Many years have passed since the 1972 UN Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment and the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. In 2016, Sustainable Development remains an intricate, open, dynamic and continually evolving concept. The guide and driver for frontline practitioners, policy and decision makers must be a personal Code of Ethics … an integrated and inter-related whole which cannot be reduced to fixed rules inviting game playing and ‘trade-offs’. After working with this Code, it may be necessary to expand on and discuss its principles and/or some of the issues raised … not to narrow its focus, but to broaden interpretation.
The realization of a Safe, Inclusive, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment demands a concerted, collaborative, very creative and widely trans-disciplinary effort at national, local, regional and international levels across the whole planet – Our Common Home. The informed operation of appropriate legislation, administrative procedures, performance monitoring and targeting, and incentives/disincentives, at all of these levels, will facilitate initial progress towards this objective … but not the quantity, quality or speed of progress necessary. Our time is running out !
This Code of Ethics applies … for those who subscribe to its values … to policy and decision makers, and the many different individuals and organizations directly and indirectly involved in the design, engineering, construction, and operation (management and maintenance) of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for ALL.
The Purpose of this Code of Ethics is to guide the work of competent individuals and organizations in a context where incomplete or inadequate legislation, administrative procedures and incentives/disincentives exist … but, more importantly, where they do not exist at all … and, amid much confusion and obfuscation of the terms, to ensure that implementation is authentically ‘sustainable’, and reliably ‘safe’ and ‘resilient’ for every person in the receiving community, society or culture … before it is too late !
‘ For many Weak and Vulnerable People, today’s Complex Human Environment is inaccessible and unsafe … a hostile ‘reality’ which prevents independent functioning and participation in a local community; it is a blatant denial of their human rights.’
Relevant Human Environment (social – built – virtual – institutional) Factors … factors which are external, or extrinsic, to the context of a person’s life and living situation … include policies and standards, negative attitudes and stigma, lack of services, problems with service delivery, inadequate funding, lack of accessibility in the built environment and to electronic, information and communication technologies, lack of consultation and involvement, and an absence of reliable data and evidence.
Accessibility for All …
Take a really close look at the photograph below … and see a staircase which, in spite of all the legislation in the EU Member States, contravenes almost every accessibility-related design guideline. It is far from being an unusual scene in our European Built Environment …
Now, imagine the consequences of one, tiny slip …
Which is why our concern must be with Accessibility for All … which includes consciously thinking about children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and frail older people (not all older people !) … and how they use and interact with their surroundings.
In addition, however … our attention must also turn to the large numbers of people, in all of our societies, with health conditions which result in serious impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions. As a prime example, consider the Big-4 Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s): Cardiovascular Diseases (e.g. heart attacks and stroke), Cancers, Diabetes, and Chronic Lung Diseases.
These 4 NCD’s – targeted in a World Health Organization (WHO) Global NCD Campaign – share health risk factors (tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, harmful alcohol use) … cause more than 36 million deaths annually (almost 80 % of deaths, from such diseases, occur in low and middle-income countries) … and result in a high proportion of disability (66.5 % of all years lived with disability in low and middle income countries).
NCD’s can limit one or more of a person’s major life and living activities … such as walking, eating, communicating, and caring-for-oneself. Examples of common NCD-related impairments include paralysis due to stroke, and amputation as a result of diabetic neuropathy.
When Easily Assimilated Signage IS Essential in Buildings …
Good Architectural Design IS ‘intuitive and obvious’ for building users … design characteristics which are critical in the case of Fire Engineering Design. However, what is intuitive and obvious in Ireland may not be so intuitive and obvious in Turkey … and what is intuitive and obvious in Europe will certainly not be intuitive and obvious in Africa, India, or China.
Architectural & Fire Engineering Design must, therefore, be adapted to Local conditions … culture, social need, etc., etc.
When a building is NOT ‘intuitive and obvious’ for the broad range of potential building users … easily assimilated signage IS essential …
International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ was published in December 2011, as a full standard. In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is linked to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … almost like an umbilical cord.
