Sustainable designer makes Forbes '30 Under 30' Asia list

21 August 2019
University of Sydney alumnus and Australian sustainable designer, HY William Chan who addresses the needs of urban poor worldwide, has been recognised as an industry leader and "game-changer".

School of Architecture, Design and Planning graduate and urban designer HY William Chan was recently awarded for his innovative upcycle project which takes by-products and waste material and converts them into new materials or products of better quality and environmental value.

Mr Chan co-created a plastic waste recycling scheme at refugee camps in Athens which he presented to the United Nations in 2018. He developed the project as part of a fellowship with the World Innovation Summit for Education and drew on past experiences working on sustainability and urban inclusion projects in informal settlements in South Africa, India and Colombia. 

The project successfully refined plastic waste material collected from the Skaramagas and Eleonas camps, including discarded bottles that were becoming problematic, refining and converting the waste into 3D-printed architectural items. These items help refugees to improve their own built environment – making spaces safer.

“By advocating the use of design and emerging technologies, we can inspire and educate refugee communities to be innovative architects of their lives and their environment,” Mr Chan said.

“We need to design these communities with dignity at their core so that refugee camps become hubs of innovation.”

On being recognised, Mr Chan said he was “humbled by the international leadership recognition from Forbes magazine – it ultimately recognises the strength and resilience of the urban and informal communities that I have had the privilege to collaborate with.”

Forbes Asia editor Rana Wehbe recognised Mr Chan as one of the “game-changers disrupting their sectors and not taking ‘no’ for an answer.”

Mr Chan said this was important, particularly in the industry of architecture, engineering and construction, which he claims is one of the least disrupted sectors globally.

“In architecture, it’s not apparent that there is a strong connection to community development, unlike other professions."

I want people to understand the buildings that we design aren’t just buildings, we’re designing how people live and work, and when we apply that to vulnerable communities we can actually have a great influence on people’s lives.
William Chan

“Architects have a uniquely creative skillset, but we need to be more agile and entrepreneurial in how we design solutions that address the economic and social challenges of our cities so that we remain relevant as an industry,” he said.

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