Alumni in profile

Anthony (Tony) Arnel
Bachelor of Architecture 1979

I studied
In the seventies and it was an exciting time. Architecture students were amongst the first groups to study at what was the new Waurn Ponds Campus of Deakin. There was only one academic building and a student residence and I remember lots of cows and sheep in paddocks.

I graduated
In architecture and then did a Masters in Urban Planning. In my view, architecture is a great choice as an undergraduate degree as it equips you for a lifetime of opportunity. I often talk to young people about making university course choices and always say that an architecture degree can take you on a range of career journeys.

I’m currently
The Global Director of Sustainability of Norman Disney & Young, an international engineering company engaged in a range of market sectors and disciplines.

I was formerly the Victorian Building and Plumbing Industry Commissioner, a position I held for twelve years. As well as being a founding Director and past Chair of the Green Building Council of Australia, I was also Chair of the World Green Building Council from 2008-2011.

Sustainable building is a passion of mine, which directly stems from my early days of understanding basic design theory at Deakin. I didn’t quite realise it at the time, but one of my building science lecturers, Bob Moore (now deceased) was way ahead of his time in teaching that buildings need not be wasteful and that energy efficiency, water saving and careful use of environmentally friendly materials were all part of intelligent design. Here I am, 30 years later, advocating in all parts of the world what I was taught by Bob in a one building University campus situated in farm paddocks outside Geelong!

I chose Deakin because
Its School of Architecture was highly regarded. Its legacy stemmed from the Gordon Institute of TAFE, which had a century of history behind it, which in turn, had produced some very prominent architects and architectural firms. To my Commission work in Victoria, one of the recipes for success is being able to harness and value the many ideas and the creativity that people bring to the table.

After leaving Deakin I
Worked initially with what was then known as the Housing Commission in Victoria. In second year I had won a government cadetship, which meant that I was bonded to work for the government after graduation. In the late seventies, these were exciting times for a young, wide-eyed architect with the opportunity to work on some of the major urban renewal projects that were happening in inner-Melbourne. I then worked for the Public Works Department, the Office of Building and the City of Melbourne. Working for Victoria’s capital city was a great experience. I went there initially as Director of City Services and moved to City Strategy and Development after a while. Both portfolios had a lot of variety and challenge and I worked with some terrific people and councillors. Capital city government is unique in that responsibilities range from the usual ‘council services’ through to positioning Melbourne as an international city – its culture, art, design, buildings and general ‘liveability’ are a result of fantastic and visionary work by many individuals. I’m very proud of Melbourne – I haven’t been to a city yet that beats it for the complete package that we offer.

At university I was inspired …
By a few of the political leaders of the time. Gough Whitlam came and went but left a lasting legacy in many areas including the role of cities, heritage and urban design. I first heard the word ‘green’ used in connection with buildings at university. A union organiser from Sydney, Jack Munday, coined the term ‘green bans’ in relation to his attempts to save many historic buildings from demolition, particularly in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Today I’m motivated by …
Being in the fortunate position with my various roles to develop and influence policy-making that is leading to a more sustainable built environment. Whichever hat I’m wearing, it is very satisfying to know that you are contributing to better building outcomes, which is all part of the bigger picture of combating climate change.

Professionally my proudest achievement has been …
To Chair the World Green Building Council. At a time when the building sector worldwide is being challenged by people like President Barack Obama, to take a quantum leap to new levels of green … this was a great gig.

In my profession it is important …
To listen! In the work I do, everyone has an opinion – from my roles with the Green Building Councils through to my Commission work in Victoria to my role now, one of the recipes for success is being able to harness and value the many ideas and the creativity that people bring to the table.

I never dreamed I would
Get to see so much of the planet in the work that I do. At university the farthest I travelled was with a few mates to New Zealand. That seemed a long way at the time.

I feel a strong connection with …
People who want to make a difference to the environment. I was in Beijing in 2009 having a private meeting with a senior Chinese Government Minister who I’d not previously met. We were both speaking through interpreters about sustainable buildings and yet the passion was palpable … we were connected!

This is important because
Worldwide, the role of buildings in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is on everyone’s radar. The building sector is uniquely positioned as the least cost and most efficient area to dramatically reduce GHG and have a real impact on the spectre of climate change. Another benefit is that it has the potential to create an avalanche of green jobs.

Success to me is …
A balance in life.  I’ve seen too many people fall over because they don’t get the balance right. I’m not necessarily a role model but I appreciate the other parts, especially the family side. I’ve been married to Denise for more than 30 years and have two great daughters now in their 20s … so I guess I’ve been dominated by women, but I wouldn’t swap it and they keep me grounded… as only wives and kids can.

In the future I’d like to …
Do what I’m doing for as long as I can.

The single-most important issue in the world is …
The environment. Financial crises come and go, they always do, but climate change won’t go away. Lord Stern says that on our current course of GHG emissions, world temperatures could rise by six degrees by 2100 … in 90 years. The result would be catastrophic with conditions on earth unlike anything we’ve experienced for 30 million years. The good news is mankind has the ability to change and the built environment is very much a part of the solution.

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16th September 2013