A&DS on Sustainable Development

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Creating sustainable places is, and must be, a key objective for the Scottish Government, local authorities, developers, designers and communities. At Architecture and Design Scotland (A&DS) we recognise that working with all of these parties is crucial in order to achieve a sustainable future for Scotland. Through our work we aim not only to advocate positive action on climate change but also to get directly involved, through our work programmes, in making Scotland’s built environment more sustainable.

With the credit crunch biting, discussing how best to deliver a ‘sustainable’ Scotland might sound, to some, like ‘more of the same’ or even a distraction from pressing financial concerns. Yet, it is vital that we have collective action – not just for environmental protection, but also for economic benefit.

‘Joined up thinking’ is perhaps a bit of a tired phrase, but it’s vital to creating successful and sustainable buildings and places. Through our work programmes and research we have established how we manage, maintain, design and develop our places – not just housing, but town and city centres, districts and villages. We advocate that there should be a more holistic approach to place-making and that both place-makers and policy-makers must put themselves in the shoes of the people who will use the buildings and places they seek to create. This holistic approach compels us to ask question of the proposed development: when we open the door in the morning what are the options open to us, where would we shop, get access to services, or have space to work, socialise and rest. If we approach place-making in this holistic manner we can establish a guiding vision for what we want a development to achieve. To achieve a place that endures we must ensure that the guiding vision is a sustainable one.

For the vast majority of people there are potential constraints to their aspirations for improving the environmental performance of where they live – not least due to the location of their home and affordability. Action at this individual level, such as making homes more resource efficient or via efforts to change behaviour, such as reducing energy consumption, is welcome but has been difficult to achieve in the past for some. Planning reform must be utilised to address this issue and our collective environmental footprint.

The 2006 Planning Act must thus be seen as a vital vehicle to help Scotland move towards more coherent place-making; places which will remain valued over long periods of time. There is no sense in spending hard-won capital on projects which won`t be enduring; recent losses of housing stock show clearly how expensive it is when we get it wrong.

A&DS, as Scotland’s design champion, believes that for the sake of people, places and planet we must take every opportunity to tackle climate change. We believe that good design, in its widest sense, is at the heart of achieving a sustainable built environment.

The opportunity of tackling climate change creates a context for ambition, innovation and creativity in planning, design and delivery. Scotland can be the pioneer of creative, practical sustainable design and place-making to help enable a ‘greener Scotland. We want to help Scotland on its journey to become a sustainable nation.

We know that there are place-makers and policy-makers who have not yet joined us on that journey. With your support, and with collective action, we can establish that good place-making and sustainable place-making should be indivisible – and can provide long-term economic and environmental benefits for us all.

By Sebastian Tombs, A&DS Chief Executive

This article first appeared in Holyrood Magazine

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