Woods Bagot is a global architectural company committed to sustainability – in fact, the first architectural company in the world to be carbon neutral. Sandy Edge is the Principal of Woods Bagot in Hong Kong. The birth of his son and a passion for sustainable architecture lead to the establishment of a “green team” in the studio.
This Green Team revolves around staff teams competing for working in the most “green” working environment. The “Green Team” approach has created a paradigm shift within the company, there is a quantifiable difference in everyone’s behaviour in the office – waste, water consumption, energy usage has been tracked, and a sense of collective purpose has been established.
Sandy came to Hong Kong in 1994 and had been working as an architect in the city ever since. He was influenced by the 1999 Green Policy address and is an Australian Chamber of Commerce founding member.
He got a sense that he could make a difference. When he assisted the Hong Kong Cancer Project in the development of an Eco-Park, the park was not completed due to government restrictions. So he decided to try to effect change at the policy level.
The original trigger point for him was watching the environment deteriorate badly. In 1994 he could see pollution levels were increasing – yet nothing was in the press. The competition was the best way to effect change.
Sandy initially had two degrees – Applied Science and Environmental Design. The first part of architectural design is the need to understand human ecology and a pyramid of needs, later come the energy and carbon audits etc. He has had to undertake further research on sustainable culture, and in effect, he became a conductor to present and harmonise all the elements.
Personally, he felt initially he was banging his head against a brick wall. But the Government now has a focus on green buildings and is also moving to focus on green cities. Every building gets a sustainability review. Sandy is now training his staff how to do this.
The culture of Hong Kong people is focused on money. We need to learn how to repackage people’s skills. There is a lack of vision from the government, and Hong Kong people don’t have the vision to understand how to adopt sustainable practices.
Being part of a great community kept me going. People in the CSR community are great, and experiencing the same problems – I am not alone in this!
We intend to move into Chinese cities to help them more with sustainable practices. We are happy to share our best practices with China .
We are a global company, keen to build and target model eco-cities.
Ecological buildings have a very positive effect on cities because they soften the quality of life for all people living within them.
By 2030 China will have 340 million people living in cities. If China develops their cities along Western models, we are cooked! Eco-cities are the last resort. Professor Tim Flannery has had a big effect on Sandy ’s thinking. Sandy realises that we should be empowering local practices quickly. What we need is Hong Kong Earth Champions to take examples to China.
Sandy thinks the barriers are falling away through the greening of schools – sponsoring green moves for young people and encouraging an exchange of ideas.
The Hong Kong Institute of Architects is demonstrating green buildings in Australia through the assistance program established by the Australian government. Woods Bagot has developed knowledge at the cutting edge with their internal “Green Team” initiative
By the time I retire in 2030 – I want a safe future for our sons and daughters. My vision is to come back to using only one planet’s worth of resources by 2020, rather than the 3 planets we will be needing with the trajectory that we are on now.