Town Hall #33 - The New Possible - AUS
Mike Biggs - Director of Innovation & Design at Telstra Purple
Amber Bonney - Managing Director & Head of Strategy at Edison Agency | President at Creative Women's Circle
Celso Borges - Head of Experience Design at Tigerspike
Chris Bosse - Director of Architecture at LAVA
Dylan Brady - Conductor (Owner) at Decibel Architecture
Keeley Green - Director at Keeley Green Interior Design
Richard Henderson - Founder & CEO at R-Co Brand
Theodore Kerlidis - Director of k20 Architecture
Julie Ockerby - Creative Director, Principal & CEO at Meli Studio Australia
Betsy Sweat - Head of Asia Pacific at Restoration Hardware
One of the problems that we are facing is that generally, architecture is driven by the real estate market
when we do these educational projects, we try to focus on this idea of imaginative, creative futures and sustainable learning
One of the challenges with sustainability that the market is under pressure with all the time is to do more with less
The solutions as architects I believe, is with the strength of our designs, with our pens and our thinking
Part of those expectations to move BeyondZero is to allow our buildings to actually be producers
Our choice is simply we believe in putting the kindness back into the work that we're doing, doing no harm
Our health is intrinsically linked to the health of our land
Intellectualising sustainability, turning it into an economic equation, turning it into anything that needs to be justified just simply didn't work
Companies are are starting to choose by ethics just as much as they are about product and taste
Independent brands' influence or ability is to make changes at a much smaller scale
The big corporations, whether they've really liked it or not, are forced to make changes, and it's globally mandated and so therefore, we're actually seeing that they have better policies, and they're making more significant changes
changing consumer behavior, I think like anything, happens through repetition of messaging
it's about making sure that there's diversity in the type of businesses and brands that are talking to this, that they are reaching all sorts of audiences
[On BeyondZero] there are still very much a cohort of people who just either don't know enough about it, or don't know anything about it or don't care about it
Anything that's healthier, comes with a price tag
[On aged care] most developers only see short term rather than the long term gain
There's some things that we know are optional, and caring about the environment is still optional, it's not mandatory.
Design is helping to guide these value based decisions
Larger organisations either comply because it's part of their DNA, or they comply because they feel that it gives them a competitive or market advantage
The conversation is about change from values driven which is about the customer, into a humanity driven
Use the processes of validation as being to their benefit to get a creative thing happening
It's not just about how quickly I can get there anymore, it's actually about, hey, what is my most carbon efficient way of getting there, and that's starting to become a lot more valuable for consumers
I think that demand is perhaps the catalyst that we can use
Our staff are demanding that our business does business with other companies that have a sustainability portfolio
we shift the thinking that's behind the way we think about our impact is with three horizons - legacy, inspiration, sustenance
what we don't have in our mindset is the urgency that we need to address this
Mark Bergin 00:02
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Design Exec Club Town Hall. I'm Mark Bergin, the Founder of DRIVENxDESIGN and the Design Exec Club. Joining me here is a tremendous panel of some of the smartest people I know when we're trying to go talk about how we're creating a better future, how we're looking at the new possible. And today's focus is, how do we actually get BeyondZero? Today in Australia, we found out that the net zero amount that everyone's talking about will still mean that the environment is going to warm up by 2.1 degrees. And that's probably not acceptable. We need to work out how to do better than that. And there's no better people than the architects and other designers that are here to go talk about, when we talk about everything about how do you actually redesign tech stacks, so that you actually wind up with more efficient code, more efficient servers, more efficient solutions. And also, how do you actually source and choose materials, which are going to last a long time in the built space, so that we don't wind up having the invested carbon that we then dispose of very quickly. Dylan, I'm going to throw across to you there because I know that you're in the Pixel Building here. And the Pixel Building is what? It's like 20 million stars efficiency? Tell us a bit about the building that you're in, and where that fits into a BeyondZero concept.
