Carter Williamson is certified carbon neutral

Vivienne Hinschen and Ben Peake with the Carter Williamson team | Photographer: Katherine Lu

Carter Williamson is certified carbon neutral

Vivienne Hinschen and Ben Peake from Carter Williamson met with the Australian Institute of Architects to talk about the studio’s carbon neutral journey, supporting cleaner power, local ecologies and projects led by First Nations peoples.

Vivienne Hinschen (VH): We decided to take the studio carbon neutral in 2019. It was a process we started when we become signatories of Architects Declare but as a practice, we’ve always been aware of the environmental impact of the buildings we design. Bringing that same ethic to the day-to-day running of the studio made sense because we felt that we couldn’t confidently advocate for sustainability-driven initiatives to our clients without being responsible and taking care of our own carbon footprint as well.

Ben Peake (BP): There’s an uncomfortable truth to the fact that the built environment is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions. It’s an industry that’s heavily influenced by capitalist structures so as architects, particularly over the last decade, we’ve been looking for opportunities to make positive change. You can see how that manifested in our personal lives – more and more people started using keep cups, recycling carefully and eating a more plant-based diet. That same mentality now influences the workplace where we all understand that small steps like going carbon neutral can lead to broader change. It’s a step towards a carbon neutral industry but it works with bigger moves like supporting clients to choose cleaner power or more sustainable materials. It’s really a collective effort.

VH: There’s a movement in the industry where architects are increasingly committing to carbon neutral certification. There’s now a general understanding in the design community that the urgency of our environmental situation means we need to work together to make small changes, like carbon offsetting, actually have impact.

Gesticulating Wildly | Carter Williamson | Photographer: Pablo Veiga
Woodcroft Community Centre | Carter Williamson | Photographer: Brett Boardman
Woodcroft Community Centre | Carter Williamson | Photographer: Brett Boardman

BP: There are so many design-led practices that are carbon neutral certified and that has set the standard for our industry. In order to be part of the conversation and to remain contemporary it’s something that now forms a facet of practice and we hope our clients have that expectation of us as well. In most industries businesses are being held accountable and better practices are being demanded and we’re seeing that in architecture too.

VH: We’re a studio of 18 people and the process for achieving carbon neutral certification was very simple. What we’re interested in now is how we can be more specific about where we retire our carbon credits. While we understand there’s efficacy in international investment, we would like to align our values with Australian offsetting companies or groups to support our local ecologies and projects led by First Nations peoples.

BP: We see carbon auditing and offsetting as just one part of a bigger picture. We try to be active in looking for ways we can contribute more broadly. We support Bush Heritage Australia, which assists in reconstructing local ecologies and we’ve recently installed solar panels at the studio so we’re now producing more energy than we use. The principal of being carbon neutral isn’t enough at this point, we actually need to repair some of the damage that’s been done by investing in initiatives that are regenerative. 

Our commitment to climate action

The Australian Institute of Architects is supporting all members in their shift to becoming carbon neutral – it’s the simplest step towards reaching zero.

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