When it comes to building sustainable communities, every decision has an impact now and in the future. The way we plan, design and build communities and buildings plays an important role in affordability, livability and well-being. This is especially the case for people who are most in-need.
While planners and other decision-makers consider social and environmental factors in policy, there are few tools to evaluate broader and holistic outcomes.
In Canada, there currently isn’t a comprehensive tool or model that allows us to assess the impact of the built environment across the 3 pillars of sustainability: economic, social and environmental.
To fill this gap, we developed a framework to explore what is required to and the feasibility of developing such a tool. The framework can also be used by planners and other policy developers as a starting point to develop sustainability assessment tools of their own.
Measuring the costs and benefits of buildings and communities
The framework focuses on providing a better understanding of the life-cycle costs, benefits and impacts of community and building design decisions and allows users to test different scenarios. These are considered holistically from economic, social and environmental perspectives — and the relationships between these elements.
The framework can help decision-makers identify which planning, community and building design choices result in better outcomes for people and communities over time. This includes everything from how a building uses energy over its lifetime to how modes of mobility contribute to transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Built environments that work for everyone
The framework provides insights into how built environments may impact different groups such as municipal governments, businesses and households — so that we can create equitable solutions that work for the whole-of-society.
A bottom-up approach to assessing sustainability
The research team consulted a diversity of internal and external partners to get input on how this framework could be different or better than existing tools.
Our analysis found that there is a need for a tool to assess the sustainability of built environments. If this framework leads to the development of a tool, stakeholders will be able to use it to help them make informed decisions that support sustainable communities and housing.
Assessing the life-cycle costs, benefits and impacts of communities and buildings enable policy-makers and planners to make evidence-based decisions. These can help drive innovative approaches and solutions to increasing housing supply and addressing climate change.
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