Dylan Brady 01:16
The Pixel Building was a demonstration building that we designed and built from 2007 through 2009. It sadly is still the world's highest rated LEED building, but not for long, if I've got anything to say about it. We scored a perfect score in Green Star. And we really set out to do not just a carbon neutral operation, but a carbon zero building, offsetting all of the embodied energy in the building. So it was an experiment and a demonstration. It's a laboratory of a sort to test all of the things that were in the market at the time. So we put in tracking solar, anaerobic digesters, vacuum toilets, it's water balanced. At the time that we designed it, the front page of The Age every day had like, you know, 10 days water left, you know, because it was the end of the 10 year drought. And there was such a big drought, we build a $5 billion, you know, desalination plant that was delayed due to rain, go figure. So, Pixel was very much about demonstrating that it was possible to build translational technology with existing technology into a building that could raise the bar and go beyond using less to actually creating net positive, net energy, zero buildings.
Mark Bergin 02:33
Okay, so I'm going to keep going here on the architecture front. Chris, the Laboratory of Visionary Architecture, LAVA, that's your crowd. Now, to have visionary architecture, it's got to both have a visual appeal, a functional appeal, but it's got to be kind to the environment as well. How do you balance out that,
Chris Bosse 02:55
One of the problems that we're facing is that generally, architecture is driven by the real estate market. And the real estate market is usually a short term game sorry, of building to sell as fast as you can, for as much as you can. So build cheap, sell expensive, and you don't have a long term invested interest. And the shift really seems to happen in developments that are, for example, built to rent or on a more long term basis where the owner or developer has a long term invested interest in reducing energy costs and producing long term gains out of the development. And one of those projects, for example, was the Masdar City project that we worked on in the United Arab Emirates, which was built in a similar way to the Pixel Building maybe as a prototype for a new type of urbanism that is car free, waste free, accident free as well, and based on renewable resources. Unfortunately, that project also came under pressure during the financial crisis. And then all the sustainable efforts were kind of thrown out by all the economic pressures replacing sustainability. But that is kind of the conundrum that we face in every project, and that we're fighting against.
Mark Bergin 04:19
Good. So you touched on something that's really interesting there. One of the things that's making electric vehicles slow on uptake is that they've got this future economic benefit, but it's in the capital purchase price. And I think what we see there with the buildings as you were talking about. We've got a project that's underway, we've got an economic crisis, there isn't as much money available, so we'll actually reduce some of the future environmental benefits for a saving at this point. But what we've done is borrowed from the future.
Chris Bosse 04:52
Yeah, we're not being billed for the future cost only for the current cost.
Mark Bergin 04:57
You know, that'd be interesting if we had something like a Carbon Tax or there was a way that we could actually factor in that future value. And we've seen that's hugely unpopular with the word tax in it. But there's many ways that we probably should be thinking about that, and that'll come around. Theo, I want to go across to you because your practice is K20; some people think it is. But after a long conversation with you, I found that it's actually K 2 Zero. Eighteen years ago you thought this idea about getting BeyondZero was something that was important to do. And you've also focused on how do you go put environmental sustainability into a lot of projects by stealth? Tell me a bit about that journey and how do we actually accelerate that. Is it something that there's a market that's focused on that? Or have we actually got a recalcitrant market out there?
Theodore Kerlidis 05:50
So the market is there, the challenge is for us to innovate. One of the challenges with sustainability is the market is under pressure, all the time. So the challenge for us is to do more with less. And the solutions that we can do as architects I believe, is with the strength of our designs, with our pens and our thinking. And the challenge really is to do it by self. Because if we're announcing that we're doing all these add ons, and all these extra things, the perception in the marketplace is, that must cost more. So therein is the challenge. And one of the things that we've found in working with government over the last 18 years, is there is a, you know, budgets are hard to come by, it doesn't matter; global financial crisis, pandemics, whatever, you know, everyone wants more with less. And the real challenge is to provide it in a way that it's integrated within the building. And then if we can do more, we can do more with that. And it's not complicated to do. And it's something that we have refined over the last 18 years. Our methodologies, our processes were actually able to allow the client to get what they need out of the process, and then exceed their expectations. And part of those expectations now, our thinking is, is to move BeyondZero as we discussed last time together Mark - to actually allow our buildings to actually be producers. And that's the challenge for us is how we can actually pump that into the program on a save cost rate basis. And one of the buildings that we're completing now, which is made out of a product that we're actually manufacturing ourselves, a simple laminated timber - there's an international patent pending on that at the moment. It's making use of a waste product and a supply chain. And the ability of that is, is obviously you know, the carbon that's stored in the timber, the ability for that is not actually having to order a forest to be cut down as is similar to cross laminated timber. And the ability for that is it's all made locally as well, which is another advantage compared to some of the other products out there as well. And again, you know, that's led by, you know, the innovation and thinking of us as architects. And I say it again, like we are the most important people in the supply chain. And the challenge is for us. There are problems. Everywhere we look at it guys, there are problems and problems and problems. And that only takes one of us, many of us to find solutions. And we're all doing, we're all part of it. We've just got to keep on doing that. And there are many reasons why we shouldn't succeed. There are many reasons why we shouldn't succeed. And there's only one reason why we should and that's what we should be honing in on.
