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Unplugged Sustainability Story

Nurturing the sustainability story: Monash University Technology Education and Design Building

Stakeholder workshop at Monash University

Workshop at Monash University

Written by Chris Buntine, Built Environment, ESD Leader

We know the power of storytelling to engage and inspire creative ideas and new ways of thinking. When we are called to develop the sustainability strategy for a project, we need to look further than a checklist of compliance options. We need to create a unique sustainability story, rooted in place, which gives all stakeholders a sense of shared purpose and meaning. This is a step that is skipped by many projects, due perhaps to time pressures, limited resources and a lack of understanding of how best to go about developing the sustainability story.

This was a challenge Aurecon sought to overcome for the Monash University Technology Education and Design Building (TEd), to be the new home of the Engineering and IT schools at the University’s Clayton campus. While the University provided a detailed sustainability brief that included a number of bold initiatives such as certification under the rigorous German Passive House Standard, Aurecon’s ESD team chose to embrace a new approach. To be authentic the story needed to come from a wide group of project stakeholders and to be a shared narrative focused on new ways of thinking about sustainability based on regeneration and living systems.

Leading ideas about sustainability are no longer about limiting negative impacts, instead they are about creating living environments which cultivate the capacity and capability in people, communities and other natural systems to renew, adapt and thrive. Creating a compelling, meaningful sustainability story is about making choices which are regenerative and enrich living environments, rather than degenerative which deplete and degrade living environments.

Sustainability fulcrum

The stakeholder engagement process Aurecon applied to TEd was developed by CLEAR (Center for Living Environments and Regeneration), a U.S. based advocacy organisation and the University of Colorado. CLEAR helps project teams and stakeholders work through the process of regenerative development and has created a framework called LENSES (Living Environments in Natural, Social, and Economic Systems). LENSES is a stakeholder engagement tool for building a deep and shared understanding of the project and committing to a vision and strategy for achieving regenerative development outcomes.

Aurecon organised a series of three stakeholder workshops at Monash University to develop the sustainability vision and direction for TEd. This involved reaching out to include stakeholders beyond those directly involved in the project including research organisations, a government agency and students. The workshops were spread over three days and consisted of nine hours of deep discussion and engagement, facilitated by Aurecon. What is particularly interesting is that at no time during these workshops was there any detailed discussion of the brief, rather the focus was on understanding where the opportunities lay for creating a meaningful sustainability story.

Some of the important areas of reflection and discussion included:

  • Participants were asked to share ideas on what they thought were degenerative, sustainable and regenerative outcomes?
  • A five meter long timeline was developed, summarising the history of the Monash University, Clayton Campus site. The timeline addressed key turning points in the areas of Transport, Built Environment, Nature, Institution, People and Culture. Participants were asked to identify the key turning points throughout history which have informed or impacted the site?
  • The participants were asked to individually think of their key commitments for the project. Commitments were defined to be specific, powerful, impactful and non- negotiable
  • During a backcasting exercise participants were asked to develop an obituary either on how TEd became a success or how it became a failure.
  • A group exercise was introduced called “yes, and …”. Where participants shared a big idea for the project, which was then affirmed by someone else and continued by another big idea.

The workshop participants discussed the collated big ideas and agreed the most relevant and rewarding key initiatives.

guiding principles

Having invested this time together the participants left with a greater level of shared understanding of living environments, a common sustainability story and a sense of purpose for how the project can create conditions for life to renew, adapt and thrive. While this level of engagement was not anticipated in the original brief it has considerably enriched Aurecon’s ability to deliver leading project outcomes for TEd. Since the workshop the guiding principles have been used as a source of inspiration and high level direction that informs the subsequent stages of the project and will be revisited during each phase.

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