Clear and engaging communication leads to better sustainability outcomes

“Ensuring that sustainability is successfully integrated into each project starts with us being able to communicate and engage effectively” says Northrop’s sustainability consultant, Nicola Viselli.
A Green Star Accredited Professional based in Northrop’s Sydney office, Nicola is passionate about the sustainability industry and utilising her skills and knowledge to contribute positively to the built environment. 
“The first step is being able to articulate exactly what it is we do. Many sustainability consultants, including myself and others within the building services industry, struggle when faced with this very simple question.”
“I usually begin with... I work on new developments where I ensure new buildings meet minimum compliance requirements prior to construction, or on buildings that go above and beyond simply working to align their project to a holistic sustainability framework that extends to energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste, transport and thermal comfort.” 
“It is at this point, I often see eyes glaze over. If we struggle to describe what we do, in terms that are easy to understand and attention grabbing, then what is the chance that we can engage a project team to deliver optimum sustainability outcomes for our clients?
A difficult job with conflicting points of view
Every day, sustainability consultants are challenged to strike a balance between stakeholder expectations and priorities. 
“We have to find a solution that appeases services engineer’s concerns around practicality and maintainability, the aesthetic concerns of the architect and the return on investment for the developer - usually the primary concern.”
In addition, “we seek world class solutions aligned to various environmental performance metrics and benchmarks across the myriad of green rating tools available.”
“Highly challenging, this can become even more difficult if the project team is not supportive of your ideas and strategy.”
How to get everyone on board
Nicola believes that bringing the stakeholders along for the journey is key to success. 
“In my experience, it all starts with the vision. Engaging key stakeholders early will ensure that your vision and sustainability goals are understood, shared and supported. This is particularly important if the project has a loosely defined scope or a high level of design risk.” 
“The vision can be the project aspiration or a specific outcome, but it needs to be simple enough that the whole team are able to tell the story about what we are trying to achieve and how sustainability fits into the bigger picture.”
“The ability to adapt and reframe language tailored to each stakeholder” is also essential to influence and negotiate decision making.”
“There’s little point talking to a builder about how to meet energy targets for NABERS referencing building simulation modelling, as they likely don’t care how it gets achieved, as long as it is achieved.”
“Explaining the process at a high level, including the importance of the rating tool to the end client (and usually their client) presents a win/win solution. Not only are the sustainability requirements attained, the reputation of the builder is improved because the objectives of the client have been met.”
Where to from here?
“The building services industry needs to head towards an integrated design approach in order to design world-class high-performing green buildings, bringing the whole project team along for the journey” explains Nicola.
“Effective communication and engagement have the ability to drive maximum participation, collaboration and the coordination required to deliver on holistic and sophisticated sustainability outcomes.” 
Read the whole article published in CIBSE’s ENGineering Buildings here (page 42). 

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