Yet this is indeed the ultimate challenge. Beyond Sustainability. The most cited definition of sustainable development as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” was written by the Brundtland Commission in 1983. At the time, the state of our population, ecosystems, and social systems were such that one could envision maintaining that level as a possible “sustainable” equilibrium. Yet almost 30 years have passed, and the concepts of status quo have long since been surpassed by the need to halt any further stresses on the earth in balance, or achieve a “net-zero.” Indeed, it can be argued that for the survival of the planet, to meet the needs of the future, developments must now give back more than they consume, or “have a net positive impact on the environment.”
|Beyond Sustainability - Morning Star|
At the crux of this is a major paradigm shift. Visionary sustainability goals are too often fettered by green points lists or even carbon counts, which are just another form of compliance. So how to break loose of these mental handcuffs? Perhaps in reframing the problem to have no upper constraints, with sufficient ambiguity to welcome all forms of wacky brainstorming, and adopting the assumption that all ideas can be realized. While this may seem costly and outrageous, there is a history of this design thinking approach breaking through the complexity and cost boundaries, and resulting in a solution which is both more elegant and less expensive that the more traditional cheap fixes. The process itself peels away tangential issues until the real essence of the problem is revealed, which can often be addressed in a very simple manner. Solutions which seem obvious, and are absolutely on target.
Such was the thinking of Thomas Edison, of Steve Jobs, of the pioneer “NetZero” builders. It is time to get past the concept of sustainability being about reducing our footprint, limiting our consumption, and being the nay-sayers to industry. Perhaps it is an opportunity to embrace “Gaia,” the earth in balance and seek creative ways to contribute in a positive way to those resources. It is time to get past the perspective of lean construction as a way of reducing waste, but to adopt this process which allows us to realize high quality and value in our work, to create buildings which will serve generations of people well into the future. Buildings which provide not only the minimal life-safety of the code, and even beyond the minimal requirements for LEED. We can offer the future generation a built environment design for permaculture gardening, support structures for pedestrians and cyclists, or high-quality affordable housing to provide security for future generations. Anything is possible, if our intent is authentic.
Previous related posts: Green Engineering – Beyond Sustainability
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