UNSW academic Professor Peter Graham is working with the United Nations to meet one of the biggest global challenges currently taking place, urbanisation.

"Buildings are responsible for about one third of all of humanity's greenhouse gas emissions," says Professor Graham, a sustainable living expert from the Faculty of the Built Environment. "There is a need to mitigate emissions and begin to adapt to climate change."

Peter is currently working in Paris as the Coordinator of the UN Environmental Programme's (UNEP) Sustainable Buildings and Construction Initiative. He is also a key author on a UN White Paper, Strategies for the Design, Construction and Maintenance of Eco-Cities and Villages in the Asia Pacific.

"I work closely with the public, civil and private sectors to facilitate the global transition to mainstream sustainable buildings and construction," he explains.

Peter's academic research looks at two major areas: the development of curriculum models for teaching ecological design and construction, and assessing the life-cycle sustainability impacts of building.

"Through the UN this work is assisting in sustainability education and is guiding international think-tanks on benchmarking the environmental performance of buildings. It will also establish a global reporting process to indicate how effectively the building sectors in different countries are reducing greenhouse emissions," he says.

"To maintain global relevancy we need courses which are designed as vehicles for sustainability research, development and innovation rather than simply aiming at 'professionally accredited' courses, in which 'sustainability concerns' are integrated.

"Few universities are taking the lead with an integrated approach to research and curriculum in this area and I think UNSW has the potential to play this role," he says.