Director Whispering Smith Architecture
Tale of Two Developers
In her recent talk, Kate Fitzgerald gave us a 'boots on the ground' perspective, into the real-world experience of achieving high quality, sustainable, infill housing. Kate is well qualified to speak on this subject. With 'skin in the game' she set about the task, as both architect and developer, to do what we are all supposed to be doing post Paris Climate Agreement: Develop sustainably.
In 2016, The Conversation penned an article titled, 'Sustainable cities? Australia’s building and planning rules stand in the way of getting there.' Through Kates personal experience we learn first hand what this might look like, how this observation plays out in the suburbs. Importantly, that expertise and a moral compass, is no advantage in furthering the sustainability imperative.
Using a simple, but highly articulate set of cartoons, Kate lays out the reality of 'business as usual' (BAU) urban infill, versus; innovative, thoughtful, sustainable urban infill. Pitting the BAU developer in the blue hat and the sustainable developer in the green hat, it becomes eerily clear that there is a resistance to adopt the different model proposed by the green hat developer; one that aims to see every piece of urban land as sacrosanct, requiring a deft hand to decide what is best for that individual block, with its existing built form, vegetation and orientation. This does not necessarily imply that all blue hat models are ill-intentioned rather, that they are well adapted to our current planning laws.
As the blue hat developer employs BAU, the development passes seamlessly from building approval, to development, then to profits; naturally, to the collective delight of all stakeholders. By comparison, the green hat developer, who is committed to sustainability has no choice but to expose their plans to endless roadblocks and financial penalties. It is obvious as the talk progresses, who is the victor in the ‘infill wars'.
For those in the audience signed up to climate change and the idea of the ethical city, Kate's talk, titled; A Tale of Two Developers, felt more like a tale of woe. The palpable frustration however, was saved by Kate's irrepressible enthusiasm, in presenting the future of Perth in a positive light: Achieved, she believes, if we rally together and tackle these complex problems. Kate’s talk is confronting; It asks us to constantly question the values that underpin the goals and objectives being put forward.