A passion for sustainability is behind an RMIT researcher's work on the transformation of communities adapting to contemporary challenges.
Associate Professor Rosalea Monacella and RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Gardner AO.
Associate Professor Rosalea Monacella is the Co-Director of the research laboratory OUTR (Office of Urban Transformations) and an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture in the Architecture and Design.
Associate Professor Monacella leads several groundbreaking research projects in collaboration with industry and government partners, exploring the ways that design can respond to contemporary urban challenges and generate sustainable futures.
"We are constantly asked how, as designers, we might positively respond to forces of change in the constructed environment," she said.
"Design brings together and responds to the various stakeholder requirements and policies that are encountered in an industry-led urban development.
"We examine the infrastructural, economic, environmental and social complex systems of community.
"We can then demonstrate what is possible through visualisations created with design methodology, subsequently using these to instruct the projects progress.
"Our observations and outcomes are discussed with community groups, councils and state government departments and developers, becoming part of our dialogue about the intrinsic value of design within the commercial process."
Associate Professor Monacella was last year awarded the Vice-Chancellor's Research Excellence - Early Career Researcher Award, which recognises the RMIT early career academic who has achieved the highest level of excellence in their research activity for the preceding three years.
A significant research focus is the Transiting Cities - Low Carbon Futures Design competition, focusing on the Latrobe Valley.
This part of south-east Victoria is undergoing significant economic transition as it shifts from traditional forms of manufacturing to new economies.
The competition focused on how areas like Latrobe Valley, which are dominated by singular economies, can transition to a vibrant and innovative future.
"We invited international and local practitioners and community groups to speculate on the low-carbon future for the Latrobe Valley," Associate Professor Monacella said.
"We are looking at opportunities for the community in the future and working with a range of stakeholders - local residents, different levels of government, business and community organisations."
The project aims to define opportunities for transition to low-carbon prosperous communities in the Latrobe Valley, as coal mining and power generation become less significant.
"There are different views and competing interests, all of which have to be accommodated," Associate Professor Monacella said.
"After all, there will be significant impacts and changes in the future to the way the members of this community live.
"We apply best-practice design research principles to get the planning right, ensuring the project delivers a good outcome and also has built-in flexibility to cope with issues that arise along the way."
During 2012, Associate Professor Monacella and her research team were invited to participate in a competition to design a self-sustainable urban model for the redevelopment of Lake Taihu Bay in China.
"Our entry was shortlisted so it was interesting to be involved in the other side of a competition," she said.
"I could apply many of the lessons learnt from the Transiting Cities competition to design research projects in other communities like Lake Taihu Bay."
The resulting entry was designed to be at the benchmark of world's best practice in sustainable design, with the ability to generate its own renewable energy, manage its own sewage and waste, and supply its own water through systematic harvesting, filtration, storage and distribution.
Associate Professor Monacella and her team from OUTR are also working with the community of Mitchell Shire on a Bushfire Memorial Project that will commemorate the events of Black Saturday in 2009.
"The aim of the memorial is to capture some of the experiences of that day and remember the lives lost and the impact on the community," she said.
"Involving the community and working at a pace they are comfortable with, given the trauma that was experienced, is fundamental."
Associate Professor Monacella considers RMIT as a second home, having completed both her undergraduate architecture degree and PhD at the university.
She completed her Masters in Landscape Urbanism at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London but felt compelled to return to RMIT to establish her academic career.
"Given RMIT's reputation in architecture, it was natural for me to eventually return here and pursue my research interests," she said.
"My current projects show how an academic career in design research can flourish."