As we launch our new environmental strategy, Laura Bielinski discusses her passion for the ocean and the steps our team in Hong Kong is taking to reduce plastic waste.
An old friend’s father, a captain of industry, once told me that if you are still in business after seven years then you have a business. What a roller coaster these last seven years have been! Since beginning the journey for Ryder in Hong Kong, we have been blessed through our hard work and determination with project wins and successes that have continued our ability to practice what we love. Design and its delivery into built solutions for the benefit of our clients and people.
I’m proud we have established an agile business, recently celebrating the completion of the West Kowloon Cultural District Headquarters office fit, summer works at English Schools Foundation King George Five School and Sha Tin College, the appointment to lead the new office design and fit out for Bupa, Concept Master Plans for the Hospital Authority at Yan Chai Hospital and Caritas Medical Centre and the latest appointment to be a trusted advisor on the master planning and concept design of Daxing Biomedical Park.
Despite our successes, it would be fair to say our seventh year in Hong Kong has also been one of the toughest. No one could have predicted the social unrest in Hong Kong and the indiscriminate disruption of COVID-19. We are all impacted by the continuing international efforts to contain and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on our healthcare infrastructure and, more importantly, the people who deliver the lifesaving treatments to counter it. Unfortunately, our infrastructure was tested to the limit and was unable to cope. The ongoing efforts of the World Health Organisation, health providers and governments will continue for some time yet as the world comes to terms with the fact that COVID-19 and its mutating nature are here to stay. With this, a reality is emerging that the world will never quite be the way it was.
The uncertainty of the market as a direct impact of COVID-19 – combined with the witnessing of some of the most horrifying global natural disasters, such as wildfires in California, floods in China and eastern Europe and summer temperatures of 40 Celsius plus in many regions – has also brought home the reality of climate change. Conversely, the immediate impact of COVID-19 resulted in some of the cleanest air globally as the world stopped in its tracks. This poses an opportunity to reflect and consider our behaviours.
We are now faced with the impacts of our behaviours on the earth, alongside the very opposing need to continue to consume and enable an economic sustainability that supports each of our livelihoods. No easy challenge.
As an architect, these colliding realities are a critical challenge between the need to be economically viable while limiting our consumerist impact on the planet that sustains us. The built environment, by its very being, is one of the biggest contributors to the situation humanity haves created. We must pioneer ways to undo the damage we have caused and build for a sustainable future.
The seventh year has been a catalyst for how we improve our solutions and how to derive high performance, built environment solutions. If we are to limit our carbon emissions, we must first look at how our built environment currently performs and what actions we can take to reduce the construction and operational derived carbon. Governments need to revisit building codes and guidance to raise performance standards. We are lucky to work with many clients who are collaborating with us to raise their standards and environmental ambitions as they realise that we cannot just wait for governments to act, whilst also responding to the financial investment market and their growing Environmental Social Governance (ESG) standards for investment choices.
The team in Hong Kong, and Ryder as an international practice, has passionately established a road map to how we will aim to achieve a net zero carbon business. We need to be part of the solution, not the problem. The world through collaboration has realised that climate change is not one country’s solution to fix. It impacts all of us in very different ways.
As we continue to embrace and apply new digital tools to the design journey and derive solutions, the ability to analyse and test designs has become easier, with virtual prototyping to optimise solutions the basis for reduced carbon. The design process and journey need to allow this in depth analysis and optimisation. Clients need to allow time for this workflow to be enabled to ensure that their project is high performing and delivering their ESG contribution.
As we head into our auspicious eighth year, we hope to continue to work with our great clients and attract new clients who share our passion for high performance solutions with sincere environmental, social, and economic considerations at the core of what we derive together through collaboration. I remain optimistic about the future, as long as we all work together towards a better global vision.