Mark Bergin 08:45
Okay, so we're going to come back and I'll touch in with each one of you architect brains here a little bit as we go along. But I want to actually then go across to Mike Biggs. Mike at Telstra Purple, you're coming up with innovative solutions which are, how do you use new technology. But one of the things that we know with new technology is that you can actually have very carbon expensive technology solutions or very carbon efficient technology solutions. How does that factor in with when you're coming up with the solutions for people? Is the appetite, give me the more carbon efficient tech stack? Or are they actually trying to say, just give me the most cheap to market? What's the behavior?
Mike Biggs 09:32
It's a little bit problematic, actually, because we've talked about this before at Telstra broadly. We've got all the Lego blocks and so our job is largely about putting those together. We do a little bit of creating new blocks but less. So when we're dealing in that commercial paradigm of, okay, we're scaling, we need to do more cloud somewhere in someone's cupboard somewhere else. The idea of those emissions isn't always ... and then the hard costs isn't even necessarily present in the minds of decision making that's happening today. So what we see is we're actually, I shouldn't blow the lid off what happens in cloud too much because it's a very good thing and it has its place, but often we make the case that it will cost less than what you're doing now. But the problem is we keep using it. It's like the M4 Motorway, you know, oh it'd be quicker to get into town but every man and their dog is on the damn thing. And so suddenly it's slower and it costs you a ton of money to use it. So I feel like cloud and the scale that comes with that is a little bit problematic in that way - going to be cheaper today but in 12 months time, suddenly we're doing all this stuff and it actually cost a bit more. So hard costs we can't always see the future of how it's going to plan out. It should be predictable, but kind of isn't. So it's back to that short cycle of decision making. Same as in real estate we're already thinking about now. And I think the emissions part of it is not really part of conversations that we're having. It really doesn't get on the table, which is really a huge shame. And it just points to the way people are thinking about decisions. I just wanted to throw in a little point there about the Tesla cars. I mean, it's supposed to be clean, but where does the electricity, where does the energy really come from? And if it's actually coming from coal anyway, in the short term we are kind of hiding where that true environmental cost is. And I don't think we're having a sophisticated enough discussion about the fact that, yes, that's true, but also it's the long game. So this is kind of interesting, put it in someone else's cupboard for now piece, even for the enlightened ones, the less enlightened ones are just trying to save a buck.
Mark Bergin 11:46
And you're very right there. The Tesla car it's a step change when you go think of propulsion unit. But it's actually we haven't really done the transformation yet. I was in Berlin last year having a chat with Florian Kerber, who was the general manager at sorry, the Managing Director at Cation Publishing. And he said, well I'm leaving this role because I'm trying to go to see how do we change the conversation? And how do we think about how my children will be going through mobility? The problem with the Tesla car is it's still two tons of vehicle to move 100 kilo person. Whereas you could have that person on a scooter. And in a multimodal environment with public transport, they don't need the Tesla car in the first place. And so the challenge is that we're actually saying, well, it's like its a facsimilie of a car. But maybe the cars the problem, and the idea of having that very large cage of steel is a challenge. Last night in London we presented the London Design Awards and one of the projects that picked up an award there was a Priestman Goode designed Dromos vehicle. And the idea there is that they are autonomous vehicles that can either move packages or people in that last mile from transport. And we know that that's one of the big challenges, that a lot of the congestion that exists in London comes from white delivery vans delivering packages for Amazon. This is, you know, we really need to think about if we're going to get to Zero, one we need less white vans whether they're electric or petrol, we need them to be more efficient, we need the utilization to be up. The idea that most vehicles are only used for less than 10% of the of the day, it's actually one of our challenges there. And I think if I was going back to that idea of a tech stack Mike, the idea that we're actually getting the computational power to be good, efficient code so it's using very few cycles, we've also got that that is being utilized at as high capacity as possible so that we're actually not wasting a lot of energy in there. Amber I want to go across to you, because if I go think of what Mike was talking about and also what Chris was talking about, there's actually the corporate behavior out there which is one of the interesting things. And in your world with the branding and packaging, there's a mixture of substituting materials, but there's also the messages that are on the packages there. Tell me a little bit about what you're seeing.
