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A sounding board for sustainable design

Australia, Autex Acoustics

Nov 13, 2023

Acoustic solutions, News Article, Sustainability

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In conversation with Aidan Hill, Autex Acoustics' Group Technical and Sustainability Manager

As the architecture and design industry shifts further into the realm of sustainable built environments, the environmental potential of acoustics solutions cannot be underestimated. Here, Autex Acoustics’ Aidan Hill talks about his passion for sustainability, the company’s environmental aspirations – and the role acoustic products can play in creating a greener future.



What is your background, and what does your current role in the business entail?


My background is split between consulting businesses on carbon emission management and environmental compliance.


Early on, I worked in environmental compliance monitoring and then in regulated carbon emissions schemes. I then shifted to consulting businesses that were interested in taking action to become more sustainable simply because it was the right thing to do.


Following that journey has led me to Autex Acoustics, where I provide leadership across the business on improving our products and operations so they are more sustainable. It’s a great team of people who are truly passionate about addressing the environmental and social challenges of today and reducing our carbon footprint.



What does sustainability mean for you?


I, perhaps, predictably, fall back on the mantra that sustainability is all about meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


It’s not a new concept, but it’s a concept that we’ve not yet managed to realise. As a sector, the construction industry has a massive part to play. We are highly complex with a lot of moving parts, and we need to start making changes in how we work together, from design to supplier to build and demolition.

Has focus on sustainability always been a part of your career trajectory?


Yes, since first studying at university, I decided on a career in sustainability, and I graduated with a Master of Environmental Science.


The field of sustainability is constantly evolving as our understanding of impacts improves and as we advance sustainable business. As people, we are less accepting of pollution and waste from products and the businesses that make them. Don’t get me wrong, the environmental movement has been around for decades, but as we reduce our impacts, we also tolerate less impact. This is great as it requires us to constantly improve and challenge the status quo.


From a manufacturer’s perspective, this challenge from consumers also validates the internal drive we have to improve our business operations towards being more sustainable. I think this is part of what makes a career in sustainability so challenging and rewarding.



How important is sustainability to your organisation? How does this commitment manifest through various stages of product development and company operations?


It’s a key value to Autex Acoustics. I’d like to say this is something I helped influence, but the truth is that it’s been a value Autex has held for decades, established by the founders of Autex.


Our people bring this value to life each day: from our procurement team in screening potential new suppliers for their environmental and social impacts and also reviewing the health of new raw materials to the design team in the development of new products, considering how to minimise material use, design for disassembly, and recyclability at EOL; and our production teams in minimising production waste and redirecting product trimmings away from landfill into other uses.

What are the company’s current priorities from a sustainability point of view?


We have several projects which are being actioned at the moment. The two biggest priorities are taking climate action and closing the loop on waste.


Last year, we achieved carbon neutrality across our global operations and acoustic products through carbon offsetting. As a natural next step, we’ve now challenged each function within our business to seek out ways to reduce our carbon footprint; it’s a big task that can only be realised if every individual within the business is empowered to flag an improvement. It’s a good initiative that we are keen to continue a long-term journey on.


We have also recently implemented our circular economy strategy. It acknowledges the current linear waste stream used by the construction sector and how Autex products can support a circular economy.



What are the company’s aspirations, goals and ambitions for the future from a sustainability point of view?


There are a lot of goals and targets from companies. Our hope is to progress our operations to do more using fewer resources, and to do this; we need the help of everyone within the business.


We have implemented an internal programme called Future Focus, which is focused on taking action to reduce our impacts across our entire company and within each function of the business. It has been structured so that each country and department is empowered to identify their own improvements and act at a local level. Each function of the business or each country can collaborate and share learnings as the programme evolves. It’s early days, but we hope this approach will help move us to an even more sustainable position. Behind all our long-term planning for sustainability sits our sustainability strategy, which is framed around five pillars, which are outlined in our Sustainability Report.

Let’s talk about the relationship between acoustics – including acoustic solutions – and sustainability. What role can they play in designing and constructing sustainable buildings and interiors?


First of all, choosing acoustic solutions with low-embodied carbon – or carbon-neutral products – is paramount. This also extends to ceiling systems, which vary in the amount of material used. For example, a suspended ceiling requires ceiling tiles, an aluminium grid and a steel structure to hold it in place. Some of our ceiling systems are suspended from the ceiling slab and use a fraction of the material. Our acoustic solutions are often chosen for aesthetics, but there’s a positive sustainability benefit which is always appreciated.


Naturally, architects, designers and specifiers should also choose acoustic solutions that are designed for disassembly and recyclability and consider both the ingredients used to make a product as well as any ongoing emissions it might produce.


Overall, high-quality acoustics have a dramatic effect on the health and well-being of the people in the building. Reducing echo in a space and making the place more comfortable can reduce stress and improve how people experience the space. Lastly, premium acoustic solutions can also help to improve the energy efficiency of buildings by reducing the need for air conditioning and ventilation.



Has the shift towards more sustainable architecture, design and construction in recent years changed the way industry professionals perceive and consider acoustic solutions as part of their projects?


There’s absolutely an increased awareness of sustainable products from the market, with architecture and industry professionals asking about the impacts products may have. Much of the focus in the low-carbon design of buildings is on the core structure, which has a big impact—for example, using cross-laminated timber instead of steel for the building structure.


However, the interior fit-out is often overlooked, which I think is a critical oversight. Unlike the structure, which has a high upfront carbon impact, the interior of a building can be replaced several times during the lifetime of the building. Each refurbishment has an accumulative carbon impact, which can equal the embodied carbon of the structure and, in some cases, even exceed it. It’ll be interesting in the coming years how we consider our interiors as part of designing carbon out of our buildings.


To learn more about Autex Acoustics’ sustainability journey and our product certifications, click here.

Australia, Autex Acoustics

Nov 13, 2023

Acoustic solutions, News Article, Sustainability

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