The scope of ISO 21542 covers public buildings. The Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … so much standardization work remains to be completed at international level.
Concerning Accessibility Symbols and Signs … reference should be made to ISO 21542: Clause 41 – Graphical Symbols … and on Pages 106, 107, 108, and 109 … the following will be found:
Figure 66 – Accessible Facility or Entrance ;
Figure 67 – Sloped or Ramped Access ;
Figure 68 – Accessible Toilets (male & female) ;
Figure 69 – Accessible Toilets (female) ;
Figure 70 – Accessible Toilets (male) ;
Figure 71 – Accessible Lift / Elevator ;
Figure 72 – Accessible Emergency Exit Route.
I use the word ‘accessibility’, and not ‘access’ … because Accessibility has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.
A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.
During the very long gestation of ISO 21542, an overwhelming consensus emerged in favour of using the term Accessibility for All … thereby sidestepping the thorny issue of different design philosophies which are described as being accessibility-related but, in practice, are limited and/or no longer fit-for-purpose.
The Accessibility Symbol used throughout ISO 21542 is shown above. I know that a small group of people from different countries worked very hard on this particular part of the standard. My only contribution was in relation to the inclusion of Figure 72, concerning Fire Evacuation.
This ‘accessibility’ symbol is an attractive, modern and, of course, abstract representation of a concept … a person with an activity limitation using a wheelchair. The symbol succeeds very well in communicating that concept.
However … as an Accessibility for All Symbol … encompassing people with other than functional impairments, e.g. hearing and visual impairments … and children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, frail older people … and people with the four main types of non-communicable disease discussed above … is this symbol, also, limited and no longer fit-for-purpose ??
Shown next, above, is the proposal for a new Area of Rescue Assistance Sign … which is contained in ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013). While it is nice to finally see this Safety Sign appear in the mainstream of safety signage … the title being proposed for the sign and the explanatory texts which accompany it are very problematic …
The technical term being proposed – Evacuation Temporary Refuge – is too long and too difficult to understand ;
The explanatory texts which accompany this Sign are very confusing and misleading.
This problem has arisen because the people who drafted ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013) hadn’t a bull’s notion that ISO 21542 even existed !
In ISO 21542, we use the term Area of Rescue Assistance … which is easy for everybody to understand, including building users, building managers and firefighters, etc., etc.
We also explained, in ISO 21542, that a Place of Safety is a remote distance from the building … not anywhere inside the building !
Mainstreaming Disability …
U.N. CRPD – Preamble
(g) Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,
As ‘disability’ moves closer towards … and is integrated and fully included in the ‘mainstream’ of sustainable community life and living … it is absolutely imperative that individuals and organizations who make up the Disability Sector become much more cohesive (far less fractious within) … that they begin to fully understand the practices and procedures of the mainstream … and actively and robustly engage with that mainstream.
It is ridiculous, for example, that a large amount of the Sector’s energy is still being diverted into meaningless meditations and endless tracts on whether it is ‘universal design’, or ‘design-for-all’, or ‘inclusive design’, or ‘facilitation design’, etc … when an entirely new design paradigm is being demanded by a world (our small planet when seen from the moon !), which is experiencing enormous levels of human poverty, natural resource shortages, human rights violations, and severe weather events. The overriding priority must be ‘real’ implementation … Effective Accessibility for All !
While the wider international design community is working hard on developing an array of Accessibility Symbols to facilitate different health condition and impairment categories, and to suit different environmental situations, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … I recently encountered another interesting contribution …
Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.83 Mb)
Extract from ‘Foreword’ …
This publication serves as a timely update on what has occurred since the Earth Summit of 1992 and is part of the wider Global Environment Outlook-5 (GEO-5) preparations that will lead to the release of the landmark GEO-5 report in May 2012. It underlines how in just twenty years, the world has changed more than most of us could ever have imagined – geopolitically, economically, socially and environmentally. Very few individuals outside academic and research communities envisaged the rapid pace of change or foresaw developments such as the phenomenal growth in information and communication technologies, ever-accelerating globalization, private sector investments across the world, and the rapid economic rise of a number of ‘developing’ countries. Many rapid changes have also taken place in our environment, from the accumulating evidence of climate change and its very visible impacts on our planet, to biodiversity loss and species extinctions, further degradation of land surfaces and the deteriorating quality of oceans. Certainly, there have been some improvements in the environmental realm, such as the significant reduction in ozone-depleting chemicals and the emergence of renewable energy sources, new investments into which totalled more than $200 thousand million in 2010. But in too many areas, the environmental dials continue to head into the red.
Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (670 Kb)
SDI is a professional, trans-disciplinary and collaborative design, architectural, fire engineering, research, and consultancy practice … specialists in the theory and practical implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social – built – virtual – economic).
WE are committed to … the protection of society, the best interests of our clients, and ‘user’ welfare … not just cost-effective compliance with the Minimal Health & Safety Objectives in Legislation & Codes !
Sustainability … continues to fundamentally transform our Architectural, Fire Engineering & Consultancy Practice.
Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.72 Mb)
If we measured the world’s response to environmental challenges solely by the number of treaties and agreements that have been adopted, then the situation looks impressive. Over 500 international environmental agreements have been concluded since 1972, the year of the Stockholm Conference and the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
These include landmark conventions on issues such as trade in endangered species, hazardous wastes, climate change, biological diversity and desertification. Collectively, these reflect an extraordinary effort to install the policies, aims and desires of countries worldwide to achieve sustainable development.
Yet despite the impressive number of legal texts and many good intentions, real progress in solving the environmental challenges themselves has been much less comprehensive, a point clearly underlined in the Global Environment Outlook-5 (GEO-5), for which this report ‘Measuring Progress: Environmental Goals and Gaps’ and a previous publication ‘Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20’ are companion products leading up to Rio+20.
This report outlines findings from a UNEP study that, with support from the Government of Switzerland, has catalogued and analyzed existing ‘Global Environmental Goals’ contained in the international agreements and conventions. It asks the fundamental question as to why the aims and goals of these policy instruments have often fallen far short of their original ambition and intentions. One possible reason is that many of the goals are simply not specific enough; the few goals that are specific and measurable appear to have a much better record of success.
These include goals to phase out lead in gasoline, ozone-depleting substances (ODS) and certain persistent organic pollutants (POP’s), specific Millennium Development Goal targets calling to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation, and targets to increase the number and extent of protected areas. Indeed, even when measurable targets have been set but not actually met, they have usually led to positive change and often to significant change.
The vast majority of goals, however, are found to be ‘aspirational’ in nature. They lack specific targets, which generate obvious difficulties in measuring progress towards them. In addition, many aspirational goals are not supported by adequate data that can be used to measure progress, global freshwater quality being one stark example.
It is clear that if agreements and conventions are to achieve their intended purpose, the international community needs to consider specific and measurable goals when designing such treaties, while organizing the required data gathering and putting in place proper tracking systems from the outset.
A set of Sustainable Development Goals, as proposed by the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Sustainability, could be an excellent opportunity and starting point to improve this situation while representing another positive outcome from Rio+20, two decades after the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 and four decades after the Stockholm Conference.
Achim Steiner, United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi.
The hype is less this year … and I bet that not too many politicians will be appearing in front of the cameras at the end of this 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Summit … which is being held in Cancún, Mexico … from Monday, 29 November until Friday, 10 December 2010.
Let us not forget that the result of last year’s debacle … the 2009 Copenhagen Accord … was an unofficial, political agreement between a small number of Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and Heads of Delegation – Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) and the USA – who attended the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, which concluded on Saturday, 19th December 2009. Since then, many countries have made voluntary submissions, i.e. they are not legally binding, to Appendices I and II of the Copenhagen Accord.
An initial overview of the submissions made by Developed Countries, however, revealed the following about the voluntary emissions targets being undertaken …
they are highly conditional on the performance of other countries ;
they are disappointing, being well below what is required to cap the planetary temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius ; and
there is no consistent emission base year … varying from 1990 and 1992, up to 2000 and 2005.
