Andrew Pettifer and his wife Tracy Mellorare now back in Sydney after a three months trip to the outback up to the Northern Territory and down to Adelaide picking up a bunch of useful information on the way, such as why towns are built where they are.

Something Pettifer discovered is that Adelaide decided sometime in the mid 1800s that it wanted to be the first globally connected city, through the up and coming technology of telegraphs, so it built a line straight north. The towns are spaced roughly 250 miles apart because that’s how far the signal would travel before needing a boost.

Armed with such good urban planning insights, Pettifer is now back in Sydney and this week and started at his new gig at Mott McDonald. He’s not keen to compare, he says, but the company has more than a few similarities to Arup, his previous employer. It’s London based, is on a strong growth trajectory with staff approaching 17,000 globally and 1000 in Australia, it’s employee owned and hungry to place an innovative footprint on the built environment.

In Australia, it’s headed by chief executive Adrian Jones who joined the company three years ago after eight years with Aurecon.

The company has also been on our radar in recent times for snapping up (in April) Amanda Sturgeon who was appointed head of regenerative design, after nine years as chief executive officer of the International Living Building Institute.

Sturgeon has kindly agreed to take part in our next symposium on 24 November called Building Circularity, on low embodied carbon and the circular economy. (Details coming very soon indeed!)

According to Pettifer, Sturgeon’s appointment is clear evidence that the company wants to make an impact on edgier sustainability work, where it can carve out a point of difference.

The business has been growing “like billy-o” and, he says, work on the metro, Victoria Cross Station in North Sydney, the Sydney Fish Markets has helped generate capacity to invest in “what they want to do more broadly.”

Pettifer, whose role is to lead the building environment and precincts team in Australia, says this is not so much the “quantum of work, but the sort of work to help create a strong business, to help improve the environment we live in”.

“We can bring in new specialism, a new way of doing thing and the whole regenerative side of things that Amanda is leading on. It offers interesting possibilities.” Especially now he adds when six star Green Star really should be regarded as business as usual. 

“And that’s what we are exploring. We’re not saying we’ve got all the answers but we’re setting those aspirations.”

Meanwhile, the motor home has been parked at secure location north of Dubbo. And no, they are not renting it out or lending it out to anyone else because, well, they’ve become rather attached to their motorised home and don’t want anyone else messing it up.

Another person who’s hit multiple decks in the built environment in recent times is Jennifer Cunich, former chief executive of the Australian Institute of Architects and the Property Council’s Victorian division.

Cunich is now chair of the audit committee of the Victorian Planning Authority, sits on the board of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, is on the Monash University Estates Committee and that’s in addition to the day job as lead program manager at Wood Solutions.

Cunich says there are many opportunities in her various roles, in particular to share good work with a broader audience. At AHURI she is part of a program led by chair Adrian Harrington to do just that and will work to do so with another two new appointment board members from the private sector.

The information produced by the academics who develop the research is immensely valuable, she says, and deserves a bigger airing.

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