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Links between the pillars of sustainable development

It's not possible for a building to be sustainable if it fulfills just one of the pillars of sustainable development. Learn more in this step.
People linking arms
© CIOB Academy

In previous weeks, we have established that it is not possible for a building to be sustainable if it fulfills just one of the pillars of sustainable development? In addition, we have begun to see the inter-dependencies among the three pillars of sustainability, which demonstrates the need to adopt a holistic approach to the implementation of sustainable development in the building construction sector. As week five is all about bringing these ideas together, now is a good time to establish the nature of these links between the pillars.

A good and more in-depth article links between the pillars of sustainable development, can provide more information, if you are interested, but the below diagram provides a clear picture of the inter-dependencies.

Key Dimensions of Sustainable Development

Diagram highlighting six key dimensions of sustainability, and how actions whether economic, environmental or social impact the other pillars. the six dimensions are: 1. Effects of economic activity on the environment (e.g., resource use, pollutant discharges, waste). 2. Environmental services to the economy (e.g., natural resources, sink functions, contributions to economic efficiency and employment). 3. Environmental services to society (e.g., access to resources and amenities, contributions to health, living and working conditions). 4. Effects of social variables on the environment (e.g., demographic changes, consumption patterns, environmental education and information, institutional and legal frameworks). 5. Effects of social variables on the economy (e.g., labour force, population and household structure, education and training; consumption levels, institutional and legal frameworks). 6. Effects of economic activity on society (e.g., income levels, equity, employment).(Click to expand)

Source: OECD

Buildings that are built to economic sustainability standards, by ensuring optimum allocation of inputs indirectly fulfil both the environmental and social pillars given that wastes are avoided, and this reduces pressure on the natural environment from demands for building materials (which we know are resource–intensive), from extraction through to manufacturing and delivery to sites. Similarly, economically sustainable buildings lead to cost reductions from the emphasis it places on optimum or efficient allocation of resources, and this can be passed on to end users in lower rents, which would fulfill the attribute of social sustainability in terms of affordability. Equally, socially sustainable buildings emphasise the well-being of end users, which brings benefits to productivity, and hence economic growth and development. This is particularly the case where materials and labour are sourced locally to afford employment and income generating opportunities for local communities.

Furthermore, the emphasis placed by the social sustainability pillar on wider participation by all project stakeholders working as a team has implications for construction as well as post-construction maintenance and affordability costs, which fulfill some attributes of both environmental and economic sustainability.. For example, possibly high refurbishment or correction costs are avoided, where all stakeholders are involved, as projects are delivered to specification. Similarly, upholding the social values and rights of building end users and construction workers in particular, fulfils social sustainability attributes. Adequate welfare facilities and working conditions for construction workers not only facilitate the building of social sustainable buildings, but also, leads to productive workers likely to remain in construction.

In other words, pursuing sustainability in the construction sector through recognising and embedding the interdependencies of the 3 pillars from the very start is beneficial to individuals, the building/construction industry, and the natural environment.

© CIOB Academy
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Sustainable Construction and Development

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