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 home about
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Building and Construction: A Sustainable Future
by Dr. Steve Halls
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Urbanization
The world is facing explosive growth of urban population, mainly in the developing world. Many cities, confronted with hypergrowth, are failing to cope with the challenges of generating employment, providing adequate housing and meeting the basic needs of their citizens.

By the year 2025 the world’s population will have increased by at least 50% (6 billion to 9 billion people). Therefore, an additional 3.0 billion people will need houses, shops, places to work. One environmental consequences is the level of energy consumption will increase by at least 25% above current levels. In addition, the level of water consumption and waste production will also increase by at least 30% based upon current development patterns. If this scenario manifests then a sustainable future will not only be more difficult to achieve, but increasingly less likely to be achieved at all!

Challenges for those involved in Construction
More people means more houses, shops, work-places, more demand on products and services and a greater demand for land. With more and more people in cities, and larger cities, we see more impact on the environment. New Ideas, New Paradigms, New Approaches to Building and Construction are urgently needed. Thankfully, UNEP is developing a: "Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative" - a process that has already started with preparatory meetings in Pretoria, South Africa and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. More meetings are scheduled in Latin American, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe and Asia over the next couple years.

Definition of a Sustainable Building
A Building that can (moderately) maintain or improve:
  • the quality of life and harmonize within the local climate, tradition, culture,
  • the environment in the region,
  • conserve energy, resources and recycling materials, and
  • reduce the amount hazardous substances to which human and other organisms are (or may be) exposed
  • the local and global ecosystem throughout the entire building life-cycle
Building Product Life-Cycle Assessment

Therefore it is necessary to design, operate and maintain and ultimately dismantle buildings in a manner that provide:
  • Security of building against the natural disaster.
  • Maximize energy and resources efficiency.
  • Minimize construction waste and domestic waste.
  • Minimize water consumption
  • Recycle waste water wherever possible
  • Optimum use of existing building structure and infrastructure.
  • Take maximum advantage of environmentally benign materials.
  • Offer suitable indoor environments that address air quality, lighting, acoustics and special aesthetics.

Role of the Private and Public Sectors
Both the public and private sector have significant roles in sustainable construction. The local and national governments must create an enabling environment through: planning and regulatory framework, economic instruments (including fiscal reform), and institutional reform. The role of the private sector is: partnership building (with governments and NGO's), technology innovation and transfer, and life-cycle management.

Dr. Steve Halls is the Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme's International Environmental Technology Centre, in Osaka and Shiga, Japan. IETC is mandated to promote the application of Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs).
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