To kick proceedings off in the 2020 Sustainability Summit, this year’s special keynote will be delivered by the internationally-acclaimed urban designer and academic Dr. Janis Birkeland.

Dr Birkeland, currently Professorial Fellow, University of Melbourne, has devoted her personal, professional, and academic life to socio-ecological sustainability. Believing early on that built environment design was a key to sustainability, Birkeland became an architect and urban designer in San Francisco. Later, to better understand the barriers to sustainability, she became a city planner and lawyer.

After moving to Australia, she completed a PhD, Planning for Sustainability (1993) while contributing to many sustainability organizations. She then taught sustainable architecture in several universities, including as professor of sustainable architecture at QUT and the University of Auckland.

On the premise that buildings cannot be sustainable if they do more damage than no building at all, she originated the increasingly popular concept of Net-Positive Design almost two decades ago.

Her books explore how urban design and development can contribute net sustainability gains, and include Design for Sustainability (2002), Positive Development (2008), and Net-Positive Design (2020).

Her theory of Positive Development has led to the new mindsets, models, methods, and metrics that genuine sustainability requires.

Most recently, she developed a computer app for inculcating that paradigm shift among teachers and students of urban planning and design, as well as among the more intrepid practitioners.

The actual Summit has been designed to bring together dozens of academics, industry experts, and corporate specialists who will discuss, investigate and evaluate the most pressing issues around built environment sustainability currently affecting the industry and the country.

In terms of this years’ 35+ panelists, the full list can be found here.

This year, the five-panel subjects will be:

  1. Water conservation and its relationship to sustainable design
  2. Designing and building for the new bushfire paradigm
  3. Passive designs, Passive houses, and multi-residential builds
  4. Planning for a carbon zero / carbon positive future
  5. How does building automation lead to better building sustainability?

This year will also be the first year that the Summit will be held online due to the pandemic, however for attendees this will prove to be an added bonus as this change will ensure that the 2020 Sustainability Summit will now have the potential for a global audience and not just a national one as in previous years.

So for just $99, attendees will be able to listen and interact over a full day of talks and discussions about the latest ideas and trends in sustainable as well as receiving 5 formal CPD points from the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA).

Along with the 2020 Sustainability Awards, the Summit will be held on Thursday, November 12 online with tickets available here.

For more details, go to

Image: University of Melbourne