partnership between all sectors of society

‘Person-Centred’ Design & Climate Change Policy Development

2013-07-01:   Sustainable Design Solutions are …

  • Person-Centred ;
  • Reliability-Based ;    and most importantly
  • Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine – see ICOMOS 2011) … geography, climate (incl. change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, and economy, etc., etc.

‘Person-Centredness’ is a core value of Sustainable Human & Social Development … an essential principle in Sustainable Design … an indispensable support framework for Sustainability-related Policy and Decision-making … and an invaluable indicator when monitoring Sustainability Implementation.


Why so because ?

It is the mid-1990’s … in the centre of Dublin City.

Imagine, if you will, a very large historical building having a civic, justice-related function … and also an enormous Energy Bill.  As described in a much earlier post, dated 2009-02-20, and the series of posts which followed on the subject of Building Energy Rating (BER) … we found that the most effective and practical remedy for this gaping and continuously haemorrhaging ‘energy’ wound was to approach the problem though the building’s users, their perception of thermal comfort, and International Standard ISO 7730.

The ‘real’ reduction in energy consumption, the ‘real’ increase in the building’s energy efficiency, and the ‘real’ improvements in building user / employee comfort and morale … were astounding !


'Person-Centredness' (Concept 1)At a 1999 Strasbourg Conference in France … I delivered the following Paper …

Person-Centredness’ of the Built Environment – A Core Value of Sustainable Design


INTRODUCTION from that Paper …

These are interesting times;  the benefits of modern technology have bypassed and long overtaken the stirring thoughts, visions and catch cries of Architects at the beginning of the 20th Century.  However, at this time in Europe, we must now ask ourselves some difficult questions …

“What should be the Design Agenda for the ‘Built Environment’ in the new millennium ?”

“Do we actually understand the ‘real’ needs and desires of ‘real’ people in an inclusive society ?”

It is Sustainable Design – the art and science of the design, supervision of related construction/de-construction, and maintenance of sustainability in the Built Environment – which is currently generating a quantum leap in the forward evolution of a more coherent design philosophy.

Principle 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states …

‘Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.  They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.’

Deeply embedded, therefore, within this philosophy is the concept of ‘person-centredness’, i.e. that core design value which places real people at the centre of creative concerns, and gives due consideration to their health, safety, and welfare in the Built Environment – it includes such specific performance criteria as:  a sensory rich and accessible (mobility, usability, communications and information) environment;  fire safety;  thermal comfort;  air, light and visual quality;  protection from ionizing / electromagnetic radiation;  nuisance noise abatement;  etc.  An important ‘person-centred’ design aid is the questionnaire survey, which is not only a very valuable source of information, but formalizes meaningful consultation between practitioners and end users.

SDI’s Guideline Framework on achieving equality of opportunity and social inclusion, which is based on a strategy produced by Directorate-General V of the European Commission, shows how further essential elements of ‘social wellbeing’ also relate to person-centredness;  these include partnership between all sectors of society, consensus, transparency and openness.

This paper explores the rational and legal basis for person-centredness of the Built Environment in Europe.  Fieldwork incorporating this innovative approach is also examined.  Finally, a body of principles – a European Charter – is outlined which aims to ensure that new construction works, and renovated existing buildings, perform reliably, are adaptable, accessible and responsive, ‘intelligently green’ (French: intelli-verdure), cost-effective and inherently sustainable.


'Person-Centredness' (Concept 2).


AND BEFORE developing Climate Change Policies which will have such dramatic impacts on human populations, and their lifestyles, around the globe … perhaps those policies would be more effective, in the ‘real’ world and in the long-term … if we looked at the problem through the ‘eyes’ of people !

It will be worth taking a look at an interesting background paper produced by the World Bank in 2009 … whether you agree or disagree with the following statements …

“A lack of citizen understanding regarding the basics of climate science is an almost universal finding worldwide even though knowledge has increased over time.  Especially notable is confusion between the causes of climate change and ozone depletion, and confusion between weather and climate.”

“North Americans know far less about climate change than their counterparts in the developed world.”

“Accurate and complete understanding of information is not a prerequisite for concern.”

“Concern is widespread around the world, but it may also be inversely correlated with the wealth and carbon footprint of a nation, or the socio-economic ‘class’ within a nation.”

“In some studies, more informed respondents reported less concern or sense of responsibility towards climate change.”

“People stop paying attention to global climate change when they realize that there is no easy solution for it.  Many people judge as serious only those problems for which they think action can be taken.”