Amber Bonney 14:13
Yeah thanks, Mark. I think, you know, you mentioned changing the conversation. One of the things we've felt as an agency, that's, you know, a complex supply chain, is we felt sort of disempowered to actually make any real effect. A lot of our clients are all blue chip, big clients and we really have very little ability to change the type of packaging that they use, to impact the type of inks that they use, because a lot of those decisions get made before we even have a seat at the table. Or even when we make a suggestion, the challenge is it becomes a cost issue. So we sort of changed the conversation really and decided that as a business, not only did we want to strive to be B Corp certified, so we're working towards that in the next 24 months is our core goal, but actually make more discerning decisions about who we work with and the type of relationships that we have. And making sure that those businesses that are making those big decisions have clear policies upon engagement that we feel are ethically aligned to our business as well. So that means, you know, Zero by 2030. A couple of our customers have zero environmental impact goals with very clear steps to get updated all the time. You know, impacts on even just how their products and their supply chain impacts communities and where they resource and the type of ingredients that they're using. And we're really seeing a shift in the elevation of that communication at much more of a cold face area than it used to be. You know, you'd be lucky if 10 years ago anyone wanted to put even a slight signification on their packaging that something was recyclable, which would just be like dipped down bottom right. We work with Nestle, they've been working very hard over the past 10 years to improve their sustainability reputation. And they're doing a lot of work now where it's actually front and center globally on their packaging, they're starting to roll that out. And they're doing a lot more work because they're seeing that the consumer demand is there. People want to see that. And they're choosing by ethics just as much as they are about product and taste and that sort of thing here.
Mark Bergin 16:36
So Amber I'll come back to you in a second, but I just want to throw across here to Julie, because your world of interior design in both residential work, but also in the aged care sector, how does that change? Because if you go think aged care, I think it has been designed for the long haul, it's a long journey after it's been done. But the Resi side is often that people are changing the look and the field at a much higher frequency. How are people getting to the point that they can begin to think about that BeyondZero on the sustainable side in your world?
Julie Ockerby 17:11
I find that it's very much a mixed bag. I found when a client knows a lot about BeyondZero, their knowledge is so high. And then there are still very much a cohort of people who just either don't know enough about it, or don't know anything about it or don't care about it. And they're the harder ones. I mean, I think residentially the government has a lot of initiatives, you know, the the changing of LED lights in your homes. I don't know if that happens in Victoria but in New South Wales it certainly is a big initiative here. You know, the government basically subsidizes you to change your downlights to the new LED. And similarly with commercial spaces. And for us from interior design, generally I find we're learning. It's a big learning curve for us to know what to specify that's green rated. All of those things that the architects are 20 steps ahead of us I always feel, so I think we're learning off each other. I think the biggest challenge I have more from the aged care sense and having seen it in the last few months, is the amount of PPE gear that has had to be used. And the wastage that is just part of the process. I mean, you wear something once, you throw it away, everything's wrapped up in plastic. You know, we've gone from trying to be really careful with plastic usage to seeing a lot more plastic and having been on site the other day at a home, just seeing the amount of waste. But what do you do with that sort of, I don't know what the solution is. But I think from a built environment and from an interior space, the biggest challenge I have with with clients is educating them on the cost of the bigger cost that they see in the initial stages, but the long term gain that you get out of it. And they're yet to see that. You know, when a building is budgeted for $30 million, they allocate bits and when something is more expensive, and usually anything that is healthy for the environment or healthy for us, or anything that's healthier, comes with a price tag. But developers only see, not all of them but some of the many, see short term rather than the long term gain. And I find that's the challenge I go through.
