Deo the green builder
Scientia Professor Deo Prasad, AO is a man of passion and extraordinary stamina. For over three decades, he has been among Australia's leading sustainability advocates. His work is paving the way for our future zero carbon cities and shaping better environments for communities across the Asia Pacific.
Born and raised in Fiji, Professor Prasad won a scholarship to study at Auckland University, with the option of choosing either engineering, architecture or medicine.
“I chose architecture because of the influence you can have in forming and shaping cities,” he says.
As a young graduate, Professor Prasad returned to Fiji to work on a tropical design project. The Banaban people were undergoing resettlement on a Pacific island to make way for mining by the British Phosphate Commission on their home island. The program had a disastrous impact on their socio-economic wellbeing as they failed to assimilate into their new environment.
“The people were totally displaced. They were environmentally, socially and economically demoralised,” says Professor Prasad.
The experience drove Professor Prasad to explore sustainability and sustainable built environments. This decision led him to Sydney, and to the University of New South Wales (UNSW), where within five years he had completed two masters degrees and a PhD on energy and environmental impact.
“The rest of my career and life has been looking at multi-disciplinary ways of resolving problems,” he says.
Professor Prasad brings sustainability research to the forefront of architectural design and construction, collaborating across industry, government, related professions, and academia to effect change.
He is Program Director of Master of Built Environment (sustainable development) within the University of New South Wales’ Faculty of Built Environment. He is also the CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living (CRC-LCL) – a A$104 million research collaboration supported by the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centres program, and with significant investment from industry, government, and peak body participants.
“The CRC, in essence, puts ideas on the table and presents what research can do to enable next-generation technologies and systems.”
“I believe that this is the way for making big change and improvement, it ticks the carbon box, the sustainability box, and enables a competitive sector,” says Professor Prasad.
Professor Prasad points out the built environment is one of the biggest contributors to carbon and has the lowest cost for abatement. His focus is on how to produce better, lower carbon products as well as on developing new tools, data and next-generation technology.
Demand-side efficiency is the first step towards carbon reduction, says Professor Prasad. He cites solar panels as one point in case.
Australia has well-established research capabilities, yet as a nation it continues to purchase solar panels from overseas.
“Our research is exploring how next-generation, lower carbon products, and technologies, can be produced locally, including innovations such as geoplymer concretes, and building cladding from recycled materials,” he says.
“We can then deliver these solutions globally.”
Professor Prasad is working closely with universities in Shanghai, Singapore, and Malaysia looking at ways to boost energy efficiency to build greener cities. Funded by the United Nations, he has developed a guideline for sustainable cities and communities in Beijing, and has assisted other Chinese cities with greener planning initiatives. Professor Prasad is now working with Chinese industry to test and trial the planning guidelines to see how they can be upscaled to all cities.
On the home front, Professor Prasad says Sydney compares very well with other global cities, in terms of its drive towards low carbon solutions, and continues to benchmark itself against other world leaders.
“City of Sydney aspires to a 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. This is a big goal for a big city, largely being designed and implemented on the systems already in place. To improve on existing systems, and deliver globally competitive cities, will require collaboration between all levels of government, industry, and researchers,” he says.
Professor Prasad has made an outstanding contribution to green buildings research in Australia. He was awarded the NSW State Government’s individual Green Globe Award in 2004, and the Order of Australia in 2014 for services to sustainability and renewable energy, and for extensive international community work.