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Housing and Sustainable Development

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Published: Tue, 11 Jul 2017

1. What is ‘Sustainable’ development?

Sustainable development is a very simple proposal of very high significance, which suggests achieving equilibrium between economic, social and environmental issues and concerns.

“If we are to maintain and improve the quality of our own lives and pass that quality on to future generations, we must use finite natural resources in an efficient way without waste, and protect the natural environment to enhance the ability of future generations to maintain and improve their lives.” (Housing Corporation, 2008)

There are mainly two definitions of sustainability which are related to ‘Planning Field’, the first one says, “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Housing Corporation, 2003) And secondly the UK definition says, “Ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come.” (Housing Corporation, 2008) The main aim of sustainable development is to ensure that the people can use the necessary services without the use of automobiles. They should be promoted to use the public transport. The placement and location of the development should be such as to modify the access to the local amenities by walking, and using public transport. The features of our built environment are very fundamental in attainment of sustainable patterns. This may include the reduction of green house gases and CO2 emissions, less pollution, preservation of the natural resources, consistent and comprehensive local communities and wealthy and safe economy. (Archive2 official documents, 2009)

This seminar paper will try to explore the relationship between housing development and sustainability. The term ‘Sustainability’ is very vast and depends upon various aspects like economy, transportation, environment, social communities, residential development etc. In this seminar paper I will explain the role of housing sector in the process of achieving sustainable development. On the other side it will explain the benefits to the housing sector via achievement of sustainability. Eventually this seminar paper will enlighten the role of the planning systems in achievement of sustainable housing development, with the help of some major issues in new housing development, like transportation, higher density, social inclusion, mixed land use development and use of brown field sites. I will also try to focus on the provisions in the planning systems for the sustainable development in rural areas, with the help of PPS7.

2. Housing development and Sustainability –

With the reference to the above mentioned definition of sustainability, housing development plays a very important role in the achievement of sustainability, because housing development consumes the resources in its construction, maintenance and use, on a larger scale. There is a correlation between housing and sustainability, it is a two way process. Integrating morality of sustainability into housing development, its maintenance, and restoration will not make important input in accomplishment of general sustainability objectives, but it will also offer significant progress in the quality robustness and cost efficiency of the housing development.

How housing development contributes to sustainability?

Global climate change is the most extensive and potentially harmful environmental issue now days, as a cause of the green house gases emissions, remarkably CO2. The solution on this issue can be found in decreasing the travel overall and minimising the use of cars specifically. Housing sector also has a significant contribution to play, in features of the dwellings, the structure and the location of the housing development. The unhealthy change in the local climate occurs due to the poisonous gases and green house gases emissions from the houses in the development. This is the main reason of the contribution of housing development in achievement of sustainability. (Archive2 official documents, 2009) When the life of any building ends, the recycling and reuse of the materials and resources will help in reduction of the quarrying and other resource activities for new resources, this will eventually help in the reduction of landfill amount at the demolition of the mines and quarries.  With respect to the green house gas emissions and the higher consumption of energy from every house produces some dangerous gases like SO2 (causes acid rain), NOx and CO, these gases are very poisonous for human health. The maximum use of energy efficiency will optimistically reduce the emissions of these pollutants. There is a chance of causing the ill health effects called as, ‘sick building syndrome’ (Archive2 official documents, 2009) due to very compact and air-tight arrangement of houses in the development and the increasing utilisation of synthetic materials. So the cautious selection of building materials will help to enhance the use of renewable resources, helping to improve the macro and micro level climate in the development. (Housing Corporation, 2003)

How sustainability benefits housing development?

There are some benefits which housing development gets through sustainable patterns, like energy efficiency, social inclusion, and economic effectiveness. These terms are related with the environmental, social and economic development of the community. Many poor families are not able to heat up their houses at a required level; also some houses suffer from the condensation and dampness, which affects the health of the community. The sustainable housing development not only include the environment responsive and energy efficient houses but also will have provision of employment, schools, shops, primary health care centre etc local amenities which will be accessible for the residents of the development using public transport or by walking. This new sustainable housing development will be a mixture of various groups like income groups, age groups and tenures. This will help in achieving the social inclusion. (Archive2 official documents, 2009)

3. Planning systems and ‘sustainable’ housing development –

Achievement of the sustainable development is one of the important issues in front of our society, where we live, work. In 1992, ‘The Rio Earth Summit’, documented that, in the achievement of the sustainable development, the local government has a very important role to play, because it has the control of the local development and the land use. This role of the planning systems is explained practically in the UK Government’s ‘A Better Quality of Life – a Strategy for Sustainable Development for the UK’ (May 1999). The national strategy sets out four ‘key objectives’ that must be achieved simultaneously:

