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Mad Men for the Planet: The dramatic change in how we view sustainability in buildings

The waist coats, clunky briefcases and retro brooches were out in force in Melbourne on Wednesday morning for our latest Mad Men (and women) for the Planet event.

Some of the biggest names in the built environment industry came together at the InterContinental on Collins Street to workshop ways to engage staff in the sustainability story of their buildings.

Participants included City of Melbourne, Sustainability Victoria, Dexus, CBRE, ISPT, Energy Action and Ausnviro.

Our dynamic MC Howard Parry-Husbands from Pollinate and guest speakers Adam Cadwallader from oOh!Media and Craig Roussac from Building’s Alive shared insights on how to make that sustainability message a winner for each particular building.

Event sponsor NABERS is offering up to $10,000 in matched funding for the winner of the NABERS Creative Stars Competition to implement their concept. The national competition closes on 9 June and the NABERS team was combing the room for a potential winner.

Offices have come a long way from the Mad Men era when the air was thick with cigarette smoke.  Healthy offices are in vogue and office workers want to work in a building that’s clean, green and good for the planet.

Parry-Husbands, chief executive of Pollinate, wowed participants of the Mad Men Sydney event in November and kicked off the Melbourne event with the same sense of fun.

He specialises in how to manage consumer behaviour change and influence positive transformations, working with clients such as SBS, Lendlease, City of Sydney and Planet Ark.

Adam Cadwallader, group director, oOh!Media

Getting that engagement

Adam Cadwallader, group director of oOh!Media, was the first cab off the rank. He has worked in the media and advertising sector in Australia and New Zealand for more than 20 years. At oOh!Media, he has driven significant digital, content and audience experience initiatives, including the launch of three online publishing platforms.

Cadwallader heads up a division that places digital screens in office towers, CBD cafes and pubs, universities, gyms, sports centres and even medical centres. The company has 643 office towers in almost every capital city in the country.

The company engaged Access Testing to research the impact of the screens on communicating messages to the public. Forty people were given a vague brief to walk the city streets and later had to recall messages they had seen on digital screens around the city. The results, according to Cadwallader, were phenomenal.

“Ninety-one per cent of overall engagement – and that includes people who were looking at their phones,” he said. “There was an engagement rate of three-and-a-half seconds without looking away.”

Engagement rates are measured in milliseconds with the average being under a second.

“So to get that – 3.5 seconds – was very, very exciting – 16 times higher than average – a resounding ‘yes’, people are watching the screens.”

Cadwallader said he wanted to inspire the audience to think about digital screens and office towers a little differently.

oOh!Media is working with ISPT on a number of towers around Australia this year and the property fund manager has moved from having NABERS rating certificates located on walls outside the building managers’ offices to proudly displaying the achievement on digital static panels.

“Hats off to ISPT and NABERS for coming together on this,” Cadwallader said. “This has been a dramatic change in how people view what towers are doing with sustainability.”

The company has also developed a system for ISPT where it is able to link all buildings and screens to a single portal that can be accessed to communicate building information to customers.

Mirvac is using digital screens in the lobby and elevator at Sydney’s 200 George Street to talk to staff and visitors about different systems within the building and what is happening.

“I love what they are trying to do here,” Cadwallader said. “And all it takes is a moving image, something to engage the eye, to get people engaged and talking about how great sustainability can be.”

oOh!Media has started looking at how it can build different engagement systems so it is working on customised directory boards to incorporate building messaging as well as directory board information.

“It’s not just putting up a sign anymore but actually a connected environment where you can put through sustainability and information in real time,” Cadwallader said.

The company commissioned a Nielsen survey that found office workers in towers used the lifts 6.8 times a day.

“We are talking to these people in the elevators, in the lobbies, regardless of their other media consumption,” he said. “We are all trying to reach these people through email, through Facebook, through LinkedIn, through putting posters up in the foyer … but actually we have this backbone that we are using to engage customers in the building, which is really, really exciting.”

Craig Roussac, Buildings Alive

The psychological factors

Craig Roussac, founder and chief executive of Buildings Alive works with many of Australia’s leading property owners and operators to help them optimise the resource efficiency of their buildings.

He previously worked at Investa Property Group and is a Fulbright Scholar who spent time at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, contributing to research on reducing energy use in buildings though a combination of technology and non-technological factors.

Roussac told participants there were many psychological factors that drive the performance of buildings and these were often not taken into account.

“Half of the improvements [in buildings] are based on human beings doing stuff smarter,” he said.

Roussac highlighted a case study that had resulted in significant energy savings.

“All these interventions, except for the chiller, were the efforts of the building operator,” he said. [The chiller] was the only capital investment.”

It got worse before it got better

Office buildings of the 1970s were not bad, according to Roussac. They became worse in the 1980s and even more energy guzzling in the 1990s.

“This was the low point in Australian real estate history,” he said.

However, the curve has now dropped and the buildings of today are now using half the energy of the ’90s.

Inspiring behaviour change among office workers is tricky, according to Roussac. He explained there were seven types of people in the world, including positive greens, waste watchers (or tight arses as they are more commonly known) all the way to the unconsciously incompetent.

“They don’t even know we should be doing something,” he said. “No clue.”

A UK government study found that, regarding ability and willingness to act on the environment, 70 per cent of people were disengaged or uninterested.

The first step is making them aware of their bad habits and then the second step is motivating them to change.

“Make people aware that it could be done better and you move to conscious competence,” he said.

