The benefits of urban greening: 202020 Vision
In the rush to develop urban holdings, green spaces can be easily overlooked. Rory Martin explains why Frasers Property decided to embrace the 202020 vision.
CWS: Why did Frasers Property join 202020?
RM: It was a bit of a no-brainer. We fundamentally believe that urban green space is key to creating greener, more environmentally sensitive cities and urban spaces, which aligns perfectly with 202020 Vision’s work. This belief is underpinned by our corporate strategy on sustainability – ‘A Different Way’, which commits us to delivering Green Star Communities and Green Star Design and As Built ratings on all our new developments. We see the creation of active and healthy green spaces as being fundamental requirements to achieving these ratings and, therefore, our strategy.
This was also an opportunity to demonstrate to the industry and wider community our commitments and leadership in sustainability, as well as the opportunity to connect with like-minded organisations to draw upon their experiences for shared learnings.
What are the business benefits in participating?
We’ve seen a number of benefits already. Not only have we been able to benchmark our projects and endeavours, but we have also been able to learn from others and their efforts to increase public green space in Australia.
We have been able to look at 202020 Vision’s multitude of resources to use as inspiration and sanity checks for our developments, to see what other projects have done and compare it against our own proposals. We can identify which organisations are strong in particular areas, such as CBD infill strategies or new broadacre developments, and use their expertise and the lessons learned from their built works in a more tailored way.
The network of professional and organisational experts that 202020 Vision has created has also been very useful. If we have a particular challenge on one of our projects regarding public greening, then we can readily draw upon this resource to see what individuals and organisations may be able to assist. To reach 202020 Vision’s goals we must realise that we are the sum of our industry; no one organisation has all the answers, and therefore we must partner with the ‘best in industry’ to get there. It’s been impressive to see the increasingly comprehensive suite of tools they’ve created for our industry to grow.
Finally, participating with 202020 Vision adds a lot of credibility to our work. It’s not just a case of us creating our message as part of our communications but, rather, it is standing with industry leaders and the peak body on the issue, demonstrating that we are delivering what we’ve committed to.
What have the business challenges been so far?
To be honest, while there will always be both unique and common challenges on projects, when it comes to urban greening, there is more and more support for not only its inclusion, but also an increased understanding of its value to new communities.
For example, a recent Aecom report on Green Infrastructure cited a $50,000 average increase in the value of an average-size property resulting from a 10 percent increase in the tree canopy in certain Sydney suburbs.
The greatest challenge exists in getting an ‘urban greening’ strategy right in the early stages of a new project. It’s a balancing act between managing biodiversity, urban heat island, community health and well-being requirements with the council, surrounding context and governance requirements.
There’s no silver bullet for urban greening; therefore, it’s an evolving process where we’ll take the successes and learnings from one project and build upon them for the next.
What does it mean for stakeholders (both internal and external)? For example, greater employee engagement, being able to further demonstrate a commitment to sustainable practices with clients (and potential clients), good corporate citizenship?
Our biggest external stakeholders are our clients, those that will live, work and play in the communities we create. For them, and ultimately us, it is essential we create healthy active communities, fundamental to which are engaging external spaces that promote well-being.
Throughout our residential communities, we are working to create this through a number of initiatives, including walking and cycling trails and outdoor community events that bring communities together, such as our free health and fitness classes – ‘Live Life, Get Active’. These strategies would be redundant were we not able to provide external green spaces that enable these ‘heart and soul’ community activities. Incidentally, we’ve found these initiatives so successful that we are including some of them in our commercial developments.
Internally, we are experiencing and living the benefits of quality green urban spaces. For example, we have just consolidated our Victorian business units into a single tenancy on St Kilda Road. At lunchtime our staff have options, including the classes I mentioned earlier, a five-kilometre walk/run around Albert Park Lake or a choice to just chill under a shady tree and enjoy a chat or book. All of this
greatly impacts and improves our team’s overall health and well-being.
How much have you been involved in helping educate the community and stakeholders about the need for the 202020 plan?
As they say, communication is everything and what we’ve found is that whether it’s internal or external engagement on urban greening, it’s sometimes better to tailor and simplify the communication. For example, elements of the plan have influenced our corporate strategy on sustainability. This is so that development teams have one point of contact for simplification, but we still get the same desired outcomes for urban greening, in line with other sustainability commitments.
Similarly, in educating the community, we have found that ‘sustainability’ initiatives can sometimes be overwhelming, over-complex or ambiguous, and hence we’ve been focusing on simplifying the message.
Quite simply, we want to create happy, healthy, connected and active communities and one aspect of enabling this is a killer urban greening strategy. If greater elaboration is required, then it’s quite easy for us to take people through our strategy and the 202020 Vision plan.
Rory Martin is sustainability manager – Residential at Frasers Property Australia.
This article also appears in Issue 7 of CWS magazine.
Images courtesy of Frasers Property and Sekisui House. Photography by Simon Wood.