Wrap-Up: “Is there such thing as a sustainable building?”

Is there such thing as a sustainable building?

While it’s something that we are all striving for, are we able to define exactly what a “sustainable building” is? Is “sustainable” even the right word? Is it even possible to achieve? Is it something that we will ever agree on? And do we even need to agree to get a good outcome?

Alex Bruce facilitated this interesting conversation at one of our Cool. Smart. Innovative. sessions earlier this year. To guide the process, he broke it into sections:

1) What does sustainability mean?

To Alex’s surprise, everyone agreed on the definition of what sustainability meant: “a good quality of life for everything on the planet without compromising the ability for future generations to enjoy the same quality of life”. It’s interesting that everyone agreed on this point because it proves there has been a paradigm shift from the previous definitely of sustainable development which focused on only human quality of life, rather than the whole planet. Sustainability used to also be discussed as just “sustaining” or surviving, but now there seems to be agreement that it’s about prosperity.

2) Breaking sustainability into categories

This was a bit more difficult to narrow down but a consensus was reached that environment/ecosystem was most important as without it, we don’t have a society or economy.

3) Challenges & Solutions

It was discussed that in order to best achieve sustainable buildings, we need to put quantifiable targets of budgets around the things that can be quantified (carbon, water usage, etc.) One of the ways in which to do this, is to conduct a life cycle assessment. It was noted by the group that one of the biggest challenges to achieving sustainability on a personal level was the courage required to remove yourself from the social norm and stop consuming the things we are told we need to consume to be happy.

It was a fantastic night with great input by everyone. Thanks to all of you who participated.

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