The Australian Institute of Architects continues to vigorously work in the area of policy and advocacy.
2012 Policy Overview from the CEO
The Institute's policy activity has spanned a myriad of issues relevant to the profession and the built environment. Some of the key policy highlights for 2012 include:
Cities and Urban PolicyReview of Capital City Strategic Planning Systems
In a landmark review of Australia's capital cities conducted over 2011 and released in April 2012, the COAG Reform Council found that governments need to do more to better plan for the future land use, infrastructure and economies of our cities.
The Review of capital city strategic planning systems report reveals strengths and weaknesses in the long-term planning of each capital city. In assessing the eight cities, the council found that governments share a number of common goals, issues and challenges - and that no one government has all the policy levers and expertise to deal with them.
The COAG Reform Council made a number of recommendations to COAG on the need to engage more with community, businesses and other stakeholders; focus more on implementing plans and getting results in cities and consider ways to improve investment and innovation by the private sector.
The Institute has actively contributed to various inquiries in relation to sustainable cities and supports the Council's recommendations. More needs to be done to break down the siloed government departments. The future productivity, liveability and sustainability of our cities will continue to be a priority for the Institute's activity in coming months. You can download the full report here.
National Urban Forum
In late 2011 I was invited to represent the Institute on the federal government's National Urban Forum. The Forum arises from the spirit of collaboration fostered during the development of the Creating Places for People urban design protocol for Australian cities which the Institute helped shape. The first meeting of the Forum was held in March 2012 and it is intended that the Forum will advise the government on the implementation of the National Urban Policy which was developed and released last year by the federal government. Chaired by the Secretary of the federal Department of Infrastructure and Transport the Forum brings together experts from across all levels of government as well as industry and academia, including the former South Australian Premier Mike Rann, and former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe AO.
State of Australian Cities 2012
In early December the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, launched the annual State of Australian Cities 2012 report. The third annual report outlines the progress and performance of the nation's 18 largest cities in terms of productivity, sustainability and liveability and provides data to help inform policy and investment decisions in relation to Australia's urban communities.
Collating research data into the one report provides industry, government and the community with an accessible record of trends and a current snapshot of our metropolitan environments that will help inform future development decisions.
The Institute's 41 Exhibition Street redevelopment features as a short case study in this year's report. To download the report click here.
Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC)
ASBEC is a collective of industry, government and academic organisations who are involved in the planning, design, delivery and operation of our built environment and who are committed to a sustainable built environment in Australia.
The Institute has been actively involved in ASBEC, facilitated through my role on the ASBEC Executive and as Chair of ASBEC's Climate Change Task Group which produced the Second Plank Reports and the Climate Change Adaption Framework.
In the middle of this year, ASBEC adopted a new strategic plan and restructured its task groups to align with the new strategic plan's objectives. The new task groups reflect ASBEC's areas of interest which include; resilience, cities and regions, proving green dividends, 'green' jobs and skills, micro power, innovation and sustainable housing.
I am now Chairing the Sustainable Built Environment Framework which will consider developing measurable performance targets to improve the sustainability and productivity of the built environment.
Climate Change Adaptation Framework and Report
In response to the impacts of climate change on the built environment, the former ASBEC Climate Change Task Group which I chaired, released a report in June titled "Preparing for Change" which includes a ten-point Built Environment Adaptation Framework aimed at improving the resilience of our urban communities against extreme weather events and predicted future climate change. The Adaptation Framework offers a roadmap for government to work with all relevant stakeholder groups. This is aimed at facilitating consistent, successful adaptation strategies to be introduced to manage this urgent issue.
With an overall replacement cost for Australia's built environment estimated in excess of $5.7 trillion, the economic, social and environmental risks posed by climate change are significant.
Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP)
First held in 2007, BEMP is an annual conversation between parliamentarians and industry leaders that showcases the relationship between Australian communities and their built environment.
This year, the focus was on community consultation, digital tools and the opportunities within the built environment professions to utilise new technology in innovative and exciting ways. Summit sessions tackled innovative approaches to community consultation and engagement, the use of new digital technologies and posed the question 'What's the next big revolution in building cities?'
