What is Sustainability

Heritage_buildingConservation is by nature sustainable. Recycling of old building for new uses is better classified under 'sustainability' than it is under 'heritage'. Heritage has, in the minds of some, acquired a bad name – it is political and therefore open to legal vexation. Sustainability is a relatively fresh discipline and is at this stage has not been tarnished by the brush of politics (yet).

But why conserve? Because it is good to recycle old buildings so long as their significance remains intact, any building or place can be converted into any imaginable use.

Mental asylums can become university campuses. Heritage houses can become offices, warehouses can become apartments or backpackers and even old cinemas can become restaurants. With every new use, there must be a plan in place that determines what aspects of a building are necessary for protecting and which parts can be removed to create new uses. It is imperative that a Statement of Heritage Impact is prepared in advance of changes taking place so that the conversion is guided through an objective process of determining significance.

In this fashion developers contribute directly to sustainability by being part of a chain of professionals, designers, authorities and builders who all subscribe to the principles of sustainability which are;

  • Maintain and enhance residents' quality of life.
  • Enhance local economic vitality.
  • Promote social and intergenerational equity.
  • Maintain and enhance the quality of the environment.
  • Incorporate disaster resilience and mitigation into its decisions and actions.
  • Use a consensus-building, participatory process when making decisions.

The concept of sustainability is based on the premise that people and their communities are made up of social, economic, and environmental systems that are in constant interaction and that must be kept in harmony or balance if the community is to continue to function to the benefit of its inhabitants— now and in the future. A healthy, balanced society (or nation, or community) is one that can endure into the future and provide a decent way of life for all its members. Sustainability is an ideal toward which to strive and against which to weigh proposed actions, plans, expenditures, and decisions. It is a way of looking at a community or a society or a planet in the broadest possible context, in both time and space.

Paul Rappoport - Heritage 21 - 23 October 2015


Principles of Sustainability - Unioversity of Colorado, Boulder 


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