Every day more evidence surfaces about the dire state of the environment. More and more, sustainable development is fundamentally about meeting human needs while restoring balance to the global ecosystem that is failing. Greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets and other new environmental performance targets are rapidly being adopted across the globe to try to shore up this degradation.
We are finally entering the era of broad scale environmental accountability. Achieving sustainability performance targets across complex and integrated social, ecological, and economic systems requires new ways of engineering the way we interact with the environment. In turn, ecologically engineering the built environment requires new quantitative performance approaches to planning. It requires understanding and analyzing the complex systematic relationships between the built and natural environment and capitalizing on the efficiencies that can be found through integrated design.
The sustainability movement is currently focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the threats to sustainability run much deeper than that. Climate change is driving changes to nearly all ecosystem services upon which we rely. Reducing carbon emissions has taken a front seat in sustainability programming, but typically through a somewhat focused lens of energy and transportation systems.
This paper will discuss an approach to sustainability that is more holistic and ecosystem based. One that optimizes the ecological opportunities of a site and technology to make the built environment more sustainably integrated with the natural environment at the site, region, and global scale.