How shocked would you be if you found out that Townsville was not only considered the healthiest place in Australia – but also the world? Dr Anne Steinemann, Professor of Civil Engineering and Chair of Sustainable Cities at the University of Melbourne, and Adjunct Professor of Science and Engineering at James Cook University, studies healthy environments for a living and says that Townsville takes out the top spot. It’s a big call that we know will raise eyebrows, but Dr Anne draws on some very important points.
To appreciate just how important Dr Anne’s work is you have to delve into why she does it and how it affects the everyday person.
“I got involved in healthy indoor environments – particularly how you make healthy homes – because we all talk about a sustainable city, but unless you can make a sustainable house or building, you can’t have a sustainable city, because a city is made up of buildings and that’s where people spend most of their time,” Dr Anne says. “The motivation behind having these healthy buildings is that, even though people may not realise it, more than 90% of their exposure to pollutants occurs indoors. However, no law regulates or monitors your indoor air quality, even though it can significantly affect your health and productivity.”
This doesn’t just affect the everyday person either; it also has the potential to affect workplaces and their bottom line.
“In tropical environments, it’s important to be energy efficient because air-conditioning, for instance, could be a major expense for a business. However, the flip side of having very tight energy efficient buildings is you often get poor indoor air quality,” Dr Anne says. “For businesses, the most expensive part of their building is generally labour. If they decided to make a slight improvement to their indoor air quality, they could boost worker health and productivity, which really affects the bottom line.”
Thankfully, this is an area that Townsville excels in, with Dr Anne commending our devotion to innovation and tropical design.
“I come from the land of entrepreneurs. I went to Stanford University, which is right in the middle of Silicon Valley, and Townsville has the same entrepreneurial spirit as Silicon Valley,” Dr Anne says. “We have really progressive, energetic, and innovative people in Townsville, such as those at Innovation House, who are very forward thinking. Then we also have people with all this wonderful tropical expertise who work with nature and use traditional construction methods and materials to create beautiful and healthy buildings. Working with nature, that’s where Townsville excels.”
Innovation and tropical design are certainly helping to push our city forward, but Dr Anne says there are several other reasons why our humble city takes out her top spot.
“There is no place like Townsville in the world – certainly not in the United States”
“There is no place like Townsville in the world – certainly not in the United States,” Dr Anne says as she recalls her twenty years of teaching in America. “I look at Townsville and think, ‘this is where I want to live’ because it’s such a healthy place. You have clean air, clean water, and a beautiful environment. It’s not congested, crowded and polluted and it has all the amenities you could want. It is certainly a healthy city and it has great people.”
It takes a lot to appreciate just how good we have it here in Townsville, yet as Dr Anne says, “I always tell locals not to leave because they’ll spend the rest of their life trying to find somewhere like Townsville again.”
Whilst there might be those out there searching for greener pastures, at least we can say that we’ve found them – right here in our city.