Saturday, June 15, 2024

Going up – green infrastructure careers

By Daniel Fuller

There’s an emerging frontier for Australian horticulturists, landscapers and people in related professions – the vertical plane.

With the recent attention on the vertical gardens in Singapore brought to us by the Australian Institute of Horticulture, green infrastructure careers should be on your radar.

Recently, I interviewed Morgan Attrill from Junglefy and Ally Jackson from Sky Gardens Group about the types of work they perform, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities for career growth. The key take-away was the sheer number of jobs available at the moment, and just how cool they are.

Junglefy have a number of jobs open in Sydney, including technicians working at heights with ropes, as well as senior horticulturists and managers.

Typical horticultural roles in green infrastructure include landscape architecture, and installation and maintenance of vertical gardens and green roofs. They often involve working at heights, though there are other applications for green infrastructure assets on the ground such as bio-basins and rain gardens.

Scaling high-rise buildings to perform maintenance work on plants isn’t for everybody. It can be scary stuff working at heights, using ropes and harnesses, although it’s perfectly safe with safety procedures firmly in place.

Sky Gardens Group have the contract to maintain One Central Park (OCP) in Sydney, which was the tallest vertical garden in the world at 150m when it was completed in 2013. It’s a building that tested the limits of horticulture and helped in understanding the challenges of working at heights over 100m, as there were a host of challenges to deal with.

If you’re looking for an easy job where you “paint by numbers”, don’t try to work on a site like OCP. But if you’re looking for something a bit different that makes you use your brain as well as your hands, working on a site like this might just be the place for you to thrive.

You’ll be challenged in ways you never expected, but you’ll become a much better horticulturist through navigating challenging situations such as contending with irrigation systems that perform differently than expected in the real world, during the design and implementation processes.

Newer green infrastructure assets have been developed with updated information gathered through projects like OCP, and some of the kinks have been worked out. However, you’ll still need to learn to work with irrigation systems that work differently than they do on a horizontal plane, getting soil and amendments into beds at height, and keeping yourself, your team, and the public, safe.

Luckily, there are new technologies which can help you, such as drones for surveying, 3D modelling and visualisation software, and automated irrigation systems. Remember that learning to use new technologies can make you more employable in the future.

Green infrastructure is an emerging industry, with a newly formed peak body called the Australasian Green Infrastructure Network. If you’re looking to make a name for yourself in the Australian horticulture industry, joining this new organisation would be a great move because it’s not a market that’s flooded by others already dominating the space.

It’s a field where you can really make a difference to the greening of our cities, which brings about environmental, cultural, and economic benefits. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only ever worked in a traditional horticulture or landscape environment.

Currently, the perfect candidates for green infrastructure roles don’t exist. They need to be created.

Both Ally and Morgan spoke about how the companies they work for don’t need candidates to have all the necessary skills to perform the roles they advertise. If a candidate has horticulture or landscaping experience on the ground, they can be up-skilled to work at heights, and deal with the challenges presented.

All of your existing skills will apply in green infrastructure, such as soil knowledge, irrigation skills and botanical understanding, but you’ll be using them in a completely new context. Working in high-rises and other civil environments brings a set of unique challenges to help you hone your skills.

According to Wikipedia ‘Green infrastructure or blue-green infrastructure refers to a network that provides the “ingredients” for solving urban and climatic challenges by building with nature’. With the focus on sustainability, working in green infrastructure is a career that could take you into the future.

Daniel Fuller

Plants Grow Here Podcast

M: 042 6169 708




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