Social Sustainability advocacy from within the Australian Institute of Architects


Over a period of three years, Dr Angelique Edmonds worked with a small team of members within the Australian Institute of Architects to establish a policy for social sustainability. Traditionally, the Institute‘s focus in the practice of sustainability had been primarily on environmental sustainability. This advocacy, implementation of policy and design guide notes, has expanded that focus within the Institute and its membership base.

 This process of advocacy and action on public policy matters revealed a deeper understanding of the challenges of change management within a professional body. It also required innovative development in the techniques and methods  to engage professional interest in embracing a new area of focus.

About the Project

From 2010-2012, Angelique was a member of the National Sustainability committee of the Australian Institute of Architects, and chair of the Sustainable Built Environment committee within the South Australian chapter. In collaboration with a small working group within the National Sustainability committee, Angelique drew attention to the growing international focus on social sustainability, and assessment of how places perform for people. The group elevated awareness of the valuable contribution that Architects make in creating quality public realm, and in engaging the public in the design process.

Social sustainability combines the design of the physical realm with design of the social world – infrastructure to support social and cultural life, social amenities, systems for citizen engagement, and space for people and places to evolve.

The way we build and organise our cities can help or hinder social connection.

Creating socially sustainable communities is as much about the process as it is about the outcome. The design of the physical place is critical, and the physical outcomes need to be integrated with social infrastructure systems.

It speaks to the core of what architecture is about – designing and delivering places that provide the conditions that underpin exceptional human experiences. A greater understanding within the profession of what social sustainability is, and a clear articulation of how architecture contributes to it, is vital, particularly as it represents a growing area of focus in public policy. As a result of this advocacy, the Australian Institute of Architects has now embraced the importance of social sustainability in policy, design guide notes and offering continuing professional development for members on this topic.

Other material published on this project

Article available online here

2013 Social Sustainability: the ‘how’ of human experience in Architecture Australia Jan/Feb p 73/74