Going Above and Beyond Energy and Conservation

What is a sustainable community? When discussing sustainability in construction, most people think about the building materials and methods used and how we can build for greater energy efficiency, more effective waste management, reduction of water use, etc.

While all these things are important, we have a far greater responsibility when seeking to deliver a sustainable community in the neighborhoods we build.

Sustainability is far more than eco-friendly building

It takes far more than eco-friendly building to create sustainability in our neighborhoods. True sustainability happens when everyone in a community can thrive, and when each successive generation has better opportunities and improved lifestyles than the one before it.

When designing neighborhoods to foster flourishing communities, we must consider what it is that makes a community, what will sustain it, and how our infrastructure will support it.

Building a community around its people

When we think about community, we think about the people within a neighborhood who share a collective sense of belonging, with common values and beliefs that bind them together.

 Sustainability in a community is arrived at when people want to live and work in that neighborhood – today and in the future. (Read also, our article ‘5 Emerging trends in the construction industry’.)

To achieve this, the built environment must be sensitive to the needs of residents and designed to deliver improved quality of life. It must be safe, managed well, provide needed services, and offer equality of opportunity.

Adjusting how we think about community

When we develop our neighborhoods, we should be considering how we can deliver sustainable communities from the outset. We should:

  • Design to deliver the amenities and services needed based on current and future social and demographic needs, and ensure that these are provided inclusively

  • Create spaces that encourage social interaction and the forming of relationships that help to perpetuate the sense of belonging

  • Enable access to green spaces where people can walk and relax, and recreational spaces where people can exercise

  • Engage people early to help develop attractive places and a sense of pride in their community

We should aim to deliver neighborhoods in which the community have a deeply vested interest, with physical and social aspects providing positive impact on the local economy, attracting inward investment, and creating jobs.

Understanding community is our first step to deliver community

No two neighborhoods are exactly alike. Therefore, the first step is to understand the community we are attempting to develop and improve. To do this, it is necessary to engage people in the process, consult with them, and appreciate their needs and priorities.

By the route of engagement and consultation, we can define the elements of community sustainability in a resourceful and measurable way. We can develop a greater understanding of the social values of a community and design space that builds upon existing positivity. When doing this, we must:

  • Recognize that social, environmental, and economic issues are connected and cannot be tackled separately

  • Design projects that deliver less-polluting environments, and better understand the connection between green space and the built space

  • Consider the impact of development more holistically, balancing social, economic, and other resources more effectively

  • Focus on promoting better health and safety

  • Attain the collaboration of existing residents

A pride in place approach

A sustainable community will be more resilient to the impacts of social, economic, and climate challenges. With shared values and beliefs, residents will be more able to come together to survive and thrive no matter what difficulties they face.

Today, we have the opportunity to develop our communities to be far more than they are now, both physically and socially. If we set out to create neighborhoods with residents, we can engender a pride-in-place approach that will shape our communities for generations to come.

The part that local government and city planners must play in this is to engage, listen, direct, and deliver the infrastructure, amenities, and spaces that will allow the community to sustain itself in the long term and declare, “This is our neighborhood. We did this, and we’re proud of what we have achieved and what we will achieve in the future.”

To learn more about our commitment to build better neighborhoods in which community prospers, contact ACB Consulting.

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