17 Feb 2022

A Q&A with Sam Smith, Director of Sustainability & Regeneration

Sam has been a registered architect for 20+ years and has a diverse career spanning construction, Local Government, not-for-profit/NGOs, and the tertiary sector. Her expertise lies in permaculture, climate resilience, adaptation and holistic design-systems thinking.

Sam has a strong focus on ‘first principles’ of site-specific analysis and solar-passive design and how architecture and landscape can enhance the well-being of both human occupants and other species. She is passionate about delivering sustainable solutions to projects that embody human wellness and allow biodiversity to thrive.

How long have you worked in sustainability, and why sustainability?

For me, practising sustainability is about a duty of care to future generations. I hope to leave this beautiful planet in the best shape possible so they too can enjoy the same privileges and lifestyle that we have. And by privileges and lifestyle, I mean simple things like clean air, healthy oceans, fresh food, healthy natural places and biodiverse populations.

In today’s world, many global imbalances need to be addressed to allow everyone on the planet equal access to our planets natural resources and I genuinely believe that social sustainability is as important as energy efficiency!

As a graduate architect, I did a Permaculture Design Certificate with Bill Mollison.  It changed how I thought about design and the responsible use of materials. It reframed the way I thought about energy and waste, and more importantly, how buildings integrate with the landscape. I saw that permaculture design principles could be used in building design at a micro-level and the landscape or masterplanning at a macro level.

And career highlights?

One of my all-time favourite highlights was working with Costa from Gardening Australia and Tim Silverwood from Take 3 for the Sea as part of the Sustainable Living Festival. The festival brought sustainability to school kids to inspire the next generation. Costa and Tim are great storytellers, and their enthusiasm and authenticity was infectious.

Have you experienced any major hurdles over your 25-year career?

Indeed! The sustainability sector is fairly new and was often seen as a ‘nice to have’ or an additional expense that was not necessary, so it always felt like you needed to push uphill and being a female in the construction industry with a remit in sustainability has had its challenges, particularly when I was a working mum with small kids and juggling it all. I was lucky I had great support from my partner and parents, but this isn’t readily available for many young families, and it is hard work. I valued my role as a parent and responsibility to my family above all else, and I suppose for a few years, my career took a backseat, knowing that they are only small for a very short time. I have been fortunate that many of my employers were flexible, but I often felt compromised. As we balance gender equity and opportunities for women, I hope that this path for future generations of young families is a lot easier.

We need to start thinking about using materials and resources more strategically and mindfully.

How is sustainability in Australia fairing compared to the rest of the world? What changes would you like to see happening?

Personally, I feel Australia is behind the pack without strong Government leadership on climate action, emissions reductions and environmental protection. However, it does feel like we are at a tipping point, and business leaders are beginning to acknowledge their role in corporate social responsibility and the community.

I would like to see our government invest as much into renewables as it has in propping up the mining and fossil fuels sector and push to develop a world-class Circular Economy sector.

We need to start thinking about using materials and resources more strategically and mindfully. There is only one planet and one planet’s worth of resources, and at our current rate, we are on a fast track to nowhere.

How do you believe you and the ADP team can make a genuine difference to our clients, projects, and planet?

I believe my strengths include building strong, authentic relationships based on respect, trust, collaboration, an open communication style and excellent stakeholder engagement. My aim is to ‘meet people where they are at’ and work with them to find the right sustainability solutions to fit all project types and organisation’s needs. I think the vision of ADP aligns perfectly with my own personal value set and the technical talent at ADP is extraordinary.

I love ADP’s vision of ‘creating great environments with great people’. The business understands the big picture when it comes to their projects and how to optimise the benefits of sustainability and deliver a holistic best practice service that suits the needs of our clients.  They seek out people who are passionate about what they do and who want to deliver projects that enhance human experience and our environmental outcomes.

Besides sustainability and family, what are your other great passions?

I am an avid gardener, in particular of edible landscapes, and have a strange obsession with indoor plants!

I love being in nature, camping, hiking, canoeing, surfing (badly) and exploring places off the beaten track’’, the more remote, the better. I am happiest when I am in a tent; when you have just what you need and no more. It makes you live in the moment with all your senses switched on!

Beyond covid times my greatest passion was travelling, experiencing new cultures, exploring beautiful natural places and immersing myself in architecture much older than ours. It is these experiences that have absolutely fostered my love of this planet and why I work to protect her.

To learn more get in touch:

National Director / Sustainability + Regeneration

Sam Smith

P: +61 3 9521 1195
M: +61 0484 343 210
E: [email protected]