Unleashing the potential of sustainability

11 August 2017

A new thesis concludes that companies that specialise in livability solutions need to be better at internal collaboration and long-term thinking. The author is among the participants in an influential workshop that aims to help achieving UN’s sustainable development goals.

Creating liveability solutions requires collaboration and long-term thinking

Creating liveability solutions requires collaboration and long-term thinking

By Michael Rothenborg

To fulfil the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), the world needs companies that focus on urban sustainability and are committed to raising the quality of life in cities. But these companies often need to overcome internal obstacles such as lack of collaboration and short-term thinking if they are to get the most out of this liveability approach.

This is one of the main conclusions by Ramboll Architect, Agustín Granados in his thesis ‘Conceptualization of Liveability’ for Aalborg University. He has just been chosen as one of the young talents to participate in an exclusive workshop conducted by Unleash – a global innovation lab that builds networks around the SDG’s.

The board members of Unleash include experts from Copenhagen University, MIT, the Japan Innovation Network, Lego Foundation, Volvo, Carlsberg, and among the partners is the Ramboll Foundation. The inaugural Unleash Innovation Lab starts this Sunday – with inputs from Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, former EU-commissioner Connie Hedegaard and architect Bjarke Ingels among others.

Learn how to learn from each other

As Agustín Granados details in his thesis, attitudes to urban liveability have changed dramatically in the last few decades. Up to the 1970’s or even the 1980’s, the dominant approach was inspired by the famous French architect Le Corbusier, who contended that ‘Buildings are machines for living in’. These days the ideal is more in line with the thinking of Danish architect Jan Gehl: ‘First life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works’.

However, even within multidisciplinary engineering and architectural companies, there are still different approaches to specific solutions, as well as a silo mentality where employees sometimes forget to think holistically.  In addition there is pressure to create short-term profit on projects, and this sometimes prevents people from trying out different concepts that could be profitable in the long term.

According to Agustín Granados, the solution is to enhance collaboration – for example, by co-designing liveability workshops where “employees learn how to learn from each other”.

“In this design process it is necessary to bring in the client’s needs – for example in the form of a main player, which will have the role of expert in the topic and collaborates with the rest of the team,” he explains. “Co-design between different disciplines will obtain a holistic result and support client centrism.”

Focus on people

Senior consultant and sustainability specialist Gitte Gylling Hammershøj Olesen from Ramboll has also been chosen to participate in the workshop. 

For the past year she has been working on the ‘Liveable Buildings Concept’ – a cross disciplinary, international development project that focuses on the integration of cultural, social and physical values in buildings to increase liveability in built environments.

“Sustainability in buildings should not merely be addressed through technical solutions which has been the main driver for development of sustainable buildings through the years,” says Gitte Olesen, PhD in sustainable buildings. 

“Rather, we should develop solutions from the point of view of people who are using and living in the buildings, for example take health and indoor climate into consideration. If we can create surroundings that are valuable to people, then these will be taken better care of and will be truly durable.”

The SDG’s were agreed upon in 2015 by all UN member states and consists of 17 goals and 169 targets for the world to become a better place in 2030.

Sustainability including contributing to achieving the SDG’s is a foundational element of Ramboll’s new strategy Winning Together.

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