  1. Effective protection of the environment
  2. Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
  3. Social progress that recognises everyone’s needs; and
  4. Prudent use of natural resources.” (Nicholas et al, 2005)

In the new planning system, as mentioned in ‘Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004′, the local planning authorities are supposed to encourage the sustainable development by means of application of sustainability considerations while preparing the planning documents like ‘SPD’ and ‘DPD’. This technique will be useful for the local planning authorities to appraise the insinuation of the sustainability in their local development plans. (Dudley MBC, 2006) To achieve the broad objectives of sustainable development, the country requires a “transparent, flexible, predictable, efficient and effective planning system” (ODPM, PPS1, 2005, p3, paragraph 7). UK government has made some provisions in the planning system like, planning policy guidance and statements (revisions), national planning policy, regional planning guidance, and the code for the sustainable homes, which will provide a structure for the planning of ‘sustainable development’. These provisions in made in the planning systems will optimistically help the local planning authorities to implicate and encourage the sustainable patterns in the new developments. Planning Policy Statement 1 (PPS 1) – Delivering Sustainable Development (2005) states that –

“Planning authorities should ensure that sustainable development is treated in an integrated way in their development plans. In particular, they should carefully consider the interrelationship between social inclusion, protecting and enhancing the environment, the prudent use of natural resources and economic development.”(ODPM, PPS 1, 2005, paragraph 24).

4. Elements encouraging the ‘Sustainable’ housing development –

Mixed land use development and higher residential densities –

Mix land use means; use of the land, for development of houses, businesses, schools, recreational areas, etc., public, semi-public, and private development, in the close proximity of each other. There are some important prospective of the mixed land use development. It helps to reduce the often travelling because it brings the various deeds and amenities comparatively close to each other. Mixed land use development raises the ‘safety and security’ of the development. Also helps to increase the access to the local jobs and employment. The reduced residential density, isolated land use and detached street patterns are related with the increased automobile use and increases the ‘obesity’ and the persistent illness in the community. The increased residential density can minimise the ‘land take’. It helps in reduction of travel and minimises the use of private vehicles by enhancing the use of public transport.  Higher residential densities decrease the area of the land required for roads, car parking, which helps to make the development more pedestrian responsive. It also helps in increment of Social inclusion by growing number of people inside walking distance. It helps to make the development socially strong and sustainable. Eventually this will increase the number of people on the street, which can enhance the liveliness and apparent safety of the development. The important thing to be kept in mind while providing a location for high density areas in the development is, to locate these areas nearer to the traffic nodes and should be having easy access to public transport. If the high density areas are located away from the public transport, the ‘car dependency’ in the development will start to increase creating the development unsustainable. Mixed land use and the increased residential density is the key in achievement of sustainable patterns and making the development more comprehensive. (Archive2 official documents, 2009)

Use of Brownfield sites – 

In UK, the term ‘Brownfield site’ is described as, ‘previously developed land’, and on which redevelopment is possible. In general, this land has been utilised previously for commercial or industrial development, and which is now in a dilapidated condition and probably polluted. The deficiency of ‘Green land’ availability for new development, in the recent time, ‘Brown field’ sites came in to the picture, particularly in those areas where the requirement of the ‘residential’ or ‘commercial’ development is more. The ‘Brownfield’ sites are meant not only for the residential or commercial development, but also can be utilised as open spaces, recreational spaces, local amenities etc. The repossession and reuse of ‘Brownfield’ site is a key factor of UK government’s ‘Sustainable Development Strategy’, which incorporates a variety of ‘economic, social and environmental’ objectives. Redevelopment of ‘Brownfield’ sites helps to improve the environmental strength and the ugliness of the surroundings. The increased use of ‘Brownfield’ sites promotes the practicability of public transport, also makes helps in utilising existing communication and infrastructure. It also enhances the overall residential densities, and proposes chances for the improved quality residential developments, with the provisions of the employment and the other local amenities. The ‘Brownfield’ sites can be redeveloped in Urban as well as Rural areas, depending upon the accessibility and feasibility. (Archive2 official documents, 2009)

Car – free development (sustainable transport) –

Any housing development to be considered as sustainable neighbourhood development should minimise the necessity of private transport, like cars. There should be promotions to walking, cycling and use of public transport. This will not only result in reduction of the pollution but can be considered as a important factor in the creation of a healthy ‘community cohesion’, a neighbourhood development, where its residents feel relaxing, walking which will result in more social interaction to make the development community healthy and wealthy. Mixed land use development and higher residential density will help in reduction of general travel and will promote walking and cycling, reducing the use of private transport. (Department for Transport, 2008) There are several ways which will encourage and promote a reduction in ‘car – dependency’, like

– Proposing entirely or partially a ‘car free’ environment, and maximising provision of walking plazas and designing separate tracks for cycling.

