Joe Karten - Technical Coordinator, Green Building Council Australia, Sydney

Joe Karten
'We create tools for rating the environmental sustainability of buildings and promote sustainability across the property industry through courses and conferences on sustainable building and government advocacy.'

Originally from Dayton, Oregon in the United States, Joe is used to being a long way from home. Before moving to Sydney to work at the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), Joe was awarded a fellowship to travel across Mexico and Europe to investigate his greatest passion after live music – sustainable buildings. While he saved some time to see the more famous buildings and monuments, Joe visited dozens of green building sites to meet with their architects, builders and facilities managers. Joe had never thought of coming to Australia, but was offered his dream job in Sydney and so took a chance. He loves Australian culture and living in the vibrant suburb of Newtown. GBCA is a not-for-profit non-government organisation which was set up to rate buildings for their environmental impact and sustainability. They have offices in Sydney and Melbourne and employ over 30 people.

What does GBCA do?

We create tools for rating the environmental sustainability of buildings. We also promote sustainability across the property industry through courses and conferences on sustainable building and government advocacy. To create a healthy and comfortable interior environment, buildings can incorporate non-toxic paints, sealants, carpets and wood products that are low emitters of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), for example. Then there’s the building site to consider. The idea is to minimise the impact the building has on the environment. One way to do this is through improving a site’s ecological value. That can include native plants and grasses, rooftop gardens and restoring wetlands.

How did you get into this industry?

I completed a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management at California Polytechnic State University and found a real interest in the sustainability movement. I’ve always had a concern for the environment and working in the green sector of property seemed a good way to couple my education and interest in the environment.

What did your fellowship involve?

I was awarded the Victor Regnier Traveling Fellowship from the American Council for Construction Education to travel around Mexico and Europe investigating the latest and greatest sustainable buildings. This experience gave me a deeper understanding of some of the possibilities and realities of sustainable buildings. One of those possibilities is that with good design and forethought, buildings can be constructed for the same cost, or less, than conventional buildings and be far more efficient and comfortable. They can also offer long-term payback over their lifetime.

What sort of background do employees have at the GBCA?

There are people here who have studied or worked in everything from environmental management to marketing, and everything in between, including architecture, construction, business administration, education and information management.

What other opportunities are available in the green sector?

It’s an exploding sector – everybody wants to go green and there are endless opportunities. You can really get into it from any side – builders and developers are looking for project managers with knowledge of green building rating systems, architecture firms are looking for people who know about sustainable design and lots of projects require ESD (environmentally sustainable design) consultants challenge.

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