Defining and understanding sustainability

This recent post from planner and businessman David Stauffer a couple of useful notes for understanding what planners and designers mean when they talk about “sustainability.” This is a concept that is not often used in conjunction with schools (as I have discussed), but one that certainly should be.

Stauffer cites “the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development’s 1987 Brundtland Report, stating that sustainable development ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ This combined consideration of present and future use is exactly the planning and forethought that should drive school design.

Stauffer gives us a couple of features that make good evaluative starting places for considering the sustainability of any project:

Devise and think through your own list of sustainable project features. My current list (always subject to change) includes attributes of:

  • Scale — a good fit with neighbors, neither ramshackle nor grandiose.
  • Access and mobility — it’s easy to get into, out of, and around in.
  • Consumption & waste — efforts to minimize are evident and effective.
  • Re-use — makes use of recycled building materials when feasible.
  • Location & siting — makes the most of orientation to sun, topography, wind, natural and man-made infrastructure.
  • Absence — preserves open space and is no larger than necessary for its functions.
  • For a much more exhaustive explanation of sustainability including highly defined planning goals across a range of disciplines, take a look at the STAR Sustainability Index from the ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability.
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