the past three years from developing a lower carbon footprint, money that has been redirected to provide better services to their clients.

Architect and TS4 Living Director Mr Brett Aylen showcased the climate-responsive design utilised in creating the award winning Zero Carbon House in the Lochiel Park Green Village, Adelaide. As an architectural practice specialising in energy efficient homes that are low-to-zero carbon, TS4 Living was well placed to share practical insight into getting environmentally sustainable design off the drawing board, through the planning processes, and into the real world.

Using the example of the rapid transition to digital cameras - and the commensurate collapse of the film-based camera industry – Commercial & General Executive Director, Mr Simon Toovey demonstrated the necessity to move with and stay ahead of the rapidly changing commercial environment. Simon showed just how fast client expectations change demanding better and better low carbon performance. "In 2012 we achieved the trifecta in 5 Star Green Certification for the Adelaide Police HQ - this was a big deal. In 2015 our People's Choice Credit Union Building attained 6 Green Star Rating. And now our clients think this is just the minimum performance standard with new developments raising the bar to carbon neutral". Simon highlighted that it's not accepted, and it's not good business, to rest on ones laurels. Organisations need to keep striving for greater achievements, and face low-carbon challenges head-on.

The Government of South Australia, represented by the Manager, Climate Change of the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources Ms Michelle English, outlined the 'think local, challenge global' aspiration of the State Government and Adelaide City Council for the City of Adelaide to become the world's first carbon neutral city. With commercial energy users the largest contributors to carbon outputs in the CBD, the Industry Friends of Low Carbon Living Forum provided an important platform for government and industry to connect and find solutions.

Demonstrating the link between the stakeholders in the room, Node Manager Dr Stephen Berry highlighted that the Node has already established a CRC for Low Carbon Living-funded PhD scholarship, in partnership with the State Government and Adelaide City Council, focused upon helping the transition of Adelaide to low carbon mobility. The impact of transport is recognised as the second-largest contributor to the city's carbon emissions behind building energy use.

With responsibility for 3,000 resident animals in the heart of the city, Mr Wayne Yorath of Zoos South Australia, brought to light the carbon challenges faced by this not-for-profit conservation charity that “…exists to save species from extinction and connect people with nature”, in the most economical and responsible way. The Adelaide Zoo has large and diverse energy needs and whilst it isn’t aiming to achieve carbon neutrality in the immediate future, it is working hard towards reducing its environmental footprint via seven foci: Environmentally Sustainable Development; Energy; Carbon; Procurement; Water; Habitat; and Waste. Wayne shared with the audience that the introduction of waste management reporting has helped the Adelaide Zoo to benchmark and set new goals – from 2009 when the reporting came in, waste to landfill decreased from 197 tonnes to 79 tonnes; recycling increased from 228 tonnes to 380 tonnes; and the recovery rate skyrocketed from 54% to 82%. Quantification is the key – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Battery storage is touted as the ‘next big thing’ to shape the way we manage energy in homes and workplaces. The Forum invited the Manager of Network Strategy, SA Power Networks, Mr Mark Vincent to speak from an electricity grid perspective. The issue is particularly pertinent to electricity network providers whose organisation could potentially suffer financially as customers migrate away from grid reliance to self-sufficiency through combining renewable energy with energy storage. Mark provided insight into energy resource forecasts and showed the organisation to be acknowledging the potential impact of technology change, and leading the way by conducting research to see how that technology transition could enhance the stability and reliability of the grid.

Node Leader, Professor Wasim Saman was extremely pleased with the success of the inaugural Industry Friends Forum and invited all interested persons to the next Forum on Tuesday 2 August 2016.  Further information about the Research Node for Low Carbon Living and the Industry Friends Forums is available at: http://unisa.edu.au/research-node-for-low-carbon-living

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