Session: Challenges for Urban Policy

Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures Stream


Day 2, Parallel Session 2B: 1:30pm – 3:00pm

Location: Storey Hall (Building 16), Conference Room 2, Level 7, Room 8

Chair: Karl Fitzgerald (Real Estate 4 Ransom)


People and the Planet 2013 Unions and Urban Sustainability: The Case of Greater Geelong

  • Presenter and main author: Dr Darryn Snell (RMIT University)
  • Abstract: One of the focal points for climate change mitigation and adaptation policies is improvement to the built environment. Sustainable infrastructure design, building efficiency and the use of more eco-friendly materials have become significant considerations, evident across a range of cities and countries. These initiatives have captured the support of a diverse group of social actors including environmentalists, community organisations and trade unions. For unions, such measures are seen as delivering both environmental and economic benefits during a period of recession and high unemployment. The question is what are the conditions for such engagement? First, we consider the arguments about ‘green’ jobs and the transition from traditional jobs to new ones. Second, we consider how urban sustainability objectives are advanced  through the  development of working relationships: while tensions exist between governments, employers and unions over the meaning and realisation of ‘green jobs’, we argue unions remain central players in the process. This presentation examines these issues by considering development in Greater Geelong where ‘clean technology’ and ‘future proofing’ agendas are being pursued  as a way to revitalise the deindustrializing region.  Drawing upon field work data, we consider the role and capacities of unions in delivering sustainable built environments and creating ‘decent’ green jobs in this context.
  • Co-author: Professor Peter Fairbrother (RMIT University)
  • About the presenter: Dr Darryn Snell (B.A., M.A. University of Missouri-Kansas City, Ph.D, University of Warwick) is the Coordinator of the Sustainable Regions, Labour and Industry Research Cluster in The Centre for Sustainable Organisations and Work (C-SOW) located in RMIT University’s College of Business. His current research investigates the regional, industry and employment dimensions of a transition to a low carbon economy.  The conference presentation is based upon research carried out with Professor Peter Fairbrother as part of an ARC funded project focused on trade union purpose, capacity and organisation towards a ‘green’ transition. 
Mark Burgess Impact of the Construction Code in Urban Australia

  • Presenter and main author: Mark Burgess (CSIRO)
  • Abstract: Australian buildings are regulated by the National Construction Code, defining requirements for health, safety, amenity and sustainability (Australian Building Codes Board 2012, p.7). This Code has a significant impact on urban Australia.The Code is revised annually. In understanding the Code’s content, it is helpful to gain an appreciation of the revision process and the agents involved in that process (Australian Building Codes Board 2012). With respect to the Code’s impact on sustainability, two aspects of change will be reviewed. Firstly, an exploration of the contrast between ‘evidence’ based and ‘value’ based decisions (Sundlof 2000). Aspects of building safety are traditionally suited to evidence based approaches, supported by cost-benefit analysis of the impact. In contrast, a building’s amenity and sustainability may not be justified by economic analysis, with a trend to decisions measured against qualitative values (Fellows 2010). Secondly, it is argued that increasing stringency of regulation increases construction costs, with a resultant reduction in new building construction. Consequently, average building age increases, thereby diluting the regulator’s intention of increased stringency (Hammitt et al. 1999). While counterintuitive, mandating increased regulation can lower effective impact within a jurisdiction.  This observation will be explored in relation to energy efficiency requirements for buildings.
  • Co-author: Dr D Thomson (RMIT University)
  • About the presenter: Mark Burgess’ experience includes twenty years in the fire protection industry, followed by leadership of CSIRO’s conformity evaluation, testing and certification operations in the built environment. Active involvement in Australia’s certification and codification processes has led to an academic interest and exploration of the mechanisms behind Australia’s building regulation. He is currently undertaking PhD research at RMIT, focussing on decision making in Australia’s building regulation.