Adam Beck is vice president of programs at EcoDistricts, a non-profit start-up in Portland, Oregon. Prior to joining EcoDistricts in 2013, he was an executive director at the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) where he worked with industry to develop the Green Star – Communities rating tool.
He has spent more than 15 years in the consulting sector, including almost a decade with Arup as a senior consultant and associate.
Architecture & Design spoke to Beck about working in the United States, what Australia could learn and why Americans are good at doing deals.
Can you tell A&D about the civic-public-private partnership you're involved with in Portland Oregon?
We used a number of projects in Portland back in 2010 to develop a model for building civic-public-private partnerships called the EcoDistricts Framework. We were frustrated with the continual lack of project leadership and great plans that never got implemented. The EcoDistricts Framework was developed as an agitator and model for project delivery. It uses the concept of collaborative governance to establish the necessary conditions to help accelerate district and neighborhood sustainable development. It has been tested on five projects in Portland and we are about to launch our next generation pilot program across North America and beyond to further refine it.
How did you come to be involved with the program?
The opportunity to work with EcoDistricts came out of nowhere, really. Our CEO Rob Bennett is a close friend of the global green building council family, so we knew of each other through those connections. Rob was looking for someone to build a world-class sustainability standard and he thought I could help out, so here I am.
How does the work compare to what you were doing in Australia?
It’s similar in many ways. I spend a lot of time working with stakeholders across many sectors and professions. I am spending a lot more time (than I have in Australia) embedded in social and economic sustainability issues, like equity and justice, green jobs, crowd funding, sharing economy and micro finance.
How does America's approach to sustainability compare to Australia's approach?
I have been exposed to some very sophisticated cities here in the US that are good at ‘doing deals’ with the private sector to advance district sustainability, whether it be streetcar in Portland OR, district energy in Vancouver BC or green infrastructure in Philadelphia PA. Another big difference is the involvement of the non-profit or third sector in planning, funding and delivering sustainability projects, such as community solar, affordable housing and district utilities.
What could Australia learn from America?
I think the ability to establish effective civic-public-private partnerships, doing collaborative development deals and building a more extensive network of third sector delivery partners.
What did you learn in Australia that you're trying to implement in America?
I think Australia leads the world in its public participation methods, tools and techniques. It excels in integrated water management and building resiliency in communities affected by natural disasters. These, among others, are key issues I am trying to share in the US.
What is your dream job?
I only need three things – good local coffee, plenty of whiteboards and having inspiring people around me who want to create better places for people within our cities.