Mark Bergin 19:40
Yeah, and that slip of priorities actually comes down to values and also culture doesn't it. There's some things that we know which are optional, and caring about the environment is still optional. It's not mandatory. We know workplace safety. You've got to go at workplace safety in there, you'll be shut down if you don't have it. And that's something which we just take for granted now. We haven't got to that point yet - well the PPE should be coming in, is it you know, compostable fibers? Should it actually be something which actually is much friendly to the environment? It's oh no, there's a panic, there's a crisis, we can put it in plastic.
Julie Ockerby 20:25
We're designing for the baby boomers now pushing ahead, and they're going to be so much more in tune with all this. And they're going to expect fit-outs that cater for all of this, you know, the recycling in the kitchen, it's just not going to be a bin underneath the sink. It's going to be a lot more focused on that. So then, you know of course, part of that comes lots more dollars going into the developments.
Mark Bergin 20:48
Now Julie, I believe you need to run away because you've got to do some sustainable design at the moment. So thanks for letting us know about that. But I gotta throw it back to Amber here. Thanks for joining us. And so Julie brought up a challenge that we've got there. And the challenge is that there's people who are putting on their packet that says that we do good things, that the behavior from the consumer isn't I must have that on my package. And that's an interesting thing, that the hallmark isn't something which is a first order decision to say it's either included or excluded from my purchase decision. How do we get to the point that those hallmarks are actually something that people are just naturally thinking about? Because that's actually you've got to get in their head about the overall priorities and values, don't you?
Amber Bonney 21:35
Well, I think that's culturally lead. So one of the things I wanted to touch on that Julie talked about, the preferences of customers. You have customers that are culturally and ethically aligned to the choices that you make as a business, and you have customers that aren't. One of my observations from a customer perspective is, we used to find that working with big businesses was more ethically challenging because it was all about you know, corporate greed, it was all about the money. It was kind of seen as if you worked with a tier-one bluechip client, that meant you were selling your soul, and that the independent small brands were actually the ones making more ethical decisions. Now what we're seeing is a shift in that. And it's not to say there's not more independent brands thinking about that because they certainly are, but their influence or ability is to make changes at a much smaller scale. And now what we're finding is consumer demand is changing. And so the big corporations, whether they've really liked it or not, are forced to make those changes, and it's globally mandated. And so therefore, we're actually seeing that they have better policies, and they're making more significant changes in the past. With relation to changing consumer behavior, I think like anything, it's through repetition of messaging. So if a brand is communicating that it's important to them and then making it, it's not back of pack it's front of pack if we're talking about a fast moving consumer goods in a retail environment, then that actually starts to train consumers that maybe they should be looking for that. So then when other packaged goods don't have that communication, it sort of raises a flag about why and it just becomes a slow seeded process of priority of information. And I think that that just needs really all businesses and all brands to be talking the same language and to elevate that, and then consumers over time, and of course, it becomes generational. My younger children are much more conscious of everything in our recycling needs to be separated out, all of are soft plastics, the children get very annoyed when they're buying products that are over packaged. So it starts to influence the type of products that we buy. And I just think they are from a generation where environment is number one importance, and therefore they want to look after their planet. Rightly so.
Mark Bergin 24:06
Yeah. And if I go back two Town Halls ago, we were in the US and Karin Soukup from Collins. Karin turned round, and she was focusing on the idea of maybe our inspiration comes by actually looking down towards the children and seeing what they value. And that's the values that we're going to take forward into the future because that seems to be where we're getting a lot more guidance that's in there. Betsy, I want to go in and actually have a chat with you. Restoration Hardware, you're a huge multi billion dollar Stock Exchange listed company. You're one of those big organizations that we've been talking about. How does it work as far as people who want to go buy your products? Are they looking for the hallmarks? Are they buying it because it's actually got some sustainability because it's going to have durability, and it's going to be there for a long time? How's that working because there's always the chance that they may not be purchasing that, they may just be going for the style?
