Mark Taylor

Well-known environmental scientist and television presenter Josh Byrne is expanding into the commercial buildings sector with the appointment of former Norman Disney & Young’s Mark Taylor to his Fremantle, Western Australia based consultancy.

Mr Taylor’s new role will be as manager – built form sustainability.

He was previously leader of the sustainability group for NDY and has also been a renewable energy consultant with the USAID/DAI Private Sector Development Program and Sungrid Ltd.

Mr Byrne, who was MC for our Surround Sound for Perth and WA late last year, covered in Greening the West Part 2, was in Sydney for the International Water Association conference. He told the The Fifth Estate by phone that the move was part of the company’s progression in a more “regenerative” approach that could work with the interests of commercial clients.

“As you know my interest in urban sustainability is much broader than just landscape and water,” he said. “My personal interest from early in my research career was always to focus on the interface between built form landscape and urban water.

“It’s time to take the next step to bring in in-house expertise to enable this.”

Josh Byrne

Mr Byrne said the team had been stead at around the 6-8 mark in staff numbers but in the past 18 months it had grown.

Among current work was a large regional “place-based project” with the City of Kwinana, south of Perth. Another was with LandCorp at White Gum Valley, an urban infill project at Fremantle.

There was also an emerging string of work in the eastern states. This included an exemplar schools project at Deer Park in Melbourne’s west that included improved shading, rain gardens, a productive garden and constructed wetlands.

The project will include documenting all resources, written in “everyday speech”, and making these along with all plans available for school learning experiences in both Victoria and the rest of the country.

Another project involved working with the Victorian Department of Housing and the Moreland Energy Foundation to provide housing guidelines and a housing “typology” to address heat stress in north-west Victoria.

In Brisbane JBA was working on a series of park rejuvenation projects, including with the City of Moreton Bay, which recently came in for national attention when former Queensland government minister Jeff Seeney ordered the local council to ignore sea level rises in its planning guidelines.

Mr Byrne said the furore followed a highly regarded flood mitigation study by BMT WBM.

Mr Taylor said in an emailed statement that he was “proud of the work that my group was doing at NDY”, however his interest in the work of JBA had been growing, particularly its “courageous” attitude to design and better environmental outcomes.

Key to his work would be a systems-based approach to sites.

His background includes experience with One Planet Living certification and the Living Building Challenge.

“There is a pioneering sense in WA that energises the building industry here and can be harnessed to show how well development can be done when a project team has a clear direction and the confidence to innovate,” he said.

On the mood around sustainability, Mr Taylor told The Fifth Estate it was a time of challenges yet there were people who were looking to “push the envelope a little bit because of their passion on sustainability”.

However, in a lot of areas sustainability has become “quite embedded” and in some ways had become “more of a compliance process”.

JBA’s work has concentrated on projects such as water harvesting in residential estates, parks and schools in ways that integrated with the surrounding built environment and the community, Mr Taylor said.

“They take the approach to water and the built environment of integrating it as a whole with the surrounding area.

“It’s also about how they encourage clients and developers to be more courageous.”