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Envisioning: Sustainability in the Built Environment

1This course is intended to inspire thinking about the way we should construct our living environments in future, in order to find a sustainable balance.

Sustainable Development’ is an expression that has been appropriated by different people for many different things.  Almost a contradiction in terms.  ‘Sustainable’ in fact means ‘slightly less unsustainable’.  It is easy to think of things that people claim are sustainable, but clearly are not … ‘green-wash’ is all around us.

Our current focus on consumerism, and consumption as a means for progress has to be challenged.    The earth has finite resources and our intensity use, and abuse, of them makes our way of living unsustainable.  While this is widely acknowledged, on an individual level, none of us feel we have the power to change, and at a corporate and governmental level, vested interests have no desire for change.

The scale and complexity of issues involved in constructing a sustainable future makes them very difficult to access and understand. It is a major challenge for us to engage with and comprehend the concept of sustainable development, let alone seek credible and reasoned solutions based on it.

CCHU9001 examines key sustainability development issues in relation to population. During the course, we look both at materials & resources, and the systems behind them.  These are discussed within a clear academic framework, and explored at three levels during the course lectures and tutorials:

– Global – we looked broadly at the mass of information about key problems in the world that indicate that our current way of living is highly unsustainable.  Contemporary and historical examples of how different visionaries have sought to perfect built environments for model communities, and what this tells us about how we might (or more often, might not) address some of the sustainable development challenges we face today,

– Territorial – we saw how some of these issues have shaped, and continue to determine the development of Hong Kong, and give us some insight into what a mass sustainable community might be like, and

– Personal – students explored their own sustainability topics through the medium of their daily lives and neighbourhood settings, and saw how individual small scale actions, when coordinated collectively, can make a difference and can offer an effective approach to addressing some of the core problems and a framework for building a measurably sustainable future.  Students looked for metrics for evaluating the sustainability of their project as a means to develop rationale for it.

On-line publication within this annual course booklet of the best of the student coursework of the Spring 2015 class, and a summary of the teaching materials that it was founded upon, is a central part of the teaching approach for this CCC course. It contains just a fraction of the total student output of the course, but serves as a reminder of the critical issues addressed in the course and of the students’ efforts.