Infrastructure Sustainability – What Is Next? The ISCA Annual Conference 2016

I had the inspirational pleasure this week of attending the 3rd Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) Annual Infrastructure Sustainability Conference, entitled “What IS next?”.

It was a meeting of minds, thoughts and ideas for those involved in infrastructure sustainability (be that client/ proponent, government, designer, consultant or contractor) not only in Australia, but also now in New Zealand (with Auckland Transport and Auckland Airport leading the NZ pack in seeking more sustainable outcomes there) and further afield in the US and Europe.

There were a plethora of excellent speakers and presenters this year, and the team at ISCA continue to raise the bar in terms on breadth and depth of content and quality of the presentations on offer.

Attendees were treated to presentations covering topics such as new approaches with technology, materials and other innovations in infrastructure construction, progress on some significant Australian infrastructure projects such as the Melbourne Metro and  organisations such as Transurban and their respective approaches to integrating sustainability and seeking sustainable outcomes, technical innovations.

I’ll save for a future post my thoughts and musings on what was quite a profoundly moving presentation from an Auckland Manu Whenua representative, talking about integration of Manu Whenua needs and concerns into the Auckland City Rail Link project. 

And I’ll also save for a future post details on my own star turn with my ISCA Contractor’s Working Group Co-Chair Glenn Hedges, and the launch of our “How To” guide for developing a business case for sustainability in infrastructure projects.

The opening keynote addresses were led by Bianca Nijhof from Arcadis and based in the Netherlands, Margaret Cederoth, Sustainability Leader for the California High Speed Rail project and Dr Anne Kerr, Global Head of Urbanisation at Mott MacDonald. 

With the theme of this year’s conference being “what is next?” each of the impressive and engaging keynote speakers took us through their thoughts and insights into key trends in the development of infrastructure from their geographical or project-centred perspectives. I was particularly taken with Bianca Nijhof’s presentation, so I’ll delve a little further there.

Bianca, Global Account Leader Natural Capital at Arcadis, who has a formidable resume in terms of participation at various global sustainable development fora such as the World Economic Forum and World Business Council for Sustainable Development, shared her insights into key global and European sustainability trends.

To keep things short and sweet for you, here are my key takeaways from Bianca’s presentation:

  • The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are here and those involved in infrastructure development need to start paying attention to them, especially SDG9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and SDG11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.
  • Investment in natural infrastructure (such as green/ vegetated corridors and spaces) provides and opportunity to challenge the status quo, think outside the box and re-evaluate the way we value and deliver critical infrastructure, especially in Australia where we’re so reliant on our natural assets.
  • We need to keep challenging the norms around the delivery of infrastructure projects.
  • All of Australia’s major cities are in the bottom quartile for climate resilience of Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Index. Eeek!
  • Planning infrastructure to reduce GHG emissions and improved climate change resilience is imperative.
  • Australia needs a more coordinated national approach on GHG emissions reduction and climate resilience. 
  • Green Bonds are a real and growing trend in infrastructure project finance. Green bonds are essentially identical to “regular” bonds but the proceeds are earmarked for sustainability initiatives and projects.
  • Sustainability is not about being compliant or doing good anymore, it’s a growth strategy for business and adding value to society.

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