Last month in SLDI in Focus, we identified the SLDI Guiding Principles – nine universal tenets which comprise the foundation for a successful sustainable project according to the triple-bottom-line needs of maximizing social, environmental and economic capital. These principles adapt the concepts of the Hannover Principles originally developed by Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart and modifies them (as put forth in their original form and in the words of their authors, the Hannover Principles “may adapt as our knowledge of the world evolves.”) to conform to the triple-bottom-line approach of truly sustainable land development (http://www.mcdonough.com/principles).
These guiding principles provide the framework for the 27 interrelated sustainable land development goals. Naturally, not all of these goals can be fully maximized on every project. Rather, these goals can be thought of as the ideals of holistic sustainable land development. The specific best management practices in each of these areas (and ultimately, the products and services employed) that provide the greatest leverage and value depends on the specific geographic and political landscape of each individual project. Not every product and/or process (best practice) is practical or effective on every project, but working through the decision model toward achieving each of the goals in a comprehensive fashion right from the beginning of the project can result in a project which delivers maximum sustainability.
SLDI has sought and received feedback from industry professionals which has resulted in the formalization of these goals. Following is a compilation of the results of your input. Please offer additional comments on this draft model. You can comment and/or contribute by emailing Tony Wernke at email@example.com.
PROFIT (Economic Capital)
1) CREATE VALUE
Maximizing financial value for all stakeholders is vital to the success, and overall sustainability, of every project.
a) Comprehensive and Thorough Due Diligence
A complete investigation right upfront of the development opportunity, including highest and best use site selection, the political and legal environment, optimizing the initial land plan, including mix of uses, densities and flow considerations, a high-level early financial yield analysis, and negotiation approaches ensures that a project does not get off on the wrong track, resulting in costly re-work and/or a poorly performing project.
b) Excellent Business Planning
A formal plan helps optimize project performance throughout the process and get and keep stakeholders aligned with the developer’s goals. An optimal plan would include a formal vision statement, including mission and principles, goals and strategic objectives. In addition, a marketing and sales plan and comprehensive financial proformas help get and keep a project performing optimally should also be included in the plan.
c) Effective Metrics
The ultimate measure of the value created on each project lies in the results obtained. Sales margins, rates, and returns on investments define a project’s financial success. The larger economic impact and the ability of the developer/project team to ensure that the original value delivered can be preserved are also equally important to sustainable projects.
2) ELIMINATE WASTE
The budgeting and cost control practices throughout the project are vital to maximize the return on investment of the project.
a) Effective Project Communication
Project-wide communication and data flow is vital to a project’s economic success. This is historically a goal that falls well short of optimal performance on most projects. Billions of dollars each year are wasted in ineffective “interoperability,” the smooth flow of project information and data throughout the development process. Projects can become doubly profitable simply through the optimization of data flow, which lowers consultancy fees and eliminates the need for rework due to errors and unnecessary redundancy of effort throughout the planning, surveying, site/building design and review/approval processes.
b) Project Control
By gaining greater control over project budgets, schedules, bidding and contracting processes, and real estate and parcel management practices, projects can again double in profitability. A number of practices and technologies exist to enable far greater project control than is commonly used today.
c) Legal/Political Efficiency
By optimizing the entitlements process, engaging the public in the goals and planning of the project, and undergoing comprehensive tax and incentive planning for projects, substantial financial gains can be made on projects.
3) RECOGNIZE INTERDEPENDENCE
Not only are the three legs of the triple bottom line interdependent, but each of them individually are interdependent by scale. Without global social, environmental and financial sustainability, individual projects will ultimately fail.
a) Financial Interdependence
By understanding that a holistic perspective upfront will optimize ultimate financial results, development teams can work to build the partnerships and fulfill their goals and objectives with the confidence that the project will perform at the highest level of sustainability.
b) People and Process Interdependence
Through the process of land development, the work and interests of each individual impact the others, both on the project, with the community, and for the world.
c) Natural System Interdependence
The quality of the practices of the professionals that are engaged, and the financial viability of any sustainable development activity have a direct impact on the project’s impact to the natural system upon which all of humanity depends.
PLANET (Environmental Capital)
4) MODEL NATURE
The purest and most valuable form of environmental stewardship is to model and integrate our natural systems in our developments.
a) Imitate Nature
All the sustainable technology and intelligence necessary can be found by understanding and modeling our natural forms, systems and strategies in our developments. A number of innovative land development products and strategies have been derived from imitating the workings of nature itself, and many more are on the way.
b) Connect with Nature
Human beings have an innate and evolutionarily based affinity for nature. The connections we subconsciously seek with the rest of life drives the numerous opportunities to connect our developments with nature. Such strategies equal success from an environmental, social and financial context.
c) Preserve/Conserve Nature
In order to learn from our natural systems, we must seek to preserve and conserve them. This includes preserving water quantity, quality and minimizing flow through water management systems, optimizing our soil quality and native flora by enhancing micro-organism and organic growth, and preserving mineral deposits in the soil.