Betsy Sweat 25:05
Right. Well, in fact, when Amber was talking about larger organizations who either comply because it's part of their DNA, or they comply because they feel that it gives them a competitive or market advantage. I think within RH it really is part of the DNA of this organization. And it is top down - it's the leader of our company that have never seen the man outside of a black t shirt, he is completely living the dream of what sustainability means from a material perspective as well as a craftsmanship. So for us clients are coming to us because they know designs can be timeless, even as progressive some of them are going to be. Then you choose some materials which are not only processed well, and four zeros great sustainability and zero carbon footprint, low organic solvent processes, things like that, but they know that that's going to be in their home for decades. And there's not going to be an issue with recall because there are fumes emitting from a piece of furniture. So I think, given the fact that we have a very large retail presence and where we're such a large company, it's our responsibility within the community and within the industry to really lead the way to be that right partner for not only our end user clients, but also our hospitality clients. The other thing Mark that we are looking at more and more is not only the choice of our partners, as Amber was talking about, you know, every once in a while you get to choose who the people are with whom you have those close partnerships as clients, but also in our vendors, because we do contract manufacture. So we can choose partners that are being conflict responsible as well as sustainably harvesting materials. Indonesia is a great example. A hundred percent of our teak comes from there. We only work with plantations that are pulling a tree and planting a tree. And then secondly, moving closer to where our client base is. So a lot of what we have going on now is looking at increasing the number of factories in fabrication sites closer to the main base of where we are, regardless of what the labor looks like in terms of cost. It's the responsible thing to do.
Mark Bergin 27:41
And so Richard Henderson, I want to get across to you. You know, you've been trusted over the last decades in how do you go actually help the CEO who's trying to go get their imagination and get the organization's imagination into the future. How do they get to the point that they start to talk about something with the people down the chain that kids necessarily want but maybe the parents don't want? And don't know that that's a first order purchase decision bias? How do you start to get into that world?
Richard Henderson 28:14
Thank you Mark. In fact it's ironic, I just got off of what what was the reason I was a bit late, was a call to a large manufacturer company, talking about exactly what Amber was talking about. The conversation is about change from values driven which is about the customer, into a humanity driven organization, because that's in my view, where we should be focusing upon. The difficulty that you've got is that the top of the organization has to shift their mindset from being values, so customer values and production and cost, and that sort of stuff into something where they're contributing to a greater group. And this is where culture, you have to influence culture. And we're using culture in different discussions here, but internal culture to actually inform the management that this is actually what the company should be doing. And the word culture is actually two words - cult ure. And a cult is a belief system. And that to me is where, you know, companies have got to start looking at. But the difficulty of course for someone like myself, the culture of a business is not going to engage people like me, it's got to be the leadership. So I think you can only do it by pressure. And in fact this conversation I had, I saw something and I invited a conversation with the Marketing Director to say, hey, you're missing a whole conversation. Would you be open to having a conversation that is complimentary to your brand? That gives you a whole different story to talk back to your culture, is why they actually are working on there? So look I can't answer your question straight away. Do I do this lever? It's actually about influences I think, and conversations. I think that's the only way you can change it.
Mark Bergin 30:07
And I want to just reflect, in the early in the 90s I was one of the forerunners of the interactive digital industry. And it wasn't until 99, so you have about a seven or eight year period, that we were pushing the bandwagon that digital was going to change the world. And then in 99, something happened, which was that we got what I referred to, as the chairman's lounge calls. And the CEO would be in the Chairman's Lounge at the airport, they saw another CEO and they rang me and they said, can you actually give me a digital strategy so that when I get off the plane in an hour's time that I can go say to my colleague this is what we're doing. And it was so important from an optics perspective. But that was great for me, I made a lot of money out of those calls. But what they needed was that the cache was actually that they had a strategy, they didn't yet have the culture, they didn't yet have the wherewithal of how they're going to do it. But they knew it was important for their reputation. And so I think that's a really important thing that we go see that, you know, we monitor, when is that emerging through, I think we're actually quite close to it.
Richard Henderson 31:13
But that comes to the challenge of the creator to provide a benefit. So, you know, unfortunately, you still have to go back to ROI. But as you know, my mantra is Return on Imagination. It's just as important as Return on Investment. So you have to actually qualify that. And that's probably where mature, more mature design firms etc, people who are in that field in that business side of things, can use the processes of validation as being to their benefit to get a creative thing happening.