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Sustainability is the capacity to keep doing what you are doing, in perpetuity. It refers to ensuring that what we develop or consume today does not detract from or disable future generations to meet their needs, and that we engage in triple bottom line decision making. The focus is on minimizing the use of scarce, non-renewable or environmentally-degrading materials, processes and resources, and maximizing the use of renewable resources.
that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
the future generations to meet their own needs."
World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987
It is development that considers the triple bottom line of people, financials, and the environment.
A good design should be sustainability in nature. A sustainable mindset must be embedded within the process of project creation, design and implementation. Sustainable design needs to be multi-disciplinary and strive to find the balance not only among disciplines but among the objectives of sustainability for a particular project and/or client. A sustainable design philosophy is applicable across the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering, industrial and interior design.
Infrastructure that, through its design, redesign, rehabilitation, and/or construction, considers and enhances the community it serves, protects, and enhances the environment it rests in, and conserves the resources necessary to build it.
"Green" building means taking the environment into account during design and construction. Green buildings should aim for harmony with the local environment, benefiting from it while protecting and respecting it.
Presently, there are several ways of rating, measuring and evaluating the sustainability of a given project. The most widely recognized in the United States for buildings is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The system was originally created to rate new construction, but the USGBC has, over the past decade, developed several rating systems (Existing Buildings, Core and Shell, Interiors, Schools, Home). USGBC also has a rating system for neighborhood design, LEED ND.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) also has the EnergyStar System. In 2008, the EPA ranked cities according to their number of energy star buildings. This type of voluntary program helps inform consumers about choices they can make to achieve lower energy consumption, and greater efficiency.
The system in the UK is known as Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM). The BREEAM assessment process was created in 1990 and covered offices and homes. Versions are updated regularly in line with UK Building Regulations and different building versions have been created since its launch to assess various building types. BRE has also developed rating systems adapted to the various climate zones and building codes and standards of practice in the Gulf region.
The building evaluation tools for larger developments include LEED for Neighborhood Development, the Civil Engineering Environmental Quality Assessment and Award Scheme (CEEQUAL), and One Planet Living principles for sustainable communities. BRE and GreenStar are also working on precinct and community rating systems and guidelines.
In addition, the STAR Community Index program is in development through a partnership between ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), the USGBC, and the Center for American Progress (CAP). This is intended to be a national, consensus-based framework for gauging the sustainability and livability of U.S. communities. More information can be found at http://www.icleiusa.org/star.
The International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment, iiSBE is an international non-profit organization whose overall aim is to actively facilitate and promote the adoption of policies, methods and tools to accelerate the movement towards a global sustainable built environment.