These are people making the right decisions automatically through habit, but still need support, reassurance and encouragement to keep up the good work.

Roussac acknowledged there was a paradox as householders (and this also applies to commercial building occupants) felt overloaded on sustainability matters but often lacked basic knowledge.

“It’s a matter of taking data and making it meaningful so they can act on it,” he said. “The impact for tenants of a building depends on what they want to do with it.”

Howard Parry-Husbands, Pollinate

Drivers of behaviour

Parry-Husbands said it was heartening to see that significant improvements could be made through behaviour change without capital investment.

He encouraged everyone to keep up the KeepCup shaming of their colleagues!

Parry-Husbands wrapped up the presentations with a fascinating insight to what drives people’s behaviour and how we might change it.

He explained that the building you are in actually determines who you are. So we need to understand the importance of place and nurture our built environment.

While people choose buildings for their amenities, such as gyms or rooftop access, in a rational manner this is not the case for green space.

“Green space is more emotionally driven,” he said.

Communities need to be a place where you can:

  • facilitate the exchange of information
  • foster a sense of belonging
  • create hope for a better future

He noted that some lower socio-economic communities where obesity is rife have been found to be happy places because the sense of community is strong.

Terrace housing forces the exchange of information when residents are coming and going, while apartment living is quite the opposite.

Melbourne’s laneways are thriving places because they are built on a universal set of values.

“Values determine what we find important, desirable or worth striving for,” Parry-Husbands said. “Values set in a place will dictate how it functions.”

Changing Australian values

According to research that Pollinate undertook for SBS, Australia’s cultural identity is shifting. In the past 20 years, there has been a decline in traditional Australian values and “society is fracturing along new lines”.

Australians are:

  • Less happy 63 per cent, down 37 per cent
  • Less trusting 57 per cent, down 37 per cent
  • Less honest 56 per cent, down 28 per cent
  • Less respectful 53 per cent, down 25 per cent
  • Less tough 50 per cent, down 25 per cent
  • More materialistic 12 per cent, up 61 per cent

Materialism is now the dominant social characteristic in Australia.

“The problem with sustainable marketing is there’s not enough ‘me, me, me’,” Parry-Husbands said.

“This shift must be understood and reflected upon in any development of a place. So the challenge is to ensure that your building reflects the values of the community it serves.”

Australians would like to be more active on climate

Parry-Husbands noted that according to climate change research, almost all Australians say climate change needs to be addressed.

“[Almost] every Australian would like to be more active,” Parry-Husbands said. “People get the idea that the built environment can be a positive or negative part of the great environmental debate.”

Pollinate has undertaken a large study that revealed less sick days are taken in offices where the occupants can physically see wood. The development industry is catching on with more cross laminated buildings appearing such as the Library at The Dock and the Forte apartment building.

Parry-Husbands said we are all green consumers: “If there is a choice between two products (that perform exactly the same) we will choose the enviro one,” he said.

He encouraged participants to work out a strategy of why they wanted to better communicate their NABERS rating – for example, to generate higher occupancy rates – then brainstorm an idea and work on the execution.

“Frame your communications … Look at the portfolio of influences your building has such as building managers etcetera.

“If you make it easy and it makes a difference, people will do it.”

Carlos Flores, NABERS

Mainstreaming sustainability

NABERS national program manager Carlos Flores said with the national rating system celebrating its 20th anniversary next year it was certainly time to communicate its achievements.

“We are not doing this workshop just because it is fun – although it is really fun! The reason why we are doing it is because we are going deeper into the way we communicate as a program,” Flores said.

“We have achieved things in the commercial property sector that maybe no other country has achieved, but it’s still confined within the property sector.”

Flores said a review of office buildings showed that 50,000 businesses within those buildings were not benefiting from NABERS Energy ratings and didn’t know how well they were performing. Similarly, in shopping centres, 20,000 individual retail shops are not getting energy ratings, don’t know how well they are performing, and are not setting targets.

“So we have this platform where we are reaching the workplaces of a significant portion of the Australian service economy,” he said. “If we actually want to break into that, we need a number of good ideas and we need really good communication messaging to how do we mainstream sustainability?

“Communications is going to play a very important role in how we reach the majority of the Australian service economy with a really good understanding of how they are performing in terms of carbon emissions, water consumption and waste.”

Over the next year or two, NABERS will be channelling funding, resources and time into creating materials to help clients better explain these messages.

“What can we do to help you communicate sustainability? How can we give you more airtime? How can we make more of your stakeholders aware of the things that you are achieving and the targets you are setting for yourself?”

Frank Roberson, NABERS

NABERS communications manager Frank Roberson told participants that when you make behaviours highly visible it is much more easy for them to become contagious.

“The actions you take to reduce your emissions and water consumption has a much bigger impact than the stuff that goes on in the rest of the building,” he said.

“So this is about taking it to the next level so that it becomes more visible and more desirable, and you guys are going to find out how to do that and come up with lots of ways today.”

He mentioned that City of Melbourne had already put in an application for the competition and ISPT was doing some fantastic work.

“So we have high expectations of you today,” he said

 

 

 

 

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Comments

One Response to “Mad Men for the Planet: The dramatic change in how we view sustainability in buildings”

  • Zsuzsa says:

    Hi, I appreciate the importance of the issues raised at these “Mad Men” events, but can you please think of a title that is more inclusive of women? I know it’s hard but it’s soooo important. As you would know, the gender (im)balance of the entire construction/planning industry is an eye-sore.

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