A reflection of the 2018 ISCA conference

Another year and another ISCA conference has gone by. Well done and thank you to the entire ISCA team. To put together such a well attended, smooth, informative and most of all, enjoyable conference is a testament to good leadership and hard work. I am proud to be in a profession with so many committed, open minded, thoughtful people supported by an industry body that brings out the best in us all.

As a trainer for the Infrastructure Sustainability Accredited Professionals (ISAP) program run by ISCA, I often describe the conference as an analogy to my wedding (I’m sure my wife won’t let me live that one down). You see people you interact with every day, you see people you haven’t caught up with in months or years, and you meet people you may never see again but you make an unforgettable connection. You grow your relationships. Pat Illot, Director of Perspektiv, whom we often collaborate with and a person I have great respect for may have described it better in his conference presentation “Achieving an Award Winning IS Score”. He described the ISCA conference as the half time huddle in a grand final game. The teams take a break, come together and discuss the game plan before heading back out into the field of building sustainable infrastructure. I like both metaphors for different reasons but one thing is clear. The ISCA conference was a resounding success and met its objectives of growing networks and growing its professionals.

Edge had a strong presence this year and provided sponsorship for the practitioners day (Day 3). We co-sponsored with our clients Holcim, who showed great leadership with the launch of the first Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for concrete, ViroDecsTM. We helped them develop their EPD, so it was only natural for us to partner with them to promote their good across the infrastructure community. Below is a snapshot of my reflections from each day.

  • Day 1 of the conference kicked off with Barista made coffees, appreciated by all those who flew in from Melbourne. Highlights from the day included:
    • An inspirational conference opening by Ainsley Simpson, CEO of ISCA. Common themes included being bold in our profession, connecting, learning and growing ourselves. This set the scene for the 3 days and was a continual theme throughout the conference.
    • Stephen Troughton, Deputy Secretary for Transport for New South Wales reflected in the importance of leadership in the future of sustainable transport.
    • The importance of a holistic and global framework under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals was presented by Michael Smith of the United Nations of Australia.
    • The afternoon sessions included insights from industry on becoming carbon neutral and also perspectives in change management from outside the infrastructure sector. It was interesting to hear the Qantas journey of diversifying their business to become a leading carbon offset provider and also listening to the John West journey toward sustainable fishing practices.
    • Day 1 concluded with an interactive session. This was an innovations and impact workshop where the audience was invited to hear about innovations that had recently been applied to projects. Highlights from this session included the Holcim ViroDecsTM EPD (no bias of course!), the use of biofuels in construction (surprisingly still a challenge!), Queensland’s electric super highway (perhaps there are lessons learnt for other States) and Recycled Plastic in Railway (highly topical!).
  • Day 2 by now everyone was settled and in the groove for more knowledge sharing. Highlights for me were:
    • Jim Betts of infrastructure NSW championing the needs and values of gender diversity in the construction industry
    • Listening to the experiences and lessons learnt in delivering sustainable rail from Rob Paris of Crossrail in London. Given the sheer numbers of metro rail and tunnelling projects currently underway in Australia, it was invaluable to hear his insights on a similar mega project that is nearing completion. He finished with an impressive Hollywood style video teaser summarizing the project achievements. Much to the excitement of those sustainability managers working on similar projects in Australia.
    • The morning concluded with truly inspiring life story told by Shelley Reys AO. Shelly is an Indigenous Australian who runs a consultancy specialising in cultural competency. She provided an incredible insight into the cultural issues we have faced and in many cases still face in Australia.
    • Highlights from the rest of the day included some ground breaking work on materials reuse by Downer Group and Alex Frasers in the building products industry and insights on Green Infrastructure through a panel discussion attended by our very own Tim Watson, who discussed his experiences in delivering a research project on the opportunities for green infrastructure for Horticulture Innovation Australia.
    • Before we knew it, Day 2 was wrapped up and everyone had transformed into rock stars for the Black Tie Gala and Awards Night. This is the night of nights for the Infrastructure Sustainability crew and this night was no different. The night was MC’d by Dilruk Jayasinha, known for his hilarity on the ABC series, Utopia. The night was a celebration of all the projects and exceptional people who have devoted their professional careers to the progression of infrastructure sustainability in Australia and New Zealand. I can’t say any more than that it was a fantastic night that spilled over into the early hours of the morning for some. Day 3 was always going to be a little challenging!
  • Day 3 is a day specifically designed for practitioners. In previous years, this has been lighter in attendance but not this year. It was standing room only. Highlights of this day included:
    • A Sydney CBD site tour hosted by TfNSW. The tour focused on many of the major projects in the Sydney CBD including Wynyard Walk, Central Station Metro Upgrade, CBD and South East Light Rail, Barangaroo Precinct and the Circular Quay revitalisation project.
    • The rest of the day included project focused presentations to build capacity across the profession. There were insights from Transurban and Metro Trains Melbourne on the delivery of the first IS Operations Ratings, insights on achieving an award winning IS Score and of course Edge’s Jonas Bengtsson co-presenting with TfNSW on the application of a Life Cycle Assessment Tool on the Transport Access Program (TAP) project.
    • The last panel of the day was the much anticipated “Verifiers Roast” where the audience had free reign to ask questions to a selection of ISCA verifiers. The verifiers panel was made up of Scott Losee, Meg Wrixon, Daniela von Rabenau and myself, all of us experienced IS verifiers and ready to tackle the hardest of questions. Key take home messages were use the Technical Manual as if your project were going to be audited by it and be concise. There was significant productive discussion on face to face verifications versus non face to face with overwhelming support for the benefits of face to face verifications when required. Personally, I think we as verifiers got off lightly in our panel roasting, but there is always next years conference!
The Day 3 “Verifiers Roast”

So there you have it, three incredible, collaborative, bold days of knowledge sharing, capacity building and networking. As with every ISCA conference, I come out overwhelmed, full of hope and energised to tackle the challenges we all face every day, doing the job we love. Thank you again for ISCA for putting on a great conference, it was great to see all the like minded professionals both old and new! Bring on the 2019 conference in Melbourne!

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