For five years, E2Designlab has been providing world class water-sensitive solutions to support Australia’s environmental infrastructure. The company consists of multi-disciplinary advisors, including engineers, ecologists, environmental scientists and urban planners looking to provide a “nimble and responsive” approach to integrated water planning, water-sensitive urban design, and green infrastructure. Through this innovative strategy, their goal is to provide a more tailored and integrated service to guarantee client satisfaction. Currently operating out of Victoria and Queensland, and even China, E2Designlab also strives to promote the 202020 Vision initiative, incorporating these values into their design process.
“Our core business looks at the interaction between water and cities – not just in terms of the traditional water supply and water management, but in terms of the opportunities to create multiple benefits by rethinking how we design our cities,” says Principal Sustainability Strategist Celeste Morgan. “If you think about it, water interacts with us in several ways – it’s not only the water that we drink from the taps. There’s also rainwater that falls onto our cities, runs into our waterways, sometimes causing flooding, and becoming a source of pollution. So, we’re looking to recreate that relationship between cities and water to be a more productive one; learning how we can celebrate water better, how we can stimulate greening of our cities, create liveable environments use water to cool the environment, reuse it as much as we can by using alternative water supplies, and truly enhancing community well-being.”
A majority of the clients that E2Designlab helps through their services are local and state government bodies, water utilities, and developers interested in reshaping city structures – such as streets, parks and communities – in order to better accommodate water management. Some of the employees within the company are so involved with the cause that they have even pursued their own residential water management initiatives. “The kind of people that work for the company are very passionate and committed to concepts we recommend to the clients,” says Morgan. “A lot of them have actually undertaken their own projects on their own properties; for example, they’ve installed their own water reuse systems, and also what we call a rain garden – a specifically-designed garden that will capture rain from the roof, filter out pollutants, and also water the garden at the same time; it’s making sure that the waterways are protected in the area.”
According to Morgan, two main principles that E2Designlab adheres to are collaboration and the application of flexible skill sets. Giving back to the industry is of top priority for the company; they work closely with researchers to “capture the latest thinking,” which can then be used to improve current industry operations. “We also work with other small, like-minded firms to get the best expertise involved so that we don’t claim to be able to do more than we can; instead, we direct our clients to the experts in the field,” she adds. “We also pride ourselves in having a mixture of disciplines, and a wider understanding of problems. Where our competitors might just have engineers, we have engineers that work closely with ecologists, environmental scientists, and urban designers. We often have people that have a dual qualification, so they have double degrees in quite different things; they’re able to have that mind that expands beyond one box so they’re able to think holistically about problems.”
Strong relationships are highly valued at E2Designlab, as they help contribute to shared project commitment; their involvement with the 202020 Vision, as well as their intimate collaboration with researchers, has also helped provide a greater perspective towards each new project. “Increasing open space in cities by 20 percent is a great initiative, and it ties in very closely with what we’re passionate about,” says Morgan. “We’re keen to see greener cities and all of the health and environmental benefits that will bring to local communities. Our reason for supporting the initiative is to highlight that, to have a greener environment, we also need to think about water management in that equation; to make sure that trees, vegetation and open space have the water that they need to thrive, but also that those green infrastructure assets play the role that they can in capturing and treating storm water to lead to broader environmental outcomes.
We’re really trying to rethink how we design cities. To do that, we really need a clear and ongoing understanding of the challenges that our clients are facing, but also of the latest research that’s out there and the latest knowledge so that we can keep pushing the boundaries. To us, it’s important to have those ongoing relationships that go beyond just a project, so that we’re constantly having those conversations to update the industry, but also learn about the challenges – it’s a two-way conversation.”
Having strong organisational leadership, as well as a clear long-term vision, is definitely something that Morgan believes will contribute to future success within the industry. “What we need to do to shape our cities for the future requires constant commitment to change, and not just reactions to crises as they come along,” she says. “Australia’s just been through a drought, so that grew a lot of infrastructure investment; that’s tapered off to some extent as the rains have returned. But, we need to understand that will happen again – whether it be drought, flooding, or a pollution crisis – and not just take these on one-by-one, but have to that integrated long-term view and the leadership within organisations to make sure they are addressed.”
Morgan was first introduced to E2Designlab while she was working in the United Kingdom. After hearing about the world-leading capabilities within Australia’s water industry, she travelled to Melbourne to learn more about improving water management strategies, hoping to apply these methods back home. She eventually decided to move to Melbourne and re-join her colleagues, and the company that taught her so much about urban water-sensitivity. “That’s definitely what drew me to the company – the holistic perspective that water management is more than just engineering; it’s an understanding of urban design. It’s an understanding of ecology that will bring us to the most natural and successful designs.
My personal objective at the moment is to bring our work very closely with the research that’s going on out of the Collaborative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, which is based across Australia; to take those latest research outcomes and translate them into industry in a way that’s effective, and allow Australia to continue its leading position in water management. We’d like to be leading the way in taking new innovations and putting them on the ground.”