Eight big learnings from Tomorrowland ‘22

There’s no shortage of ambition and innovation, according to presenters and audience alike at the Tomorrowland summit on Thursday last week. The big issue is how to find the great work underway and share it wide and far. 

That’s exactly the mission of The Fifth Estate – and our events are designed to bring to life the magic energy that comes from personal connections between people from disparate walks of life – that moment, when you realise you are each on the same journey and each has some brilliance or insight to create exponential benefit.

A big theme of the summit and the soirée the night before was how to match the abundant talent and skills in this industry, and match them with the creative spirits that lie just below the surface in us all, to transmogrify the dangerous road we’re on, into the world we really want.

That’s the key message from our special guest for both events, Mona’s Kirsha Kaechele. “Turning sh*t into gold” as she puts it.

When you know you’re looking for magic, you start to see it everywhere. The passion of the speakers, the superior expertise was evident in those who spoke and audience alike.

We’re already deep in preparation for a special full report on what happened, available free for a short period and then to ticket holders and members, so you will get a chance to see for yourself how much great thinking and action is underway.

Thanks to Goodman, HDR, Transport for NSW and EY

Before we go further, here is massive thanks to our sponsors without whom, these events would not have happened: Goodman Group, HDR and Transport for NSW and to EY, our generous venue sponsor, providing an inspiring space on the company’s 35th floor at 200 George Street, Sydney, with its sweeping 180 degree views over the Sydney skyline, over the harbour to the north and south over the cityscape (just so we realise what we’re fighting for here).

The conference was sold-out crowd with attendees from a broad cross section of the industry, from developers to architects, consultants, government representatives, engineering and design specialists.

Here’s just some of the top line takeaways, which we will expand on with our full report.

1. The world is changing and we need to change with it

Onshore manufacturing, previously avoided, is now the future as companies and governments try to avoid global supply chain disruptions and provenance issues caused by the pandemic and the global energy crisis. 

The keynote session featured James Laurenceson from the University of Technology Sydney and Geoff Winestock from The Sydney Morning Herald in conversation with The Fifth Estate managing editor Tina Perinotto, providing the global outlook on geopolitical tensions and why they matter to global decarbonisation and Australia’s future. 

Geoff Winestock, James Laurenceson, Tina Perinotto

The power shifts, the political freeze on China and Russia, and the uncertainty of the future is that deglobalisation could well be the new buzzword.

This has big implications for the property and development industry for our building materials but also for the global co-operation needed to decarbonise the planet.

2. Mass timber is the future of construction 

In the breifings in the lead up to the event the first whisper emerged that we may hae built our last skyscraper. True or dramatically exaggerated, what this points to is that we need to move faster on decarbonising our materials.

The sessions on our growing love affair with tall timber towers showed the trend to move away from the overuse of concrete and steel was well on the way.

Instead, there’s a move back to one of history’s most abundant and prolific building materials, timber. It’s certainly turning the heads of architects, developers and environmentalists alike.

We know that the properties of wood include its superior eco-friendliness overall, with the power to sequester carbon and even mitigate fire threats. What was new are the techniques in application and enthusiasm for its use.

Peter Morley from Dexus

Peter Morley from Dexus shared insights into the reality of delivering Atlassian’s new headquarters, set to be the office sector’s new “cool kid” on the block, at Central Station, Sydney in fact, as the entire precinct is revitalised into a hip new tech district. 

James Dibble from Grange Development dived deep into his plan for a 50-storey mass timber building in Perth – promising to be Australia’s second carbon-negative building after Atlassian’s. 

James Dibble from Grange Development

3. Australia needs to unlock its talent

Timber featured again with one of the competitors in the Shark Tank. The opening address – and shark tank judge – was Kara Frederick, who led the private to public transition for Tritium, the global leader in EV charging infrastructure and a tech unicorn. Her work has proved that Australia needs to take our researchers and our start-ups more seriously.

Kara Frederick, Tiger Financial Group

Continuing the timber theme, Alireza Fini from UTS presented his plans to deliver laminated timber without glue, and using lower grade timber. It’s a project that has already attracted a commercial partner and commitment to a new manufacturing facility.

He shared the shocking statistic that 75 per cent of timber is considered low grade and wasted on low value uses such as the barbecue. It was his research findings around this that drove him to turn this outcome around to something more beneficial to the environment.

Alireza Fini, UTS

Ahmed Mahil presented LUYTEN’s 3D printing robot and showed a clear case for construction automation (tech is the future, Kara affirmed). His ideas are bold in the technological solution and historically simple in his use of mud as a preferred material for his work. 

“Robotics and AI are the future of construction,” he said.

MC Jess Miller , left, with Ahmed Mahil from LUYTEN

Ann Austin from Lendlease might have surprised some people with her proposition that diesel was an urgent problem to solve.

“Every good idea solves a genuine problem,” she said. “5.5 per cent of world’s carbon emissions come from running equipment on diesel.” Mostly on construction sites.

Her “green” diesel innovation, which won the shark tank and first prize of a consulation with Frederick, is to start a local market for a green diesel, made from cooking oil and crops. It’s a market probably worth in “in the billions” she said with huge upside for regional economies.

Ann Austin from Lendlease

4. Expanding the value chain around renewable energy

Deo Prasad presented the Decarbonisation Innovation Hub and how its $230 million budget will be put to work towards expanding the range of improvements around renewable energy with a keen focus on how this can help generate economic prosperity and jobs.
Key he said was the many issues surrounding solar or green hydrogen – the storage systems for hydrogen for instance, (which could make a lot of money for those who come up with the right concept) or for high performance think solar cells that can be deployed in challenging applications.

