Stories from the drawing board: City of Fremantle, and what it looks like to have sustainability as a fundamental.

Staring at a brief wondering how it might look if you make climate emergency and biodiversity emergency first principles for design?  According to engineers and technical staff at City of Fremantle, it’s a very positive place to start.

Written by Willow Aliento.  

City of Fremantle Council adopted the One Planet Council Framework back in 2014. This rigorous and audited international benchmarking system requires the council and all its operations to achieve 10 sustainability outcomes including net zero carbon energy and biodiversity protection.

For the council’s engineering and technical team, this has meant every project, program or proposal must target best practice outcomes.

“The framework guides everything,” Phillip Cook, City of Fremantle Sustainability Technical Officer, Facilities and Environment says.

“All our projects are filtered through it.”

Cook says it is a good starting point for the engineering design and delivery process too, and with every project the team are asking how it is going to further progress the outcomes.

Even before it became a certified One Planet Council in 2015, green thinking was firmly on the agenda. Council became certified as carbon neutral in 2009 and had begun putting in place work around an urban forest strategy, water sensitive urban design, low-emissions mobility and other initiaitives.

In 2019 it formally declared Climate Emergency, which Cook says reinforces the One Planet Living requirements for the engineering staff.

One of the flow-on effects of having these principles at the heart of everything is it brings together a lot of different parties within council and a lot of different conversations that “stretch business as usual”.

Cook says it also means the technical and engineering staff have been able to undertake trials and experimentation with projects – adding a lot more interest and variety to the work.

“The framework is a motivation to put forward new ideas.”

The sustainability momentum has been led from the top, with Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt a consistent advocate. As a result, sustainability infuses every conversation within the organisation.

“Mayor Pettitt is enthused and well-educated in sustainability, and he brings to the engineers and other departments other ideas and prospects that we investigate in more detail.”

Private developers and also state government agencies such as WA’s Department of Main Roads (DMR), are also brought into the framework in terms of local projects.

That has delivered some major wins, including Defence Housing Australia’s award-winning One Planet Living-certified Liv multi-residential project.

Another win was the re-design of the route for a major road upgrade of High Street by DMR that allowed for an avenue of mature trees to be retained in exchange for City of Fremantle sacrificing some land from the public golf course. The project will also result in an additional 4,000 trees being planted.

Then there was the carpark upgrade where council wanted to install electric vehicle charging. Cook explains normally this would require an upgrade to the local electrical infrastructure to increase capacity. Instead, the engineering design decoupled the carpark lighting from the grid, specifying solar-powered LED lighting instead. The electricity not needed for the lights now supplies the free EV charging.

And it cost council “virtually nothing,” Cook says.

The key to all the wins has been holistic thinking and applying the One Planet and climate emergency principles as a tool to create collaboration and encourage innovation.

“Different departments with their different expertise all talk, and One Planet Living is the centre point to bring all those conversations together.” 

Have you got a story to tell about how committing to climate action and biodiversity action as fundamental has shaped your projects or practice? Let us know!

Willow is a STEAM wordsmith, researcher and networker working on ideas, research and strategy through to polished words and production across all media/channels both digital and traditional.
You can connect with Willow on LInkedIn

Australian Engineers Declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency