Kate is passionate advocate of high-performance, healthy and resilient buildings. With a background as an architect (ARBV) she has worked across multiple low-energy buildings including Certified Passive House projects such as the Monash Gillies Hall and several single residential homes utilising low carbon prefabricated construction systems. She is a certified Passive House Designer (PHI), Green Star Accredited Professional and Board Director at the Australian Passive House Association. She now works with the international environmental engineering firm, Atelier Ten to help stakeholders & architects realise ambitious sustainability goals through their projects.
We asked her 5 questions about her career and her vision for sustainable design.
1. Congratulations on being a finalist in the Women in Sustainability category! Do you think it is still important to have a special category for women in this field?
I think it is important to celebrate the achievements of women in our industry as I feel there is still a ‘gap’ between us and our male counterparts – you only need to look at the top rung of management in larger organisations to see this is unfortunately the case. There are a complex set of reasons behind this, which makes it even more important to lift each other up and support women in achieving their goals. This awards category is just one of many positive ways to do this!
2. What would winning the award mean for your career?
If I were to be fortunate enough to win this award, it would give me a stronger voice in the construction industry. I am eager to help build Australia’s capacity to deliver zero emissions, healthy and resilient buildings and this would provide a unique opportunity to connect with others, and generate momentum together.
After undertaking extensive research into how other cities have overhauled their building policies to meet their emission reduction goals, it has become clear that it is not a case of capability, but of education and bringing the right minds together to solve a common problem.
3. What project that you have been involved with are you most proud of?
I would say that the project I am most proud to have been a key part of was Monash Gillies Hall. It was Australia’s first large scale building to be certified to Passive House standards, and in itself has contributed to a shift in the way the industry designs and delivers buildings here in Australia.
I was part of the architectural team at JCB, and it was the first PH project the whole design and consultancy team had ever worked on. It was a huge learning curve, but it definitely shaped my career for the better. I can confidently say it made me a better architect as a result, and it opened up many new opportunities – such as stepping into sustainability consultancy which I have thoroughly enjoyed!
4. Where and how did your sustainability journey start?
I have always loved nature. Having grown up in a small town in Switzerland, I had the opportunity to connect with the most amazing landscapes on a daily basis, as well as experience some beautiful snow filled winters. It wasn’t until I moved to Australia that I realised how much I appreciated well insulated buildings with double glazing though!
I chose to study architecture as I was fascinated by how buildings could so drastically shape our experience of life. It wasn’t until I worked on my first Passive House project that I realised that 5 simple principles could enable us to control the energy flows of a building, allowing us to tailor the interior environment to support human health and wellbeing, whilst also significantly reducing the building’s operational carbon footprint.
I want future generations to experience snow like I did. If we don’t take responsibility for the climatic impact our buildings have, then I’m worried that experiences like that will become a long lost memory.
5. What is the one change you would like to see in the way we design our buildings to make them more sustainable?
Perhaps it is a paradigm shift, or a perhaps a slight adjustment to how we ‘see’ buildings. I would love the industry to learn to use ‘energy’ in the design and construction of buildings – both as a parameter and opportunity.
Energy has the ability to shape the way we feel and experience space – whether that is through light, air, sound or temperature. As Sebastian Moreno Vacca of A2M architects in Brussels says – “Energy is the fourth dimension of design – to ignore it would be like designing a building with a blindfold on!”