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Sustainable development is a system of development focusing on development practices that meet human needs while taking ecological impacts into account. The overall concept is to focus development goals toward practices that have a lower net impact on the natural world and the resources it provides. The point is to ensure that these resources continue to be available to future generations.
The definition of sustainable development was codified in the 1987 Brundtland Report to the United Nations. The report became most well-known by its title “Our Common Future.” In it, a team of scientists studied long-term growth projections for the world population and tracked them against concurrent trends in development. What the study found was that there simply weren’t enough resources to support the continual growth of the world population at a traditional rate of resource utilization. The report stressed that development practices which take resource availability into consideration are necessary to human progress.
Why Sustainable Development Matters
When it comes to resources, there are two major classifications: finite and renewable resources. Finite resources are limited in quantity and once they’re gone they’re gone. Renewable resources are resources that can be constantly replenished after they’ve been harvested.
Using renewable resources is not necessarily sustainable on its own. A renewable resource still needs to be harvested in a way that encourages future availability of that resource. For example, clear-cutting a forest for timber is on its own not a sustainable practice even though trees are a renewable resource. However, replanting that clear-cut with new trees of the same species is a sustainable practice. Timber gathered from a plot which is replanted can be used in sustainable development projects.
Sustainable development is an important issue for a number of different reasons. One of the most important of these reasons is the explosion in global population. By the end of this century, the UN has estimated that over 10 billion people will be living on Earth. At the beginning of 2013, the world population was roughly 7 billion. All of these new people will consume resources, pulling more out of a system that can only produce so much at a time.
If sustainable development practices aren’t used in the face of this growing issue, it can have catastrophic consequences on overall resource availability. As resources become unavailable, development projects cease to move forward. When development projects cease forward motion, social development as a whole can be impacted.
However, utilizing intelligent sustainable development practices can help ensure that society can continue to grow along with this higher population. While this principle should absolutely be applied to larger development projects, it should also be applied to smaller home developments as well. After all, there are more houses built around the world than any other type of building. Sustainable homes play a huge role in the overall impact of any sustainable development strategy.
Sustainable development also references energy standards. It calls for lower electricity usage and higher performance standards for structures. When renewable energy plans are put in place, less pollutants are put into the air and water from power plants. This has a positive impact on the health and well-being of people living in proximity to these plants.
How Sustainable Development Helps You
Sustainable development isn’t just something that makes sense for the good of the Earth and future generations. It’s also something that makes practical sense for businesses and homeowners. By harvesting resources in a sustainable way, the resource is more likely to remain abundant and therefore less likely to become overly expensive. This results in lower overall development costs for homeowners looking to build a house or add to their current house.
Adhering to higher sustainability standards means that homeowners are using home heating and cooling appliances that use less energy. This means that homeowners are using less energy and therefore paying lower energy bills. Traditional home heating systems have generally been an overall expense to homeowners. On the other hand, energy-efficient home heating systems can actually end up saving homeowners money. As these systems pay for themselves over time, they can be seen as more of an investment than a pure expense.
When having work done on your home, traditional development practices will always come completely out of your pocket. When using sustainable development practices, you may qualify for a number of grants and tax rebates that can defray the overall cost of your project. This means using sustainable building practices can actually end up costing less up front than a more “traditional” approach.
It’s the Way Forward
In the end, the world is only so big and it can only produce so much at any given time. With rising populations and a growing reliance on industry, sustainable development is the only way forward. Without these principles, resource depletion and degradation can cause havoc for generations to come.
Architects and Builders
The Neutra Institute was founded as a non profit in 1962 to commemorate and carry forward the research suggested by its founder, architect Richard Neutra, embodied in his seminal book Survival thru Design of 1954. Refer to its website, Neutra.org for current activities. ‘Enhance the Environment by Design’