Bonnie Herring 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.
We asked her 5 Questions in 5 Minutes.
Where and how did your sustainability journey start?
I grew up in Tasmania where the beauty of its natural landscape was rarely beyond my periphery. It’s a centre of green politics and social activism in Australia, yet has too often been subjected to corporate environmental atrocities, political threats to wilderness and wildlife, and the mounting devastation of climate change.
These failures reinforce the criticality of our planetary health. I am committed to our broader responsibility to planet and people, and see architecture as a tool that can reconnect us with nature and a more positive future.
Can you tell us about a sustainability project that you have worked on that is very close to your heart?
The Commons apartments (Brunswick, Victoria) was intended as a replicable, planet-saving housing model that focused on essentials rather than market norms. We adopted a rigorous process of material, spatial and operational reduction that drove a new, environmentally considered design language. Controversially at the time, we left out a host of market norms like car parking, individual laundries, air conditioning and finishing treatments like tiles and chrome.
We designed efficient, passively and thermally stable apartments with high amenity communal spaces that were built to last and be lived in. The approach challenged authority, industry and market perceptions to become an exemplar of and catalyst for greater environmental accountability and positive change in the development industry.
The project became the prototype for Nightingale 1, an all-electric, carbon neutral apartment building, and gave rise to the not for profit, triple bottom line development initiative, Nightingale Housing. Having now spent 267 days living and working in lockdown at Nightingale 1 with my small family – the success of this deliberative community experience and the path to this point is front of mind.
What are the biggest challenges facing architects and other professionals working in the sustainability space today?
We’re in a period of necessary and urgent change. As sustainability champions, we need to put our shoulder to the wheel and use our influence to cut new paths forward. Innovation is risky, difficult and occasionally lonely. As we face up to the scale of the climate emergency, we need to support and collaborate with our peers.
What will winning this award mean for your career?
It would be an enormous privilege. These Awards are an incredible platform from which to foster new connections, share lessons learned, and to amplify impact within the design industry and beyond. Being considered gives new weight to what the Breathe team and I have accomplished, and the aspirational direction we’re headed.
What is needed to move the mainstream toward sustainable buildings?
Building code improvements will bring up the construction baseline, as will broader market change as our economy decarbonises. However, a top-down commitment to more ambitious, more immediate emissions reductions targets would help designers tackle resistance to building electrification and access to renewables. Once operational carbon is in hand, we can move on to the next hurdle – whole of life carbon and circularity in the construction sector.
I can’t wait!