This is very far from being a signal of serious intent from Developed Countries … and is not … in any way, shape or manner … an acceptance of historical responsibilities. It would be reasonable, therefore, to surmise that the process of achieving a global, legally binding, consensus agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets will be long and difficult. The Climate Change Mitigation Agenda is, to put it mildly, fraught with problems … and has an unclear future in the short term.
HOWEVER … Back In The ‘Real’ World … GHG Emissions Continue To Rise !
On 24 November 2010 … the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.6: ‘The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2009′.
The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme coordinates systematic observations and analysis of atmospheric composition, including Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and other trace species. Measurement data are reported by participating countries and archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG) at the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Even here … it is clearly stated that there are still uncertainties …
2009 Global Observations of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the Atmosphere
Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (3.37 Mb)
The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2009, with CO2 at 386.8 parts per million, CH4 at 1803 ppb and N2O at 322.5 ppb. These values are greater than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 38%, 158% and 19%, respectively.
Atmospheric growth rates of CO2 and N2O in 2009 are consistent with recent years, but are lower than in 2008.
After nearly a decade of no growth, Atmospheric CH4 has increased during the past three years. The reasons for renewed growth of Atmospheric Methane are not fully understood, but emissions from natural sources (from northern latitudes and the tropics) are considered potential causes.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2009, radiative forcing by all long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 27.5%, with CO2 accounting for nearly 80% of this increase.
The combined radiative forcing by Halocarbons is nearly double that of N2O.
Help with the Technical Terms of Climate Change ?
Give it a lash ! Try out the Encyclopaedia of Earth WebSite … an electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society. The Encyclopaedia is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other’s work. The articles are written in non-technical language and are useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public.
To Mitigate or Adapt ? – Prioritizing a Strategy for the Built Environment
We are already experiencing the adverse impacts of Climate Change ! And even if sufficient and appropriate Climate Mitigation Measures were succeeding … which they patently are not … the timelag between their implementation and any resulting beneficial environmental impacts is too great … half a century, at least … and full of uncertainty.
BUT … since the minimum period for a Sustainable Building in Use is 100 Years, and nothing less than a Recurrence Interval of 100 years should now be used in design calculations for events such as severe storms and flooding, or deluge rainfalls, etc … anyone involved in the design, construction, management or operation of the Built Environment must think ‘long-term’ … today !
In Dublin … buildings which are 250 or 350 years old still look remarkably good, and are well capable of fulfilling an important function within the social and economic environments of the city. ‘Politically’ and ‘technically’, therefore, it would be more appropriate for the Built Environment if we were concerned with the Long-Term Climate Change Adaptation Agenda … rather than a problematic, Short-Term Mitigation Agenda.
In terms of a building … is there really a clear difference between measures undertaken for the purpose of mitigation and those undertaken for adaptation ? For example, measures to incrementally improve energy efficiency and conserve energy, in accordance with short-term legally binding targets, will serve to mitigate CO2 Emissions … but the same measures will also serve to adapt the building to rapidly dwindling supplies of climate-damaging fossil fuels.
The long-term perspective exerts pressure for more radical, but necessary, actions in the short-term.
BUT … should we not already be undertaking these sorts of measures as part of the Mainstream Sustainability Agenda … in order to improve built environment resilience, prolong life cycles … and achieve social wellbeing for all ?
Generally … Climate Change Adaptation encompasses urgent and immediate short, near and long-term actions at local, national, regional and international levels to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the local threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.
More specifically … Built Environment Climate Change Adaptation means reliably implementing policies, practices, projects and institutional reforms in the Built Environment … with the aim of reducing the adverse impacts and/or realizing the benefits directly/indirectly associated with climate change, including variability and extremes … in a manner which is compatible with Sustainable Human and Social Development.
Wake Up And Smell The Coffee … It’s Time To Get Serious !!!!
At the level of the Individual … ‘sustainability’ urgently requires a revolution in professional and personal ethics.
