Saturday, 19 October 2013

Built Environment Capability for Sustainability

The World Wildlife (WWF) definition of sustainability as being the achievement of above 0.8 on the Human Development Index (HDI) and the achievement of an Ecological Footprint (EF) below 1.8 global hectares per person has a range of implications for the built environment (see Defining Sustainability). This definition is referred to as the EF-HDI definition.  These implications can be explored through the concept of built environment capability for sustainability.

Capability refers to the ability to do something, or the capacity to achieve a particular result. Built environment capability is therefore the capacity of the built environment to support the achievement of a particular result, such as the achievement of sustainability targets. This concept acknowledges that built environments, in themselves, are not sustainable or unsustainable. Even in areas where infrastructure has been carefully designed and managed for sustainability,overall sustainability performance can still be poor as result of users deliberately or unintentionally using this infrastructure incorrectly, or not using it all.

The concept of built environment capability is therefore not deterministic, and acknowledges human preference by affirming the importance of developing sustainable solutions that are preferable to prevailing or conventional solutions. This can be supported through high quality design and solutions which result in improved quality of life. 

Built environment capability confirms the pivotal role that the built environment plays in enabling, or precluding, human life and activity from becoming more sustainable. In particular, it asserts the ability of the built environment in enabling, supporting, and encouraging activities and lifestyles of occupants which are more sustainable.

Therefore in terms of the EF-HDI definition of sustainability, built environments can be described in terms of Ecological Footprint Capability and Human Development Capability.

Ecological footprint Capability
Ecological Footprint (EF) Capability describes the extent to which the built environment is configured and includes the characteristics required to support the achievement of ecological footprint targets as defined in the EF-HDI definition of sustainability. This capability therefore describes the extent to which the built environment supports required performance levels in areas such as ‘Food’,’Shelter’ and ‘Mobility’.

Human Development Capability
Human Development (HD) Capability describes the extent to which the built environment is configured and includes the characteristics required to support the achievement of human development targets as defined in the EF-HDI definition of sustainability. This capability therefore describes the extent to which the built environment supports required performance levels in areas such as ‘Education’, ’Health’ and ‘Quality of Life’.

Built Environment Sustainability Capability
Built Environment Sustainability Capability is a combination of EF and HD capability and provides an overall measure of the extent to which the built environment of an area supports sustainability.  Ecological Footprint Capability, Human Development Capability and Built Environment Sustainability Capability is measured in the Built Environment Sustainability Tool (BEST) and presented in figures and graphically in reports such as the one shown below.


Defining Sustainable Built Environments
Therefore, if sustainability is defined by the World Worldlife Fund (WWF) as the achievement of a maximum Ecological Footprint (EF) of 1.8 gha and a minimum Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.8, sustainable buildings must have the capability, or the required configuration and characteristics, to enable occupant populations to achieve these EF and HDI minimum standards. 


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