Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Innovation for a Carbon Constrained City: Challenges for the Built Environment Industry

Academic journal article Innovation: Organization & Management

Innovation for a Carbon Constrained City: Challenges for the Built Environment Industry

Article excerpt


Cities are our most profligate consumers of scarce resources and our worst polluters. Cities are the primary cause of climate change and are most at risk from climate change, but they also provide the solution to tackling it. It makes sense, therefore, to begin finding city-wide solutions to the problems of climate change. (Jones 2008)

While cities act as foci for innovation, the incremental and often longstanding nature of the fabric of the built form, and the interests ascribed within it, can be seen as a complex barrier to change and responsiveness to shifting demands and opportunities facing urban societies. Our cities and the built environment (BE) industry that creates, funds, manages and maintains them will face substantial challenges over the next several decades as they respond to several important drivers of city development. All actors involved in shaping our built environment and responding to both ongoing as well as emergent challenges must understand where innovative practice is required and how it can be facilitated. Many of the essential changes will be incremental but significant transformation in several areas will be required. The built environment of the future is largely already here. Given the timescales involved in designing and delivering the built environment, decisions made over the coming years will be fundamental in establishing frameworks for the next generation of innovative best practice.

The focus of this paper is Australian cities, especially Sydney, and the country's built environment industry. Although the relative scale and emphasis of issues will inevitably vary across different contexts, the core themes are similar to those faced by large and global cities. Much of BE industry is itself often multinational in its reach. The research reported in this paper draws on recent discussions with leading BE providers and specialists in Australia, who identified emerging issues and challenges facing cities and their potential impact on the growth and competitiveness of the BE industry. In turn, the research covered how innovation can be fostered and facilitated to help the industry meet environmental, economic and social sustainability agendas.

The 'built environment' industry is not an 'industry' in the traditional sense because it involves numerous players, both public and private, who are seldom thought of, and who seldom think of themselves, as a single industry. Indeed, the fragmentation of the industry is one of its key characteristics. For the purposes of this paper, we understand the BE industry to be composed of a range of players spanning the design, planning and construction phases of the creation of the BE as well as the operational and ultimately renewal phases. In the first phase, development and construction, the group of players includes land use regulators (in Australia, mostly local Councils and State government authorities) and other planners (notably transport, health and education), urban designers, developers and construction firms and the knowledge-intensive service providers standing within or behind their activities - architects, engineers, landscape and interior designers and IT specialists as well as trades and other sub-contractors and personnel. The construction industry itself has several segments, including the highly innovative complex engineering branch but also the far behind small residential building segment.

In the second, operational phase, where users are in place (residents, office workers and other users), the BE industry expands to include facilities managers, maintenance and repair personnel, affordable housing providers and building and strata managers. A third renewal phase brings the breadth of these actors back together, alongside redevelopment specialists and the community regeneration sector. Legal, financial specialists, consultants, government regulators, and the research and education sector are also involved across these phases. …

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