Leading sustainable design

April 30, 2015

Dr Briony Rogers makes urban water systems more sustainable and resilient to the impacts of climate change.

With bachelor degrees in civil engineering and science and a PhD in environmental sociology, Dr Briony Rogers is uniquely placed for her present research role. She’s tackling the technical and social challenges required to make our urban water systems more sustainable and resilient to the impacts of climate change, a growing population and increasing urbanisation.

As a civil engineer, Rogers spent five years working for private infrastructure services consultancy GHD where she was responsible for civil engineering design and project management on a range of water infrastructure projects both in Australia and Vietnam. She was passionate about sustainability, but recalls that by the time designs landed on her desk, most of the big decisions influencing sustainability and resilience had already been made.
Rogers decided to take on doctoral research at Monash University and investigate processes of social change in relation to sustainable infrastructure and technology. “I drew on my technical understanding, but with the recognition that to implement new approaches, social systems would have to change as well,” she says.

Now, as a Research Fellow for the Monash University Water for Liveability Centre and the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, Rogers works with key stakeholders to design strategies and new methods to build the “social capital” required to transform the way we plan, design and manage our urban water systems. Rogers’ interdisciplinary background means she can act as a bridge between various stakeholders, from engineers and ecologists to landscape architects, as well as organisations such as local councils, state government departments and private enterprise.

The big picture goal, Rogers says, is to transition to “water sensitive cities”, in which decentralised, low energy technologies are integrated with centralised networks to build resilience in the face of an unpredictable future. This requires thinking outside the square, she adds, and recognising that water infrastructure “is not just a pipe underground”, but a valuable part of the urban landscape, providing benefits that can enhance the liveability of a city. She gives an example of green cities that are irrigated using harvested stormwater to reduce extreme heat during heatwaves.

“We’ve been building our water systems in large-scale, centralised modes for a couple of hundred years, so it is very difficult to change our approach,” Rogers says. “That’s partly why this type of research is so important – to understand what is locking us into traditional systems, so we can overcome those barriers to support innovation not just in rhetoric, but in practice.”

Rogers was this year selected by the International Social Science Council to be one of 20 early-career World Social Science Fellows in the area of sustainable urbanisation.

– Gemma Chilton

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10 thoughts on “Leading sustainable design”

    1. Thanks Jeff! We’re going to publish interviews with the leaders of some of the top 25 companies over the course of the week – keep an eye out!

      1. Love to see @buildingiq on this list!! Csiro spin out in 2009, now global award winning player and backed several times by Ausindustry $; listed ASX in dec 2015

        1. Thanks Michael. BuildingiQ does look like a great service for optimising commercial energy use. A number of great contenders certainly made the judges’ job difficult.

  1. Wow some impressive Coys — Would have thought AJX (ASX listed ) and a new kid on the block EDE who both have proven technologies (AJX USA Defence chosen) (EDE huge concrete potential) may have made your list — Thanks… for reading my post. I have no idea on your selection critera BARRY

    1. Thanks Barry. Both those companies look like they’re working on environmentally friendly solutions. The panel of judges considered the following criteria: total market value, annual turnover, patents awarded and cited, funding and investment, growth year-on-year, social value, overseas expansion and major partnerships.

  2. I’m not sure I read the article properly as I suffer from presbyopia – anyone doing anything about this condition?

  3. I’ve been curious about the different uses of contact lenses. I think it’s so interesting that they are developing smart contact lenses! I love the idea of technology like this. I can’t wait to see how it progresses! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the great comment Braden! We can’t wait to see the future of this awesome technology too. Did you see some of the weird and wonderful tech in sciencemeetsbusiness.com.au/big-data-big-business/? Umbrella rain sensors, pigeon pollution monitoring. Keep in touch! SMB

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