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About UNEP
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United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
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Information on completed IETC Project (2000-2004) for archival purposes only. For current on-going projects, please see http://www.unep.or.jp/

 

Sustainable Building and Construction

Buildings, infrastructure and the environment are inextricably linked. Energy, materials, water and land are all consumed in the construction and operation of buildings and infrastructure. These built structures in turn become part of our living environment, affecting our living conditions, social well-being and health. It is therefore important to explore environmentally and economically sound design and development techniques in order to design buildings and infrastructure that are sustainable, healthy and affordable, and encourage innovation in buildings and infrastructure systems and designs.

The concept of sustainability in building and construction has evolved over many years. The initial focus was on how to deal with the issue of limited resources, especially energy, and on how to reduce impacts on the natural environment. Emphasis was placed on technical issues such as materials, building components, construction technologies and energy related design concepts. More recently, an appreciation of the significance of non-technical issues has grown. It is now recognised that economic and social sustainability are important, as are the cultural heritage aspects of the built environment.

Still, sustainable construction adopts different approaches and is accorded different priorities in different countries. It is not surprising that there are widely divergent views and interpretations between countries with developed market economies and those with developing economies. Countries with mature economies are in the position of being able to devote greater attention to creating more sustainable buildings by upgrading the existing building stock through the application of new developments or the invention and use of innovative technologies for energy and material savings, while developing countries are more likely to focus on social equality and economic sustainability.

Sustainable construction is a way for the building industry to move towards achieving sustainable development, taking into account environmental, socio-economic and cultural issues. Specifically, it involves issues such as design and management of buildings, materials and building performance, energy and resource consumption - within the larger orbit of urban development and management.

IETC's involvement in this area is focussed on improving and strengthening the capacity of administrators and decision makers in local authorities, institutions, NGOs and communities in the identification, assessment, evaluation and selection of appropriate building technologies and infrastructure. It involves working in partnership with other organizations to develop and implement programs and activities at the municipal and local level for the adoption and use of environmentally sustainable, healthy building and infrastructure technologies, practices and systems.

UNEP-IETC has been responding to these issues by looking at appropriate tools and concepts for the design and assessment of the sustainability impacts of materials, components and technologies used in buildings and their construction, in developing countries. It has been developing a better understanding of the appropriateness of technologies that is used in buildings and for construction, including indigenous materials and technologies currently being used in developing countries. By networking with other organizations and institutions, it has been developing capacity - in terms of education, knowledge and experience - to use the materials, technologies, and tools for sustainable construction. This also includes related issues such as regulatory systems, institutional structures, market incentives, socio-economic and historical aspects. It has also initiated activities and events that have enabled the broad involvement of all concerned stakeholders in the process of adoption and implementation of sustainable construction principles.

Needs:

  • TOOLS: Need for appropriate tools and concepts for the design and assessment of the sustainability impacts of materials, components and technologies used in buildings and their construction, in developing countries.
  • TECHNOLOGIES: Need for a better understanding of the appropriateness of technologies that is used in buildings and for construction, including indigenous materials and technologies currently being used in developing countries.
  • CAPACITIES: Need for capacity - education, knowledge and experience - to use the materials, technologies, tools for sustainable construction. This also includes related issues such as regulatory systems, institutional structures, market incentives, socio-economic and historical aspects.
  • STAKEHOLDERS: Need for a broad involvement of all concerned stakeholders in the process of adoption and implementation of sustainable construction principles.

Objectives:

  • to create stimulating and enabling environments for sustainable construction in developing countries, in support of achieving energy efficiency and the use of low energy intense materials in the built environment and of achieving greenhouse gas reduction, and in particular (a) to promote the required awareness for sustainable construction among defined stakeholders and (b) to stimulate the removal of contextual barriers and the implementation of contextual incentives
  • to enable and actively stimulate the implementation and actual application of appropriate tools and technologies
  • to build the required capacity to apply those tools and technologies among defined - institutional and professional - stakeholders.

Results:

  • A range of appropriate tools based on design, assessment, management aspects will be developed for sustainable construction in developing countries
  • Methodologies to assess and select technologies that take local availabilities and conditions into consideration
  • Delivery of resources that develop awareness and builds capacity for sustainable construction practices
  • Involvement of all concerned stakeholders - architects, urban planners, civil engineers, construction workers and end-users - in the implementation of sustainable construction practices.

Outputs:

  • Document on "Agenda 21 for Sustainable Construction in Developing Countries"
  • Documentation of appropriate and indigenous building technologies and best practices
  • Building assessment models adopted for developing countries
  • Demonstration projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia
  • Global Sustainable Construction Status Report and Monitoring System

Activities:

International Research & Development
- Worldwide inventory of possibly appropriate tools and technologies, establishment of the appropriateness of such tools and technologies, definition of the required adaptation and the required R&D in support of such adaptation
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Definition of possible contextual issues and of possible ways to address them and the R&D required to develop the appropriate concepts for this

- Identification of stakeholders and decision makers as concerns aspects of Sustainable Construction, in the context of countries' specific characteristics
- Collection and analysis of Best Practices as concerns the application of appropriate tools and technologies, approaches in support of capacity building and approaches towards relevant contextual issues.
 
Awareness raising programmes
- both regionally / nationally focused programmes and the international support
- separate awareness programmes focuses on specific types of stakeholders and decision makers, including for example: national and local authorities, architects and other professionals (planners, engineers and contractors) and development aid agencies.
   
Dissemination programmes
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both regionally / nationally focused programmes and the international support

- dissemination of tools, technologies and concepts and of collected appropriate best practices
- capacity building programmes, aiming for example for professional training and institute's development.
   
Further strategic programme development and stakeholder involvement
- an international needs assessment among defined stakeholders, which will be used to further develop the SCDC Programme
- development of an "Agenda 21 on Sustainable Construction in Developing Countries"
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production of a Global Sustainable Construction Status Report that is to be presented to the Earth Summit that is to take place in September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa coordination of the three above indicated activities

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