Following a recent rebranding, Perth’s With_Architecture Studio (previously Donaldson and Warn) has become the first practice in Australia to be a certified carbon neutral practice following an arduous a three-year certification process.

Certified under the National Carbon Offset Standard, the firm was required to adhere to a rigorous and transparent framework supported by international standards. 

According to With_Architecure Studio director Geoff Warn, the certification was very important to the evolution of their design and development work.

“The principles and experience we have acquired during our own certification process have direct relevance to our work for clients and will be deployed in our approach to conceptual and detailed project design,” says Warn.

“We expect that our commitment to operating a zero-carbon business will legitimise our commitment to sustainable design, beyond rhetoric. We hope this would appeal to potentially new clients,” he notes.

In order to achieve carbon neutrality, the overarching carbon neutral program certifies organisations against the Standard, whereby the organisation must measure emissions, reduce them where possible, offset remaining emissions and then, finally, report on their carbon neutrality.

“We already had an excellent track record in achieving clients’ sustainability goals through our work and this certification clearly demonstrates that our team knows exactly what they are talking about when we discuss reducing carbon emissions through innovative and forward-thinking design. When we talk to clients about sustainability issues our team has the credibility to carry the conversation forward,” Warn says.

With_Architecture says it began to monitor its resource consumption back in 2014. 
The firm then began the certification in earnest process by measuring its carbon consumption and moving carbon reduction initiatives in place, including recycling and printing policies. 

The removal of old IT equipment was done via donation - in this case to a Rotary Club initiative supporting the Friendship Hospital in Cambodia, while other e-waste was recycled with Tech Collect. 

During this time, energy consumption was reduced by 9 percent from FY15 to FY16 and paper consumption was decreased by 18 percent.

Funds from the offset programme support the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor - a multi-species native reforestation project in southwest Australia. This reforestation programme removes 1.257 million tonnes of carbon in a region where over 90 percent of the woodland has been cleared.

The practice says it is continuing to make improvements and saw a 19 percent reduction in electricity consumption during FY16/17 compared to FY14/15.

Whilst it is difficult to determine the exact ROI of a rebrand, With_Architecture believes the rebrand and rejuvenation will ultimately result in new, innovative and challenging projects for the practice. 

The carbon neutral certification was done primarily to reflect a longstanding internal commitment to achieving sustainability goals both for With_Architecture and for their clients, though it does have a financial benefit in terms of lower business costs for items like power.

“The carbon neutral programme also has a positive aspect within the studio - it is an in-house project for us, something that involves all our team, and an achievement that we can collectively be proud of. Team culture is core to contemporary business and that must have positive gains,” says Warn.

While Warn wouldn’t be drawn as to whether other firms will follow this lead, as other practices will be at different stages in their business growth. 

“It would be a rewarding outcome, if our initiative was followed by other architecture and design practices,” he says.