However, at levels above or beyond the Individual … reference must be made to a common understanding of Sustainable Human & Social Development which has a foundation in a robust Framework of International Law. It is this approach which continues to facilitate, at Sustainable Design International, our development of the theory of ‘sustainability’ … and its more effective application to frontline design practice.
Sustainable Human and Social Development: Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human and Social Rights1, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations, especially our children … their children … and the next five generations of children.
 As defined, in International Law, by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN OHCHR).
Inspired by the Culture of the North American Indigenous Peoples … this definition also incorporates the concept of ‘7 Generation Thinking’.
Sustainable Design2: The ethical design response, in built or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development.
 Includes Spatial Planning, Architectural/Engineering/Interior/Industrial Design and e-Design, etc.
Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate and future climate change, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s), etc.
Our Ultimate Goal, however, must be to achieve a dynamic and harmonious balance between a Sustainable Human Environment (including the social, built, virtual and economic environments …) and a flourishing, not just a surviving, Natural Environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving Social Wellbeing for All.
Please see previous Posts on this Technical Blog … www.cjwalsh.ie … for supporting definitions to the above text.
2009-05-19: Globalization is not just an economic concept … it is a social reality in the 21st Century …
In discussions about Sustainable Human & Social Development … it is the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) and its 1987 (Brundtland) Report: Our Common Future which tends to attract most attention … that is, if people have gone to the trouble of actually reading the report !
However, fast forward to November 2001 … the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WCSDG) was created by a decision of the Governing Body of the International Labour Office (ILO), in Geneva, Switzerland.Its brief was to prepare an authoritative report on the social dimension of globalization, including the interaction between the global economy and the world of work.
Later, in February 2002 … Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania, accepted the ILO Director-General’s invitation to act as Co-Chairs of the Commission. Nineteen other members were appointed from across the world’s regions, with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise.
Before the current dark days of global economic crisis, financial meltdown, consumer spending collapse and spiralling unemployment … the WCSDG’s Recommendations might have appeared somewhat radical.Now, however, they are too tame by far …
” We seek a process of globalization with a strong social dimension based on universally shared values, and respect for human rights and individual dignity; one that is fair, inclusive, democratically governed and provides opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people.
To this end we call for:
–A Focus on People
The cornerstone of a fairer globalization lies in meeting the demands of all people for: respect for their rights, cultural identity and autonomy; decent work; and the empowerment of the local communities they live in. Gender equality is essential.
–A Democratic & Effective State
The State must have the capability to manage integration into the global economy, and provide social and economic opportunity and security.
The quest for a fair globalization must be underpinned by the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection at the local, national, regional and global levels.
–Productive & Equitable Markets
This requires sound institutions to promote opportunity and enterprise in a well-functioning market economy.
The rules of the global economy must offer equitable opportunity and access for all countries and recognize the diversity in national capacities and developmental needs.
–Globalization with Solidarity
There is a shared responsibility to assist countries and people excluded from or disadvantaged by globalization.Globalization must help to overcome inequality both within and between countries and contribute to the elimination of poverty.
–Greater Accountability to People
Public and private actors at all levels with power to influence the outcomes of globalization must be democratically accountable for the policies they pursue and the actions they take.They must deliver on their commitments and use their power with respect for others.
Many actors are engaged in the realization of global social and economic goals – international organizations, governments and parliaments, business, labour, civil society and many others.Dialogue and partnership among them is an essential democratic instrument to create a better world.
–An Effective United Nations
A stronger and more efficient multilateral system is the key instrument to create a democratic, legitimate and coherent framework for globalization.”
Sustainable Economic Development means … Economic Development which is compatible with Sustainable Human & Social Development !
That was the easy part … but try explaining it to economists ?!?!
Sustainable Globalization … much more than an economic concept, but a social reality in our time … means Globalization which is also compatible with Sustainable Human & Social Development … each co-existing with the other in harmony and dynamic balance … and – together – providing a high level of Social Wellbeing for All.
Unfortunately … while economists can readily understand Individual Welfare …
a person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment
… they are not familiar with the concept of Social Wellbeing …
a general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.