What is Sustainable Development?
Sustainable development is the practice of using guidelines for environmentally responsible and energy savings to create new development projects and to maintain and retrofit older projects. It can include using green materials in new construction, designing projects that can harvest their own energy to reduce load on a power grid, or that incorporate green space in order to counterbalance the green space removed to build the onsite facilities. There is a heavy emphasis on making sure that what is built can be maintained and repaired in a way that minimizes the degradation of the original development so that the lifespan of a facility is longer than normal.
According to Brundtland Commission in its 1987 report “Our Common Future”,
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable development is not just about the environment. Its focus is much broader than that. Its all about meeting the diverse needs of people in different communities, social cohesion, creating equal opportunity to ensure a strong and healthy society. Sustainable development also focuses on finding better ways of doing things without affecting quality of our life.
There are 3 components of sustainable development – economic growth, environmental stewardship, and social inclusion. Countries are recognizing the importance of conserving natural resources, people are switching to cycling instead of driving that will improve their health, farmers are practicing climate smart agriculture and industries are realizing as to how much they can save through energy efficiency.
Understanding sustainable development and its goals is the first step to learning what we can do to make it happen. There are many initiatives already in place, but still many roadblocks to sustainable development that have to be overcome.
What are the goals of Sustainable Development?
There are three main goals of sustainable development –
- To minimize the depletion of natural resources when creating new developments.
- To create development that can be maintained and sustained without causing further harm to the environment.
- To provide methods for retrofitting existing developments to make them into environmentally friendly facilities and projects.
Sustainable development sees the “whole life” of a project from the ground breaking to the care of the project 40 to 100 years in its life. This care may include maintenance, but it very often includes energy saving techniques that are focused on lessening the impact of the development project on area demands on local resources.
How can we make it happen?
To make sustainable development the norm, we have to change the vision of the cultures of each country. To change the vision of the culture two things have to occur.
- The culture must value a global benefit more than a local one.
- A responsibility towards providing and sustaining resources for the future must be of more value than profit in the present must be developed.
Both of these are very hard to do because it requires an element of self-sacrifice be adopted by the present society. The value of the future is something that is not held in high esteem when it comes to creating a profit, or to living with convenience. The general self-focus of each generation is understandable, but as history has shown in other areas – it can be expanded to include a sense of responsibility towards futures unknown that will allow for different choices to me made in the present.
What prevents sustainable development from happening?
There are two major issues that prevent sustainable development from happening. The first is that for many aspects of development, using sustainable methods and materials is expensive. While the long-term cost of sustainability does prove to be less expensive that traditional development, the creation of a sustainable project may be far more expensive in the first phase. The second major issue is that there is not a generally accepted need for sustainable development. This is an education issue that may take many years to resolve.
Contractors and investors cannot see the importance of sustainable projects when they cost more to initiate. When the goal is to make money in the short term, it can be very difficult to generate the long-term vision that is required to understand the importance of sustainability. Towards this end, there are more government regulations and incentive programs that have been put into place to make sustainable development a more attractive option for program and project managers.
Understanding regulations and incentives
There is a very real necessity for a change to the regulations and incentives that govern development in order to make sustainable development the better option to choose. It isn’t really possible to mandate sustainable development because it could hinder projects that are necessary for the common good by making them unaffordable to create. However, by using various tax credits and incentive programs assigned to different levels of sustainability in a development program, more of a project can meet the requirements of sustainability. This is a measure towards creating the choice of whole sustainable development, but it also allows for the reality of the cost of implementation while delivering options that won’t impede progress.