Arianna Brambilla is a finalist in the Women in Sustainability category of the Sustainability Awards. Siniat is once again sponsoring this category. The winner will be announced during a digital event on 11 November 2021 (tonight).
Arianna Brambilla is a lecturer and Associate Dean (SL) at the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney. Read her bio here.
Where and how did your sustainability journey start?
My journey started very early in my career, back to my uni days. The master program that I attended was and still is, very focused on climate action and environmental impacts, which helped me develop an approach to architecture that has a particular sensibility towards these topics. So, I can’t indicate a specific moment, but I probably have to thank the Professors that teach architecture and technology at Milan Polytechnic, where I graduated. They have shaped the way I approach design and the way I approach class every day. My hope is that I can be an inspiration for my students as they have been for me.
Can you tell us about a sustainability project that you have worked on that is very close to your heart?
Recently I have been involved in a project that investigates energy efficiency and indoor health of remote and regional indigenous housing under climate change and increased heat stress. This project for me is powerful and particularly relevant, as often sustainability is seen as a luxury that not everyone can afford, an additional feature that you may decide to purchase. However, in today’s context, sustainability is a necessity, and especially for the most imperilled by climate change. This project has this notion at its core, and it extends the traditional meaning of sustainability in design to be more inclusive.
What are the biggest challenges facing architects and other professionals working in the sustainability space today?
In my profession, being at the intersection between research, education and practice, I have the privilege to appreciate the different perspectives on sustainability. In my journey, I have been exposed to cutting edge applied research and best practices in construction and design, being part of the conversation between academia and industry. I think that the biggest challenge that the whole sector needs to face is the fragmentation of roles, responsibilities and duties – which applies not only to the design process but also to construction, operation, demolition and innovation. Sustainability is a holistic challenge and requires holistic approaches.
Further, an important aspect that we can’t ignore is the necessity to upskill all the parties involved to make sustainable solutions a standard and optimized approach part of everyday practice.
What will winning this award mean for your career?
Winning this award would be an acknowledgement of my contributions in research and education, as well as a powerful signal for all the young female students enrolled in architecture. My hope is that I can be an inspiration for them, and for the young professionals that have just started navigating their careers.
What is needed to move the mainstream toward sustainable buildings?
I think that the sector is moving towards more sustainable outcomes, however, there are a few points that could assist in accelerating this slow process. For example, sustainability can’t rely on individual choices, but there is a need for more ambitious policies that could support the transition towards sustainability as business-as-usual.
This may be enabled by an informed and systemic open discussion on the definition of targets, risks and metrics, which is usually left outside the big picture. “Informed” means based on actual data, and I believe that the sector needs to be more open to standardized and methodic data collection and sharing so that we can have an actual snapshot of the construction sector as a whole, rather than be exposed only to selected best-cases that may misrepresent the reality.
“Systemic”, instead, refers to the necessity of tackling sustainability through a wholistic approach that looks into policies, politics, economy, education, behavioural science and technology. As I mentioned earlier, sustainability is a holistic challenge, and it requires a holistic and shared effort from the whole sector to be addressed.