The late American architect Paul Thiry was often heard to say “Buildings should be good neighbours”.
This observation is as valid today as it was when Thiry was designing the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.
I believe his sentiment can be extended further – that it’s reasonable to say infrastructure projects should also be good neighbours.
Good neighbours to the environment in which they are built and good neighbours to the communities that they are there to serve.
I congratulate the Australian Green Infrastructure Council on the producing the first national scheme for rating infrastructure sustainability.
I understand you represent more than 80 membership organisations and many of these have helped create the new tool.
The Federal Government believes it is so important that it has backed it with $500,000.
It is a first for this country and has been developed with the support and cooperation of industry and government agencies right across Australia.
The tool will be able to rate everything from railways to ports and harbours, sewers, drains and cycleways.
In this way, it will be for infrastructure what the Green Star Rating Tool is for the building industry.
It will help us assess the quality of management systems, the process of procurement and purchasing, how a piece of infrastructure can adapt to climate change and what it will discharge into land, air and water.
It will even help us rate its contribution to urban and landscape design, and our well-being and safety.
The scheme is voluntary and helps create better, more sustainable ways of designing, building and operating infrastructure which can then be marked with a rating level.
It demystifies the whole question of what exactly we mean by economic, social and environmental sustainability.
It provides a common language to rank the sustainability of our infrastructure and a common benchmark for monitoring, reporting and improvement.
It adds clarity to the tendering process and helps reduce waste and cost.
Sustainable infrastructure is a global issue and it is something we talk about every day, particularly in connection to the work we are doing to improve our major cities.
Last May, after two years of hard work and Australia-wide consultation, I launched a national urban policy, with the core aim of making our 18 major cities more productive, sustainable and liveable.
I followed this up in November with the release of the Australian Urban Design Protocol – Creating Places for People – a clarion call for a higher standard of urban design and architecture in our towns and cities.
Since its launch three months ago, the Creating Places website has been viewed almost 100,000 times – the interest has been quite extraordinary – and 38 organisations have elected to become Champions of the Protocol.
One of these champions is AGIC.
I am delighted to learn that you have embedded the Urban Design Protocol into your new rating tool.
Site context and planning, urban design and landscape, and ongoing management will all be assessed.
In order to receive full credits, projects must address all 12 of the Urban Design Protocol criteria, and then be ticked off by an independent reviewer.
The Protocol is also to be incorporated into another sustainability rating tool being developed by the Green Building Council which aims to create Green Star Communities.
It is enormously pleasing to find out that the protocol is being so extensively used.
All these initiatives contribute to better decision making – smarter, greener decisions about our infrastructure, urban spaces and buildings.
Under our National Urban Policy, funding for future road and rail projects must be consistent with its key objectives of productivity, sustainability and liveability.
I’m pleased that AGIC has been talking to a number of our project partners who have received significant Federal government funding for infrastructure projects.
These include the Regional Rail Link in Victoria and the Gold Coast Light Rail.
I encourage other project partners to get involved and register with AGIC to rate their infrastructure projects.
On that note, let me close by returning to Paul Thiry’s observation that buildings should be good neighbours.
The Australian Government and organisations such as the Australian Green Infrastructure Council, must continue being great neighbours by continuing to work together.
After all, we share the one aim of building better infrastructure and better cities.
I am pleased to say that AGIC is indeed a very good neighbour.
It’s now my pleasure to formally unveil this new scheme.
It has a new name – the Infrastructure Sustainability Rating Scheme – to be known for short as I.S.
I wish it a busy life and every success.