Embracing Sustainable Construction: Rethinking and Relifing Our Cities for a Greener Future

OpEd – Nicky Drobis (Partner, Fender Katsalidis)

We’re undergoing a transformative shift as a society in the face of an escalating climate crisis. A major contributor to global carbon emissions, the construction and built environment industry sectors are responsible for up to 38% of worldwide emissions. These sectors we operate in are at a pivotal juncture, and as designers, thinkers, and innovators, it’s imperative we step up to actively seek solutions and advocate for the adoption of sustainable practices in both construction and operation.

The time for ‘re-lifing’ our structures is now. Instead of asking, “Why should we retain this building?”, we should shift our focus from demolition to adaption, and ask, “What are the reasons for knocking it down?”.

At FK, our experiences have taught us that understanding existing conditions and carefully analysing a building’s suitability for adaptive reuse are critical starting points.

The revitalisation of our structures should also be driven by purpose, not merely aesthetics. Some buildings are inherently more adaptable than others, making it possible to alter typologies and imbue them with meaningful use. A future-proofing solution is to design for adaptive reuse from the start. Rather than locking a building into a specific use forever, we should adopt a plug-and-play approach that allows for flexibility and change.

Furthermore, we need to address the absence of a comprehensive framework in our building code for adaptive reuse projects. Policies like Melbourne’s Postcode 3000 can serve as a model, encouraging innovative approaches and enhancing urban life. While not every structure can be adapted, it will be a testament to our commitment to sustainability and a greener future that we consider the possibilities.

Nicky Drobis
Fender Katsalidis

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