One of the highlights of this year’s Sustainability Summit was the closing keynote address given by Dr Aaron Davis who explored the ideas of Social Sustainability.

As an academic, Davis is a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of South Australia (UniSA) and the Facilitation Manager for the Neuroscience Optimised Virtual Environments Living Lab at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Melbourne University.
Social Sustainability has been the focus of Davis’ research and learning and his words were both informative and enlightening. 

With a plethora of achievements received throughout his stellar career, Davis is well equipped to delve deep into the social perspective of sustainability and he brought to the fore this most important aspect that has perhaps not been explored to its full potential to date.

Davis’ other qualifications include a Bachelor of Music (Classical Clarinet Performance) as well as Bachelor and Masters qualifications in Architecture, a PhD in Architecture and a Masters in Sustainable Design. 

As an academic Davis has impeccable credentials but he also has the capacity to humanise sustainability ideas and, more pragmatically, consider real solutions for best practice. Perhaps understanding the fluidity of art, life, architecture and music allows him to see the bigger picture and therefore consider real problem solving.

While the Sustainability Summit panels talked of design and products and the costs to the environment, Davis’ reflection of the social cost, where people are considered in design, was a revelation to many and an affirmation of ideas for others. 

“The idea of social practice theory is that you can't separate people from their environments. So, we can't have environmental sustainability without social sustainability. In the same way that we can't have built environments without people. But the two are really closely, intricately linked together. I get a bit frustrated sometimes with environmental sustainability, that it's, it's seen as an end in itself, and that we forget that the reason why we're doing this is for people, because to me, architecture and all of the building industry is about creating places for people,” says Davis.

As social sustainability takes on a larger role in the sustainability movement Davis’ role as an educator is more important than ever and, looking to the future, his words will become even more powerful than they are at this moment, today. 

Reflecting on how social sustainability should influence the future Davis responded, “I think the future should be about leading the dialogue around the engagement with communities in architectural practice and in design. To think about the way that we work with people so that we can really change that role of the architect from being the designer to being the true facilitator of great spaces for people. I’d really like to inspire others to join that path of working with people to create environments that support them on a national and then international scale.”

Image: Supplied