Nestled between a breathtaking coastline of world-famous surf beaches and the fertile Hunter Valley, all Novocastrians know that Newcastle is blessed geographically. But of course, for the rest of Australia, particularly Sydney-siders, Newcastle rhymes with coal – Big mean black dirty coal – And with dozens of coal loaders entering and exiting Newcastle’s industrial harbour every day, they would be right. Newcastle embodies the Australian paradox and its greatest challenge into the future: A stunning and wild landscape in close proximity to energy guzzling cities on the sprawl.

Supported by Renew NewcastleHunter Sustainability Designers & Consultants, or HSDC, are a Newcastle based collective of designers and consultants focusing on sustainability in the built and natural environment. Servicing the residents of Newcastle and the Hunter Region, they combine backgrounds in Architecture, energy assessment, forestry and landscape design.

©Photos by Simone Sheridan for Renew Newcastle & HSDC.

Originally from South Africa and now based in Newcastle, John de Bruyn, a passive building designer and ESD consultant, initiated the process with Renew Newcastle of bringing the members of HSDC together under the shared ethics of sustainability. “The aim,” says Bruyn “isn’t to be dogmatic but rather aspirational. We all have our own definition of what is sustainable and accept that there might be many ways to achieve a “green” outcome. Some of us have even spoken of the idea of dark green versus light green!”

Defining what is “green” or sustainable can be as complex as you are willing to make it but the HSDC members aim to translate what they know into something easily accessible to the greater public. From the shared office space that it occupies, HSDC offers a range of skills which are “complementary rather than competitive”, and competency in every aspect of a project from energy assessment (Ian Wilcox and John de Bruyn) to landscape and forestry management (Australian Sustainable Timbers; Tree Frog Permaculture) and design implementation (Loop Studio headed by Jodie Duddington; Joey Trongchittham from Husk Architecture; and John de Bruyn Building Sustainability).

Although each member runs an individual business, collectives like HSDC are slowly redefining the way sole practitioners are able to position themselves in a competitive market. “Sharing the space with other environmentally focused businesses allows cross-fertilisation of ideas and collaboration,” says Laclan Storrie of Tree Frog Permaculture,”with the extra bonus of boosting morale.” Before HSDC, Storrie and partner Cristopher Wallis, were running their permaculture design, education and implementation business from home. Joining HSDC means that they entered a “higher exposure environment with like-minded colleagues.”

Because of the usually high costs associated with running a business from a dedicated office space, sole-traders often find themselves confined to their kitchen tables, lacking both exposure to their market and interaction with their peers. “The collective has become a great marketing opportunity for us all,” says Jodie Duddington from Loop Studio, “It increases our visibility and outreach. It has also been an invaluable resource for sharing information amongst ourselves and with the public.”

More than individual businesses brought together, HSDC represents a centralized point of contact on an issue we are all interested in but few of us truly understand. While the way towards sustainability starts with education, HSDC strength lies in the ability to carry it all the way through to implementation, one consultant at a time.

This Saturday, HSDC will be holding one of its regular workshops: Free Home & Small Business Sustainability Workshop. Saturday 2nd June, 10am to 12pm,  Renew HQ 3 Morgan St Newcastle (just off Newcastle Mall near One Penny Black cafe). “If you are renovating, building, gardening, making, concerned about water and energy use or want to improve your carbon footprint, Hunter Sustainability Designers and Consultants is holding a free workshop on energy efficient design and improvement for homes and small businesses. Bring in your renovation ideas, plans, problems, and questions and pick the brains of our experts.” Don’t miss it!

Drop in for a coffee or a chat: Hunter Street Mall, Newcastle: Suite 76, Building 3, Market Square, Newcastle, Australia 2300


Follow HSDC on Facebook.

Read HSDC’s Renew Newcastle Profile

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