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WGE Sustainability expert highlights green opportunities in NSW

The NSW Government’s mandate that all state-significant infrastructure projects achieve ratings from the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) is a golden opportunity, says WGE’s Nicholas Johnson.

In June, the NSW Budget grabbed the headlines for a record infrastructure investment of $73.3 billion over four years, with projects such as the WestConnex and North West and South West metro the beneficiaries.

While the promise that each ‘state-significant’ infrastructure project must achieve an Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating from ISCA didn’t grab as many headlines, Johnson says the move has the potential to be a game-changer – for both industry and the community.

“The NSW Department of Planning’s mandate demonstrates leadership and will drive the integration of sustainability into large-scale projects like never before,” Johnson, WGE’s sustainability section manager says.

“This will mean that sustainability principles will need to be considered throughout the entire project lifecycle – from the early planning and feasibility phases right through to operations and maintenance.”

ISCA’s IS rating system does for infrastructure what Green Star does for buildings, looking at the sustainability of the build itself, as well as the wider impacts on the community, society and environment. IS can assess a range of infrastructure types – from roads, railways and bridges, airports and harbours, to sewerage systems, gas pipelines and communication networks.

“ISCA is challenging infrastructure project teams to look at the big picture – to recognise that sustainability is as much about social and community impact as it is about environmental impact,” Johnson says.

“The IS rating tool looks at how to deliver best practice planning and implementation around a host of social issues, such as how to engage with communities and key stakeholders, bringing them into the process of design and feasibility.”

Sustainable infrastructure is a relatively new concept, but Johnson and his team are looking to bring their specialist skills, honed on Green Star and other infrastructure developments, to the table on projects that require IS certification.

“The push towards sustainable infrastructure is very much in its infancy in Australia, but the more opportunities we can identify to foster collaboration and innovation, the more we’ll see sustainable thinking gain traction.

“We’re talking about assets that potentially have two to three times longer shelf life than buildings – and the impact on the community can be immense. It’s important that we get it right.”