The BEMP summit was preceded by the Australian Award for Urban Design dinner held the night before at the National Gallery of Australia. The award was created by former Prime Minister Paul Keating's Urban Design Taskforce in 1996. Prime Minister, The Hon Julia Gillard MP is the patron of the award. The AAUD recognises urban design projects of high quality in Australia and encourages cities, towns and emerging settlements to strive for improvement. It acknowledges the critical role of good urban design in the efficient and effective development of our cities and towns. Visit the BEMP website for more information and details of BEMP 2013 when they are announced.
Livable Housing Australia
Australia's livable housing voluntary guidelines were officially launched in September in federal Parliament House. Livable Housing Australia (LHA) is the lead national, not-for profit organisation for livable housing design in Australia. It is not, contrary to common perception, all about disability, but rather accessibility. The central narrative of livable lifetime design is that homes can and should accommodate a variety of people's needs, from babies to the elderly.
Established in June 2011, LHA's primary objective is to encourage community members, the residential building and property industry and all levels of Government to adopt livable housing features in all new homes being built in Australia. It is supported by industry, government and lead consumer and disability organisations across the country and I'm very proud to represent the Institute on the LHA Board of Directors.
The concept is simple - make dwellings easy to get into, easy to move in and around, cost-effective and responsive to the needs of most occupants. While immediately beneficial to people with disabilities, the adoption of universal design principles as part of the livable housing movement comes at an opportune time to help cater to Australia's ageing population.
One in five Australians identify as having some form of disability. Plus, the first of the baby boomers are now turning 65 and the number of Australians aged 85 and over is projected to quadruple to 1.8 million by 2050. Universal design also makes financial sense, with upfront costs being more cost effective than a retrofit and it also has the potential to give accessible homes a premium on resale. It is also about safety and the design dividend - minor refinements at the design and construction phase contribute enormously to the longevity of a home.
The goal of LHA is to achieve 100 percent silver ratings for all new homes by 2020. There are also significant milestones to be achieved before this deadline. You may have received a copy of the Livable Housing Design Guidelines from the Institute, if not, please contact your Chapter Office for a hard copy or you can download it from the Livable Housing Australia website
The Institute's national office has made a number of submissions to the federal government during 2012 on a range of topics including: tertiary education funding, energy efficiency, heritage, climate change adaptation, work health and safety, procurement, and taxation. I very much appreciate the effort of members who contributed to the development of many of these submissions, including those who volunteered to join a small working group instigated specially to develop the Institute's response to some of these issues.
Government funding for the 2012 Venice Biennale
The Institute was very successful this year in receiving funding support from the federal and several state governments to help with the costs of hosting the Australian Exhibition at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale. We are very appreciative of the funding received from; the Federal Government via Brand Australia, the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria, the NSW Government through the Department of Trade and Investment, the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and from the City of Sydney. This funding of course is in addition to the generous support we received from members and industry partners.
Federal election 2013
The federal election is due to be held in 2013 and the Institute has begun preparing draft positions which it will take to the major political parties. Specifically we are collaborating with a number of built environment and local government associations to develop a joint call to action for improved urban infrastructure planning and funding arrangements to better support our urban and regional areas.
We are also working through ASBEC to develop messages about policy changes to facilitate the uptake of energy efficiency within the built environment. As you may recall the Federal Government's 2010 election promise to introduce a Tax Breaks for Green Buildings scheme was axed in this year's Federal Budget. Under the program, businesses would have been able to claim a one-off bonus tax deduction of up to 50 per cent of the cost of retrofitting existing commercial buildings to achieve a greatly improved energy rating.
It is likely that ASBEC will continue to advocate for a scheme with similar objectives, that is, to provide a tax incentive to encourage the renovation of commercial buildings so that they secure a significant reduction in carbon emissions, complementary to the carbon price.
We will keep members informed throughout 2013 during the lead up to the federal election.
Australia/China Services Sector Promotion Forum
In May I was pleased to represent the Institute in an Australian services delegation led by the federal Minister for Trade, the Hon Craig Emerson, MP. I spoke at the China Services Sector Promotion Forum in Beijing, calling for an industry exchange with BEMP partners and similar industry organisations in China with an annual meeting or mini conference. In addition, I addressed the issue of regulation reform to raise building standards (energy and water) and encourage voluntary rating schemes as best practice and remove barriers to cross border practice. I also stressed the importance of free movement of students between countries on an exchange basis, noting the Canberra Accord covers Architecture Courses' Substantial Equivalence.