It’s 1992, five years after the Brundtland Commission launched the now well accepted Sustainable Development definition. Heads of State and environmentalists convened in Rio to agree, or attempt to agree, a strategy to implement the sustainable definition globally.
At that time I was changing role from Project Management to Business Improvement Management, taking an interest in improvement issues and wondered then at the relevance of Rio and ‘sustainability’ on construction.
The impact was to be slow burn. Sustainable construction was then a very rarely heard expression, if at all. However Agenda 21, the global national and local strategy from Rio ’92 would go on to kick start and shape our Sustainable Construction agenda in so many ways, from strategy to standards to winning and delivering work. It would also shape our sustainability thinking linking economic, social as well as environmental aspects.
And continues to do so. Only last month I had a call from a contractor looking for help in understanding a Local Authority PQQ question “How do you meet our Local Agenda21 principles”
20 years later it is worth reflecting on progress in sustainable construction. Undoubtably a mixed bag, we have moved a long way in some areas, but we are still debating the some same 1992 issues a generation later. And have we avoided compromising the current generation? No
With design, construction and the way we use buildings (the “built environment”) Accounting for 40% of energy use, waste and resources we have a profound impact, but where in Rio +20 is the voice of the built environment? (Follow the hashtag #Rioplus20 and an embyronic Rio twitter list for those with a built environment interest)
Whatever the outcome the Rio+20, with a (perhaps flawed) focus on a Green Economy we can expect significant impact on the way we approach sustainable construction, not least in the financial accounting and price of ‘nature’ (biodiversity, carbon emissions, waste)
Green Economy growth would in many ways be good for the construction sector, but to be good for the planet, good for a sustainable and resilience sector, growth has to be tempered with effective corporate social responsibility, collaborative working and appropriate sourcing. That is doing more with less.
Interesting days ahead…