Deo Prasad presented the Decarbonisation Innovation Hub

5. Investors have a tough but critical job to do 

We also heard of the value of looking beyond carbon – while reducing carbon is vital, speakers pointed to the interconnections now understood between nature, economics and equity. 

The investment session also flagged the importance of reporting and how accurate data can lift a company’s reputation with customers and stakeholders.

Emma McMahon from Goodman Group, Nicky Landsbergen from EY, and Jillian Reid from Mercer went deep into the issues in conversation with Robert Harley, columnist and former property editor The Australian Financial Review.

One of the key takeaways was that in business, it’s now time to look at reputational damage and lost future earning opportunities.

But there were so many nuanced angles to the challenge that we will look at in the extended report – the timing of returns, just one of the barriers to investors “saving the planet”. A fascinating session and one that highly engaged a lot of audience.

Columnist Robert Harley, Nicky Landsbergen from EY, Jillian Reid from Mercer, and Emma McMahon from Goodman Group

6. It starts at the local level 

The sessions on precincts focused on the energy at the heart of communities – through core infrastructure such as art and culture, medical precincts, transport and in the case of Bathurst, west of Sydney a new vibrant mixed use revitalisation that enhances historic buildings and adds modern upgrades.  

The Fifth Estate’s Tina Perinotto and Kirsha Kaechele of Mona

Kirsha Kaechele set the scene at the soirée with a presentation focused on community programs and at Tomorrowland she explained the deep commitment to equity and planet that backs her work with the skills and flair of the trained architect that she is. She’s focused on results too and was able to point to the benefits of her kitchen gardens and cooking classes in Tasmanian schools.

Ross Harding from Finding Infinity

Ross Harding of Finding Infinity launched his exciting concept of A New Normal for Sydney, based on the idea of self-sufficient cities with “infinite resources” where waste becomes energy and recycled water is used to great effect.

Riffing on the creative angle of our event we invited Lisa Havilah credited with some amazing work in the cultural and artistic space and now the power behind the Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta to explain her plans for this new cultural precinct in Sydney’s geographic heartland.

Among the inclusions will be a $20 million contribution from the Laing Walker family for an academy to link creativity with science and learning from young people.

Mark Raggatt from Ashton Raggatt McDougall which is a studio with a big track record in this space spoke about the Home of the Arts or HOTA that will unfold at the Gold Coast over the next decade or more and will fundamentally change the nature of an area until now perhaps known mainly for its holiday attractions. 

Mark Raggatt from Ashton Raggatt McDougall, MC Jess Miller, and Lisa Havilah of Powerhouse Museum

After the more creative sessions came a session on the potential of a precinct focused on the practical need of moving great numbers of people who will soon live in Sydney, from Transport for NSW’s Nicholas Wolff.

Wolff took a bird’s eye view of how the masterplan offered an opportunity not just to maximise the potential of transport hubs as destinations in their own right but to expand the CBD itself and help build on the tech first character that’s been identified for this precinct.
Also key in the master plan he said was maintaining commitment to critical solar access for parks, and maximising tree and plant coverage to add to the greening of the city.

Nicholas Wolff, Transport for NSW

In the health and life sciences, precincts are a hot-button issue.

Bruce Crook from HDR shared new models of care for body and mind that he and his team are bringing to communities, based on innovation and digital transformation, community convergence, connections to transport, public space and country.

This sensitive presentation carried learnings that revealed a new social sensitivity of what it means to provide community based health care with an eye to demand often overrepresented by people with mental health or domestic violence issues.

Bruce Crook from HDR

6. Our regions are the future for our growing population 

In a regional focus developer Linda Gregoriou revealed how she and her partner private equity investment group TrueGreen are working to bring an aspirational heart to the regional city of Bathurst, west of Sydney, which will prove unique for the region, she says. 

The ambitious project is to take old flour mills and other historic buildings to repurpose and add to, in order to create a new mecca for visitors and locals alike. Key will be a luxury hotel that will give nearby Mudgee and Orange “a run for their money,” plus residential accommodation and interesting small retail spaces.

Tina Perinotto and Linda Gregoriou

7. Research and industry – huge potential on the way to radically change construction 

Mathew Aitchison from Building 4.0 CRC – an academic and industry-partnered research initiative co-funded by the Australian government to create an innovation ecosystem – talked about the future of buildings, and how a large part of the problem in construction is the system of the traditional industry structure, which he said needs changing because it discourages innovation.

Mathew Aitchison from Building 4.0 CRC

8. It’s time to take action on the built environment 

The closing session was a call to action unlike any other.

It was a look into the future – to the year 2047. What steps did we take to make that a great year that created a resilient Australia with planning that works and developers who are respected? Just in time to meet our net zero commitments?

Jess Miller, Fabrizio Perilli, Elizabeth Farrelly, Adrian McGregor, Linda Scott, Marcus Spiller

MC Jess Miller brought her own creative talent to this high energy closing event to unlock the imaginations and solutions from five experts representing various strands of the community.

There was columnist, author and parliamentary contender Elizabeth Farrelly, Adrian McGregor from landscape architecture firm McGregor Coxall; Fabrizio Perilli from Perifa (ex Toga), Linda Scott from the Australian Local Government Association, and Marcus Spiller from SGS Economics and Planning.

All not just agreed that big steps need to be taken if we are. yo face the coming challenges from climate change, but they also provided the blue print to get there.

The time to act is now. 

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