Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sustainability Case Studies 21: Methodology for Selection of Sustainability Criteria: A Case of Social Housing in Peru

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This is the 21st post in this blog series, Sustainability Case Studies, that is based on the book The Palgrave Handbook of Sustainability: Case Studies and Practical Solutions edited by Robert Brinkmann (yours truly) and Sandra Garren and published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. Each post in the series will comment on the content of the chapter as well as some general take-aways or practical teaching or personal/organizational initiatives that could be gleaned from the chapter. Links to previous posts on the series (including the post that introduced the series) follow after the review.

This Chapter is called Methodology for Selection of Sustainability Criteria:  A Case of Social Housing in Peru by Daniel R. Rondinel-Oviedo and Christopher Schreier-Barreto. The chapter is a fascinating review of work that the authors completed on how to assess sustainability of social housing.

The chapter begins with a bit of background on housing and sustainability. The authors also note that access to quality housing globally is at a deficit. In Latin American and the Caribbean, only 22% of families have access to quality and adequate housing. In Peru, the site of the case study, there are 1.8 million people without adequate housing and 7.6 million people live in slums.Significant construction is needed to provide housing to the population in Peru.

Is this being done sustainably?

First, as the author's note, there are a wide array of differences in how sustainable housing is defined. Different sustainable evaluation tools measure different things. For example, the well-know US Green Building tool focuses heavily on environmental impacts and does not focus on social or economic impacts as much. Plus, most of the tools for assessing sustainable building were developed in developed countries. In developing countries, where utility services can be spotty and where equity may be more important than things like building materials, tools for evaluating building sustainability may be challenging to employ. Indeed, the authors utilize the idea of fractal triangles to demonstrate "...multiple interactions that can occur between the aspects that converge..." 

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The chapter continues through interesting discussions on sustainability in architecture, sustainable social housing in less-developed countries, and sustainable building certifications. What is fascinating is that while there is a tremendous need for social housing in Latin America and the Caribbean, and while there is a push to make more of this housing sustainable, only most of the sustainability efforts are isolated. Certainly there are programs to provide financial incentives for including sustainable architecture and building, but they are not widely used. There are also few local building sustainability certifications in Latin American and the Caribbean that are designed for the region. Peru, when the article was written, had 12 buildings certified for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design--a US Green Building Coalition rating system) and 102 others in the process of certification. However, it is important to note that non of these certifications were for social housing.

The chapter next moves into a discussion of the development of a sustainability rating system for social housing developed by the authors. At the broadest levels, the categories for evaluation were water, indoor environmental quality, architectural design, energy, material, site and environment, and social/environmental. Within these categories, a further list of 25 criteria were developed. Each of these were further broken down into subcriteria. For example, under the energy category, one criteria is passive strategies for energy efficiency. This criteria was broken into two sub criteria:  sunshades in facade and cool roofs. A complete list of criteria and subcriteria is given within the article. Bonus points can be given for particular green special initiatives. The authors evaluated the rating system and came up with some interesting results that indicate that there are significant challenges to actual outcomes.

The authors conclude by noting that there remain challenges with creating social housing throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and that there are also challenges with infusing sustainability in efforts to create more housing in the region. Some of the biggest challenges are a lack of awareness about the field among professionals involved with constructing social housing in the region and a lack of overall local evaluation or sustainability criteria.

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Here are some discussion questions when using this chapter for a unit on green building and social housing within the realm of sustainability. 

1. How does the concept of sustainability intersect with the need for social housing?

2. Explain what the author's mean by the concept of the "fractal triangle".

3. Why do you think it is hard to apply traditional green building rating systems in some settings in developing countries?

4. Why do you think Peru has so few building that are certified through a sustainability rating system?

5. In the case study, the authors highlight a building rating system for social housing that uses social and economic categories. Review the categories and explain why they are important within the context of social housing.

6. Why do you think there is a need for housing in Latin America and the Caribbean?

7. Does Peru have a national strategy that embraces sustainability? Why or why not?

8. The issue of energy is common in most building rating systems. How does rating of energy in social housing differ from the rating of energy in other buildings?

Previous Entries in This Series

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