“Living on the earth's income rather than eroding its capital. It means keeping the consumption of renewable natural resources within the limits of their replenishment. It means handing down to successive generations not only man-made wealth, but also natural wealth, such as clean and adequate water supplies, good arable land, a wealth of wildlife, and ample forests.”
- The UK Sustainable Development Strategy
What does “sustainable” mean?
- Sustainable means "able to be maintained".
- In essence sustainability means maintaining our environment, economy and society during any kind of development.
- These three things are also known as the triple bottom line.
- Sustainability also recognises that the environment, economy and society are all inter-related.
The initial stages of Sustainability and its prominence started in 1989 with the UN Agenda 21 and its publication in June 1992 where 179 governments voted to adopt the programme. The number ‘21’ refers to the 21st Century.
Agenda 21 is divided into four sections:-
Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions
including combating poverty, changing consumption patterns, population and demographic dynamics, promoting health, promoting sustainable settlement patterns and integrating environment and development into decision-making.
Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development
including atmospheric protection, combating deforestation, protecting fragile environments, conservation of biological diversity, and control of pollution.
Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups
including the roles of children and youth, women, NGOs, local authorities, business and workers.Section IV: Means of Implementation
including science, technology transfer, education, international institutions and mechanisms and financial mechanisms.
has given rise to the Kyoto Protocol
which is a protocol to the international Framework Convention on Climate Change with the objective of reducing greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
It was adopted on 11 December 1997 by the 3rd Conference of the Parties, which was meeting in Kyoto, and it entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of June 2008, 182 parties have ratified the protocol. Of these, 36 developed cg countries (plus the EU as a party in its own right) are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels specified for each of them in the treaty (representing over 61.6% of emissions from Annex I countries), with three more countries intending to participate. One hundred thirty-seven developing countries have ratified the protocol, including Brazil, China and India, but have no obligation beyond monitoring and reporting emissions. The United States has not ratified the treaty. Among various experts, scientists, and critics, there is debate about the usefulness of the protocol.
Within the UK, The Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance (CEMEP) was established by Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer in November 2006 in the light of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. Its remit was to advise Government on how the UK could make the most of the potential economic benefits of the transition to a low carbon, sustainable economy.
On 1 May 2008 the Government published Building a low carbon economy: unlocking innovation nd skills
. It sets out how the Government will make the UK one of the best locations in the world to develop and introduce low-carbon and resource-efficient products, processes, services and business models.
The built environment is responsible for 47% of UK carbon emissions, so a very important aspect is the construction industry itself.
What is Sustainable Construction?
Sustainable construction can be considered as an investment in the future. Through conservation of energy, water and natural resources by re-use, recycling, innovative design and the minimisation of waste and pollution, we can meet our needs without compromising the needs of future generations.
The promotion of sustainable construction is a major part of the Government’s policy on Sustainable Development, which recognises that our economy, environment and social well-being are interdependent.
In June 2008, the UK government produced a Strategy for Sustainable Construction. It is a joint industry and Government initiative intended to promote leadership and behavioural change, as well as delivering benefits to both the construction industry and the wider economy.
Sustainable construction is the set of processes by which a profitable and competitive industry delivers built assets (buildings, structures, supporting infrastructure and their immediate surroundings), that enhance the quality of life and offer customer satisfaction; offer flexibility and the potential to cater for user changes in the future; provide and support desirable natural and social environments; and maximise the efficient use of resources.
In summary, sustainable construction is about building, engineering and refurbishment projects that promote environmental, social and economic gains now and for the future, helping to create a better quality of life today and for generations to come.
Carbon Footprint Calculator
A carbon footprint is a “measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide”. It is meant to be useful for individuals and organizations to conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact in contributing to global warming. A conceptual tool in response to carbon footprints are carbon offsets, or the mitigation of carbon emissions through the development of alternative projects such as solar or wind energy or reforestation. The carbon footprint is a subset of the ecological footprint, which includes all human demands on the biosphere.