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ESD is at the heart of creating human-focused spaces

Sustainability By Nandini Phadnis, Senior Consultant, Sustainability – 08 November 2021

Child running barefoot in front of a slide on a soft bark floor in an outdoor play area


Nandini Phadnis with street view blurred background

Nandini Phadnis

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Our sector works to facilitate a positive change in the built environment. When I studied architecture, considerable attention was given to how the building form looked from the outside and from the inside in terms of aesthetics, volume and functionality. The aesthetic design, and its impact on the surrounding streetscape, was also a key focus.

As I have moved from architecture to engineering, there is a noticeable shift in focus of the built environment from creating unique visual designs to quality of space. As a sustainability consultant working within an engineering company, I now directly influence and appreciate the importance of how a space feels, functions and impacts the users.

ESD works in the space of synergy and holistic thinking. ESD thinking also supports decisions around energy-efficiency, design and materials of thermal comfort and other aspects of building services. For this reason, engagement at the early design stages is ideal in terms of achieving the best holistic outcome for the space.

ESD however, is not a magic wand that operates in isolation. ESD performs most effectively as part of a multi-disciplinary team where all parts are working towards a sustainable, beneficial and high-performance solution.

This approach is highlighted at a recent Cundall project, the Korayn Birralee Family Centre.

Cundall recently achieved a certified 6-Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of Australia for this Family Centre located in Victorian regional city of Geelong. The client brief required a 5-star certified Green Star As-Built rating. The entire project team worked collaboratively to bring together specific initiatives from the various disciplines including building services and ESD to meet the client requirements.

Towards the latter stages of the project, we realised the team had gone over and above initial expectations and these additional initiatives could be used to elevate the final rating. This demonstrated the value of collective team effort. This 6-Star rating represents world leadership in sustainability and is also a rating that exceeds the initial client expectations/ brief.

This example highlights an important skill an ESD consultant needs to have: understanding what a project is aiming to achieve, identifying the most feasible & suitable initiatives, and guiding the team towards the goal. This can add value without adding time or cost to the project, and have tangible outcomes that benefit both the client and the final users of the building.

It also starts with understanding the way the different elements – building design, spatial planning, mechanical, lighting, acoustics, construction practices and fit-out materials – come together and intersect to achieve an improved quality of space and experience for occupants.

It really is like finding the golden point where a single factor meets multiple requirements. In this case, it's ESD's contribution to the creation of buildings and spaces that support human interaction, that increases our sense of wellbeing, and that minimise the impact on our global environment.