Building Sustainability: Definitions, Process and Case
Paleshi, Antoni Christopher
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This thesis is an exploration of how to do sustainable development for buildings, especially during the earliest stages of such development. The thesis starts by considering clear definitions of sustainability, development and sustainable development as these concepts apply to organizations in general and as they apply specifically to the charity All Our Relations (AOR) and their community of the Region of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Three critical challenges to the process of development are also discussed in these early chapters, namely assessment, vision and feedback. In the third chapter, these same challenges are put under the lens of sustainable development and three new, but related, challenges of connection complexity, shared futures and resilience are examined to better understand the problems and solutions that surround them. At the end of this broad introductory section, AOR’s relationships with the community are explored as part of their efforts to draft an organization-wide sustainability plan. The second part of the thesis is an attempt to apply and expand on the general ideas from the first half through a focus on buildings and specifically the building of AOR’s planned Hospice and Retreat Centre in Bloomingdale, Ontario. As part of the focus on sustainable buildings, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) system of assessing building impacts is presented and critiqued. As part of a focus on building developments the earlier challenges of assessment, vision and feedback are revisited as they apply to the concept design phase of the typical building design. The final three chapters of the thesis are a synthesis of all the previous chapters and the formal presentation of the case study concept development for the AOR building. A full summary of all previous definitions are presented and the final definition of sustainable building development is expressed as a culmination and extension of its parts: Sustainable building development is a process of creating space-for-use which recognizes both the importance of space in our lives and the impact that developing that space has on our greater goal to pursue sustainability. Potential critiques of this definition are discussed and two methods of engaging in the difficult challenges of sustainable building development are presented: the decider’s dilemma and the life-cycle-service-network model of connection complexity. Finally, the case study use of LEED as a guide for doing sustainable development in buildings is contrasted against the author’s proposed approaches. Through a series of qualitative and quantitative observations based on the results from the case study design, LEED is revealed as being effective mostly as an early guide, but lacking in the rigor and complexity needed to address properly the challenges of building sustainability.