Steffen Welsch, the director of Steffen Welsch Architects won a Highly Commended award for Interior Architecture at the Sustainability Awards in 2017.

The practice is dedicated to high ESD design and contributing to and growing of the profession in the sustainability arena in particular. So as a judge for the 2018 Sustainability Awards program, one would assume that ESD design would be one of his main focus areas.

What are you looking for as a judge?

We are looking at ESD that makes a ‘real’ impact and goes beyond ‘ticking the boxes’. Three criteria would include:

•          What is the measurable impact of the design in terms of resource use, embodied energy, and reduced building operation costs?

•          Are the ESD impacts embraced by the occupants and do they have a positive impact on their lifestyle?

•          What innovation has been driven by ESD aspirations?

How much do you think sustainable design has changed over the past few years?

There has been a gradual change, and we have found ESD has been taken up by clients who were traditionally less interested in it. ESD design itself may not have changed significantly but it has become more affordable and mainstream. Technological advancements and regulators have led the charge with a handful of designers.

That demonstrates that sustainable design is a part of broader ecological, social, economic and financial issues. We as architects and designers need to play a more active part and collaborate with other sectors.

What do you think is the most pressing sustainability issue at the moment?

We need to see sustainability as future proofing and not as a way to maintain our current lifestyle expectations. Design has become more image driven than ever, which can work against sustainability aspirations. The most pressing issue is to value sustainability as the driving force and yardstick that every other decision flows from.

Do you think sustainability is still an add-on or does it need to be incorporated holistically?

There is no question that it needs to be incorporated holistically and this is the challenge. We need simpler and clearer assessment tools and methods that can guide sustainable design. And most importantly: it doesn’t stop at the handover, at this point sustainability is put to the test. Our responsibility as architects and designers is to create an environment that stimulates and encourages sustainable use over the long term.

Where do you see sustainable design heading in the next few years?

Sustainable design can be applied with more rigour and sustainable design solutions should be more accountable. There are countries that lead the way with stricter rules and similar approaches should find their way into Australian regulations. Technology and building systems becoming more affordable will have a positive effect on the quality of our designs. Design will be more community focussed, buildings will be more comfortable to live in, and we will use healthier materials.