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Sustainability dilemmas - construction

By Danny Harrington, MD ITS Education Asia

One of the biggest issues in the sustainability discussion is about establishing the true impact of our activities. This in turn demands reliable data and rigorous science which are in short supply and take time to accrue. Time that many feel we do not have. This problem is obvious when you ask yourself questions like how many times should I use my “eco shopping bag” before it has achieved a net benefit compared to all the plastic bags I would have used? How can we know?

The problem grows exponentially when we move to bigger ideas. Take SDGs 9 & 11 as they relate to building cities. We know that more and more people will be housed in cities in the coming decades. We know that concrete and steel are highly damaging materials. But what is the alternative? Like many sustainability answers, there are supporters of updating “old/lost” knowledge - in this case going back to wood construction. Modern tech will allow us to go up to 12 storeys quite safely and easily. but where will the wood come from? We need properly grown and harvested timber and that means land. What do we use? Natural forests? Farmland?

It is an interesting debate and demonstrates how we need to be so much more thoughtful and nuanced in the way we approach our development and economic questions. See good articles on this construction idea in The Guardian and The Conversation.

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