5) ENERGY FLOWS
Capturing and leveraging our natural energy systems through renewable energy sources and biological materials is the nature of this principle. Additionally, minimizing the amount of non-renewable energy and pollutants used throughout the product manufacturing, use, maintenance and reuse (cradle to cradle) is vital to achieving best practices with the Energy Flows guiding principle.
a) Utilize Renewable Sources
Distributed renewable and alternative “clean” energy storage and conversion technologies are rapidly becoming economically and technologically feasible for developments. By reducing and/or eliminating our dependency on non-renewable and “dirty” resources, we can sustain our quality of life for our children and grandchildren.
b) Emulate Natural Systems
Nature achieves equilibrium between delivering the food we need for life and the waste we leave behind. By better emulating the natural air, water and solids life cycles, we achieve a more sustainable state for all time.
c) Maximize Energy Efficiency
By optimizing energy conversion, sharing and waste systems and minimizing our consumption of energy stores, we can enhance the quality of life for generations to come.
6) HUMANS AND NATURE CO-EXIST
By incorporating natural “no-impact” development techniques and engineering natural settings in which humans and nature can co-exist, land development can deliver a sustainable imprint that not only has no impact, but can restore the natural systems to greater health.
a) Air and Water System Management and Restoration
Through the management and restoration of the quantity, quality and flow of our air and water systems, land development can achieve greater sustainability.
b) Soil and Native-Core Flora Management and Restoration
By actively managing and restoring our soil quality and wood/grasslands, including micro-organisms, organic matter and mineral content, land development can restore the sustainability of our planet.
c) Biodiversity Management and Restoration
Plants and animals contribute equally in the balance necessary to sustain life on earth. We can work to manage and restore the biodiversity of life on earth, which is the very foundation for sustainable development.
PEOPLE (Social Capital)
7) QUALITY OF LIFE
By focusing on the innovative ways to meet and exceed the community’s quality-of-life needs, land development can deliver greater value than ever before.
a) Meet/Exceed Basic Human Needs
The lowest levels of human needs include health, safety and privacy. From a land development perspective, this includes opportunities to access and produce local food, healthcare, recreation, safe and smooth flowing neighborhoods, and more.
b) Promote and Enable Healthy Community
More advanced human needs include the need for connectedness, historic and cultural preservation, and respect for diversity. Through land use and market planning, land development projects can positively impact our quality of life.
c) Enable Self-Actualization
The highest levels of value humans derive include the access to education, cultural opportunity and democratic governance. Through planning and the implementation of effective infrastructure, land development can help enable the highest levels of human achievement.
8) ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY
It is the development professional’s ethical responsibility to assume active and effective leadership over the vision and values for his/her project, the industry and society.
a) Continuous Education and Improvement
Educating oneself in holistic sustainable practices, then including all stakeholders throughout the development process, effectively communicating the vision and values, gaining buy-in, and ensuring optimal implementation and the achievement of the vision – then seeking continuous improvement in this dynamic environment is without a doubt vital to achieving sustainable land development.
b) Apply the Highest Standards of Professional Practice
Through SLDI membership, acceptance of the Ethical Standards for Professional Practice, and active participation in the organization, professionals can deliver substantial social capital. All SLDI members agree to abide by the ethical standards of professional practice, which includes each of the Guiding Principles outlined herein.
c) Serve Society as a Whole
The status and impact of the land development industry requires that we assume a leadership role for society as a whole.
9) SHARE KNOWLEDGE
Sharing knowledge is in our nature. By leveraging our experiences and letting others learn from our ideas, we help carry our world forward, and gain the personal fulfillment that comes with it.
a) Lead and Teach the Project Team
Without sharing the knowledge gained through the project development process to other stakeholders in the project, projects can become unsustainable. It is vital to sustain the original intent for all projects through a knowledge transfer mechanism, so future owners and stakeholders can maintain the sustainability of a project indefinitely.
b) Contribute to Industry Information and Perspective
Sharing knowledge gained on a specific project to stakeholders throughout the industry will help improve the professional status of the industry, and help carry an industry lacking in productivity and innovative implementation forward.
c) Help Educate the Public at Large
By assuming a leadership position for the land development industry, professionals can help the public become increasingly aware of the valuable contributions of and progress by land development, improve the professional status of the industry in the public’s eyes, and thus play an important role in ensuring our sustainable future for all time.
Republished from November/December, 2008 issue of Sustainable Land Development Today magazine.