World Bank Paper 4940: 'Cognitive & Behavioural Challenges in Responding to Climate Change' (2009) - Title PagePolicy Research Working Paper No.4940 (May 2009) – Kari Marie Norgaard

Cognitive & Behavioural Challenges in Responding to Climate Change (World Bank, 2009)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (290 Kb)

This World Bank Working Paper – prepared as a background paper to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development in a Changing Climate.  Policy Research Working Papers are posted on the Web at


World Bank Working Paper 4940 (2009) – ABSTRACT …

Climate scientists have identified global warming as the most important environmental issue of our time, but it has taken over 20 years for the problem to penetrate the public discourse in even the most superficial manner.  While some nations have done better than others, no nation has adequately reduced emissions and no nation has a base of public citizens that are sufficiently socially and politically engaged in response to climate change.  This paper summarizes international and national differences in levels of knowledge and concern regarding climate change, and the existing explanations for the worldwide failure of public response to climate change, drawing from psychology, social psychology and sociology.  On the whole, the widely presumed links between public access to information on climate change and levels of concern and action are not supported.  The paper’s key findings emphasize the presence of negative emotions in conjunction with global warming (fear, guilt, and helplessness), and the process of emotion management and cultural norms in the construction of a social reality in which climate change is held at arms length.  Barriers in responding to climate change are placed into three broad categories:  1) psychological and conceptual;  2) social and cultural;  and 3) structural (political economy).  The author provides policy considerations and summarizes the policy implications of both psychological and conceptual barriers, and social and cultural barriers. An annotated bibliography is included.


Is anybody learning yet ?




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Genuine Social Partnerships – A Necessary Enhancement for Dysfunctional Institutions of National Governance ?

2009-06-03:  Since 1987 … Ireland has had continuous, and a quite positive, experience of National Economic Partnership Agreements


1987-1900     Programme for National Recovery (PNR)


1990-1993     Programme for Economic & Social Progress (PESP)


1994-1996     Programme for Competitiveness & Work (PCW)


1997-2000     Partnership 2000


2000-2003     Programme for Prosperity & Fairness (PPF)


2003-2005     Sustaining Progress


2006-2015     Towards 2016


But … where is the Social Progress ?   Where is the Fairness ?




In 2009


We – the People of Ireland – face a different reality … a twilight zone of interlinked, seemingly insurmountable challenges at national level.


This time around, the challenges are not just economic in nature … but social, environmental, institutional, political, legal and judicial.


The key to meeting these challenges … a stark realization that our Institutions of National Governance are in dire need of change, re-organization … and urgent enhancement by genuine Social Partnerships … a large scale effort requiring creativity and innovative strategic thinking …



[ The following text, intended for application in the European Union, was drafted in 2003. ]



Recalling(1) that direct and meaningful consultation with people, partnership between all sectors of society, consensus, transparency, institutional openness, and political accountability, are essential elements in Social Wellbeing for All – a Social Partnership is a collective of groups and individuals, i.e. the social partners, business, industry, civil society and experts, which acts as a ‘catalyst’ in enhancing and broadening implementation in an area of human and/or social policy.  Set out below are a number of Guideline Principles which should be actively considered as a basis for their establishment and operation within the European Union (E.U.) …


1.         Common Aim, Agenda & Objectives of a Social Partnership

Although of a voluntary and self-organizing nature, specific commitments should be made by partnership participants to co-operate together around a common aim, agenda, and a set of objectives with targets;  these core elements should evolve over time.


2.         Respect for International Law, Peace & European Values

A respect for International Law, Peace and European Values – Human Dignity, Human & Social Rights, Equal Opportunity, Social Justice & Solidarity, Sustainable Human & Social Development – should underpin all partnership activities.


3.         Vertical Co-Ordination of Activities

Mobilizing latent social capacity for translating policy into tangible results, partnerships should act in accordance with E.U. Law;  they are supplementary to, and not a surrogate for, Institutional competences at Union, Member State, regional and local levels.


4.         Horizontal Integration of Outcomes

Partnerships should coherently integrate ‘social’, ‘economic’, ‘environmental’, ‘institutional’ and ‘political’ aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development in all outcomes.


5.         Multi-Sectoral & Multi-Disciplinary Participation(2)

Partnerships should adopt a widely multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach, and should proactively involve significant actors within the boundary of its remit – in order to more readily achieve a ‘balanced’ horizontal integration, and a timely realization, of outcomes.


6.         Openness, Transparency & Accountability(2)

Partnerships should be operated in an open, transparent and accountable manner – and in good faith, so that ownership of the partnership process and its outcomes are shared equally by all participants;  its activities should be accessible to the public.


7.         Effectiveness & Coherence(2)

Partnership performance, outcome coherence and implementation effectiveness should be regularly reviewed against objectives, targets, and overall impact on the common aim.


8.         Funding Arrangements

Funding arrangements for partnerships should be clearly identified, should not give rise to conflicts of interest, and should be accessible to the public.


9.         Freshness & Self-Renewal

Efforts should be made by participants to retain a spirit of freshness and self-renewal in a partnership;  new participants should be welcomed, and research given a high priority.


10.      Progress & Future Growth

The operation of a partnership is an iterative process;  precise and accurate feedback from outcome implementation is essential for its progress and future growth.





(1)  See Appendix II of the European Charter on Sustainable Design & Construction, adopted in Dublin on 6th November 1998.


(2)  See also EU Commission Communication COM(2002) 704 final, issued in Brussels on 2002-12-11: ‘Towards a reinforced culture of consultation and dialogue – General principles and minimum standards for consultation of interested parties by the Commission’.







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