Future Thinkers talk climate emergency and cities

31 March 2021

The NZGBC Future Thinkers held their first event of the year in early February. This covered a range of topics, focusing on the future of our cities here in Aotearoa following the government’s announcement of the climate emergency. A panel session was held at Mott Macdonald’s office in the 6-star Green Star rated Mason Brothers Building. We had four amazing panellists, with experience ranging from recently graduated to years of industry knowledge, join us to discuss water sensitive design, carbon in buildings, transport, and construction and demolition waste.

Emily Afoa, Partner and Engineer at Tektus Consultants presented on water sensitive design and how this can mitigate the effects of urbanisation on our water cycles. A strong focus of Emily’s presentation was respecting ngā tikanga me ngā kawa o ngā iwi Māori (Māori custom and rituals) and how we must consider the ecosystem as a whole. Emily showed how recognizing Te Mana o te Wai aligned strongly with creating a greener, more sustainable future.

Decarbonisation of our buildings will be an important step towards a carbon neutral future. It was great to have Brian Berg, Carbon Neutral Housing Director at Kāinga Ora, talk us through their objectives for future housing and the top three focus areas that all buildings must consider: occupational energy, occupant health and wellbeing, and embodied carbon. Brian touched on what Aotearoa is already doing but urged a shift in mindset to focusing on how we achieve our goals.

Fred Smithers, Planning and Investment Graduate at Auckland Transport, covered the future of transport and decarbonisation of urban transport systems. The transport sector is currently the largest contributor to Auckland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Fred outlined that the key steps to reducing emissions will be to prioritise walking, micro-mobility and public transport, account for the true costs for cars, and to have an integrated land use and transport approach.

Jon Morgan, Trustee of the Zero Waste Network, passionately talked about the construction and demolition waste industry. Jon has first-hand experience working in community led, waste recycling initiatives and has seen the masses of unnecessary landfill waste being produced. Jon was able to showcase the ease of minimising waste and the importance of this for our cities.

Everyone in the room was left feeling inspired by the speakers and their presentations. There is much to do for our cities in response to the climate emergency and the message is clear that this is a problem that must be tackled as a collective. The mixture of people in the room ranging from young, aspiring professionals to people advocating for change showcased how everyone can have an impact. Here is to hoping that the thought-provoking ideas generated on the night can be converted to meaningful action.

A massive thank you to the panel for their time and insight on the night and our sponsors Mott Macdonald and Bayleys Real Estate for their ongoing support of NZGBC Future Thinkers.

More about NZGBC Future Thinkers