Will today’s sustainability solutions deliver the same benefits whatever the future brings?
Consider this example:
In 2005, Islington Council installed a green wall at a cost of £100,000. “The council had hoped the living wall, which was watered with recycled rainwater, would provide a habitat for wildlife.” Considered the first wall of its type in Britain, the wall won a national award. Unfortunately, four years later the watering system had broken and not been fixed and consequently the plants had died. This green wall proved itself to be an unsustainable solution and provides a stark demonstration of the need to future-proof solutions so that they will thrive, no matter what the future holds.
Thinking about our actions today in different contexts helps us see where weaknesses may lie, so we can adapt accordingly. Much current research assesses the present sustainability of those actions, but what about their future sustainability?
The Method draws upon future scenarios to help think about and visualise the future. The scenarios form the backdrop against which the robustness of sustainability solutions can be tested. If the outcomes from a proposed solution are similar, regardless of the future against which it is tested, and they deliver a positive legacy, then they can be adopted with confidence. Where there are very different outcomes depending on the future, the solutions can be modified to create an optimum outcome regardless of the future, or at the very least planning can be based on knowledge of the likely impacts if the future develops in different ways.
This year’s annual event was held at the University of Birmingham. The event attracted fifty delegates including architects, planners, developers and academia. The purpose was to beta test the Method in its full form for the very first time. A printed booklet describing the Method was produced especially for the event (dubbed the ‘Solutions Brochure’) and four example sustainability solutions were put before the delegates for analysis (planting a tree within the built form to improve local air quality, planting a tree within the built form to help maintain and improve the diversity of the local ecological community, local sourcing to reduce carbon footprint and local sourcing to create jobs). Delegates were asked to use the Method to test the future robustness of the four example sustainability solutions as well as to assess the usefulness and usability of the Method itself.
Responses were so encouraging that BRE has agreed to produce a BRE publication about the Method and is pursuing the development of workshop and training materials as well as a possible accreditation scheme based upon it.
The BRE publication (Practitioner Guide) will be launched on the 19th of April 2012, where free copies of the Guide will be available to attendees. If you are interested in attending, or if you would like more information about the research project, please contact Joanne Leach, Project Manager, University of Birmingham, firstname.lastname@example.org, 0121 414 3544, 07785 792 187.
Sustainable Regeneration - from Evidence-based Urban Futures to Implementation is a University of Birmingham led research consortium including the Universities of Lancaster, Exeter, Coventry and Birmingham City. It is a four year research programme that began in May 2008 and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). For more information please visit www.urban-futures.org.