– Controlling car spaces and charging for residential car parking.

– Controlling the admissions of the cars in specific period of the day in the whole development or certain areas of it.

– Limitation of ‘Non-residential’ car parking and providing restricted parking at workplace.

– Promoting use, offering some concessions and favouring actions on eco-friendly cars or scooters.

The transportation decisions in the proposed development will totally dependent upon its location, scale and the kind of the development proposed. Also there should be a focus on the capacity of the existing transportation network. (Department for Transport, 2008)

5. Sustainable housing development in rural areas –

UK government has made a provision in the form of ‘Planning Policy Statement 7 – Sustainable Development in rural areas’, to encourage and deliver the sustainable patterns in new housing development in rural areas. ‘The policies in PPS 7 applies to the rural areas like country towns, villages and the wider, mostly undeveloped countryside areas which are on the periphery of the larger urban settlements.’ (ODPM, PPS 7, 2004, p3) As specified in PPS 7, local planning authorities should emphasis on the location of the new development in rural areas, that it is near to the ‘local service centres where the basic needs like jobs, residences and the local amenities’ will be provided closer to each other, so that they can be accessible via public transport and by walking or cycling. (ODPM, PPS 7, 2004) In UK there are various ‘country towns’ and ‘villages’ which are having social, historical and architectural importance, or the make a considerable participation to ‘countryside character’. PPS 7 suggests to the local planning authorities to make sure that the proposed new housing development admires and where essential, promotes these specific values of that area. PPS 7 also advise planning authorities to prepare a ‘positive framework’ for enhancing the sustainable development which supports the conventional ‘land-based activities’ and the provide the entertaining facilities and amenities which needs the ‘country side location’ by making sure that doing this will not affect the value and natural characteristics of the rural area in which the development is proposed. (ODPM, PPS 7, 2004, p8)

6. Eco Housing in India-

‘Government of India’ had taken an initiative for encouragement of ‘Sustainability’ in new emerging housing developments. Currently in is being tested in ‘Pune, Maharashtra’ on a trial basis, and is called as ‘Eco housing policy’. This initiative was formed with the partnership of the local government authorities (PMC, PCMC) with some national and international private organisations like, USIAD (United states agency for international development), TERI (Tata Energy Research Institute), IIEC (International Institute for Energy Conservation) etc. The main objective of this project to construct urban and rural sustainable ‘habitat’, encouragement and distribution of the achievement gained via this project, through a Pilot study in Pune, to the other large urban cities in India. Also to start a ‘procedure of improvement in housing market’ for ‘Eco Housing’ in India to carry ‘the supply and demand’ of eco housing mutually, was the initiative goal of this project. This project got a financial aid by US-AEP (United States – Asia Environment Partnership). The main characteristic feature of this project is estimating ‘eco-ranking’ of existing building output and appraisal schemes for acclimatizing to the Indian reference and creating catalogue of ‘eco-friendly’ materials, tools and techniques as advices and suggestions to the Builders and housing developers in Pune. (Eco Housing Corporation, 2009) Eco housing program has started to create awareness and getting noticeable reply from other ‘Municipal Corporations’ like Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), who appointed SciTech Part (STP), Pune for assisting MCGM in modifying the measures of the program to suit conditions of Mumbai City. (Eco Housing Corporation, 2009)

7. Summary-

– Housing is a corner stone component of sustainable development. Providing higher density residential development will encourage sustainable patterns like social inclusion, car free development, through planning systems. In the surrounding area there are many dilapidated sites we can find. Instead of using new green field site for the development, planners can amalgamate these waste land, and increase use of brown field sites for new development, will obviously help in encouragement in environmental and social sustainability. Doing this will help in enhancement of the surroundings of the housing development, restoring the urban form of the area. Mixed land use development will reduce the car use of the residents, bringing required amenities like shops, retails, employment within the walkable distance or by using public transport. Some rural areas having natural and architectural or historical importance should be treated carefully while proposing the new housing development. This will help in retaining the ‘village character’ of that area. Indian government also initiated an ‘eco-housing policy’ for encouragement of sustainable patterns in new housing developments. Though it was in a starting age, in current times many municipal corporations became aware of their own environment and social issues. They have started adopting this new policy of eco-housing. Pune Municipal Corporation with the help of University of Pune, planning to construct an institute which will help in spreading this ‘key issue’ of sustainability through education.


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