Monday, 19 October 2020

How do you develop plans and strategies for more sustainable neighborhoods?


The Built Environment Sustainability Tool enables the development of sophisticated and responsive plans and strategies to support improved local sustainability. These plans respond to and address gaps and aspects of current poor performance in the neighbourhood while supporting and improving aspects of good performance.

A wide range of options should be evaluated before a final selection of options for implementation is made. The tool should also be used to inform the mix, and sequencing, of interventions. Finally, detailed implementation plans and strategies should be designed and tested back against criteria in the tool to ensure that maximum impact is achieved.

The questions below, in conjunction with BEST, can be used to inform detailed implementation plans and strategies aimed at supporting sustainability.

New infrastructure

  • Is new infrastructure required?
  • Can existing infrastructure be used or adapted?
  • Can management and operation agreements be developed to support multifunction use of and shared access of existing facilities? 

Clustering and partnerships

  • Can clustering and shared use of infrastructure be used to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs?
  • Can partnerships be developed with neighbouring landowners and communities to increase the scale of interventions to support shared benefit and improved cost-effectiveness?

Linkages and synergies

  • How can systems be linked to reduce wastage and improve efficiency?  
  • Are there synergies that can be developed for mutual benefit?

Location and land use

  • Which location(s) for interventions can be used to support symbiotic relationships between functions and land uses?
  • Which location(s) for interventions draw on, and work with, natural and artificial features of the existing site to improve efficiencies and reduce operational costs?


  • Which procurement processes are most suitable for creating local jobs and supporting local small businesses?
  • Which procurement processes can be used to reduce risk and improve local self-reliance concerning funding and long-term financial sustainability?


  • Which construction processes are most suitable for creating local jobs and support local small businesses?
  • Which construction products and materials are most suitable for creating local jobs and support local small businesses?

Operational management

  • Which operational management models ensure affordable local access and use of infrastructure for community benefit?
  • Which operational management models include governance mechanisms which ensure that infrastructure is responsive to local needs and opportunities?

These questions can be used to develop detailed designs, specifications, plans and implementation methods that ensure that the resulting interventions not only support local sustainability but also ensure that implementation processes are also used to support sustainability. The Built Environment Sustainability Tool can be accessed here.


How do you develop more sustainable neighbourhoods?

Neighbourhoods appear to be complex and difficult to assess in terms of sustainability performance. A review of green precinct assessment tools for urban areas revealed that these tend to focus on environmental issues and did not take into social and economic issues. Many of the tools are also complex and do not encourage the involvement of communities and non-professionals. Also, many tools and rating systems are prescriptive and do not encourage or support the exploration of innovative solutions that respond to local opportunities and challenges.

The Built Environment Sustainability Tool addresses these issues by being based on a sustainability approach which includes social and economic aspects as well as environmental impacts. The tool aims to be simple to use and to encourage the active participation of all role players including local communities in assessing local sustainability performance and developing plans to improve this. It encourages a range of solutions to be explored and tested to support responsive solutions that work with local opportunities and challenges.  

The BEST methodology provides practical ways of developing more sustainable neighbourhoods that enable you to address the following questions:

  • What is sustainability?
  • What are the implications of sustainability for urban areas and settlements?
  • Do existing and proposed urban areas and settlements have the appropriate configuration and characteristics for sustainability?
  • Can this configuration and characteristics be assessed?
  • Can these assessments inform the development of interventions and solutions to improve sustainability performance? 
  • Are there ways of identifying the most optimum solutions and interventions to address gaps and rapidly improving sustainability performance?
  • Can sustainability plans and strategies be developed to ensure that sustainability targets are achieved in a structured, efficient and effective way?

The BEST can be accessed here.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sustainable City Strategies

How do cities achieve strategic sustainability goals and change?

Cities are complex and involve many stakeholders so achieving change can be difficult, slow and require a wide range of mechanisms. It is not sufficient to have a high-level strategy; real change requires strategic targets to be integrated and driven by policies and programs and publicity and incentives to change behavior are often also required.

However, how do we know required change is being achieved? For this, effective monitoring and evaluation are required to understand what works, and what does not. This should track indicators that are linked to strategic targets and ideally be available in databases that are publically available and easy to access.

Interesting work in this area is the public open database developed by Charlottesville in the USA. This has 72 datasets which can be used to track performance in relation to strategic goals. This can be accessed here.

BEST 2013

The Built Environment Sustainability Tool is being updated. BEST provides a way of assessing the sustainability of neighborhoods. It can also be used to identify, test and compare interventions which can be used to improve the sustainability performance.

The tool is now being updated and includes some minor changes to criteria and provides for more detailed assessments. The BEST 2013 version is available for download from here. If you would like to use the BEST 2013 or BEST 2016 (new version) please contact us.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Mapping Diversity and Segration

New maps from Statistics South Africa show racial diversity and segregation in South African cities. These indicate that while some areas have become more integrated, others remain highly segregated.

Map of Johannesburg
Map of Pretoria

Patterns picked up in the maps include:

  • Central business districts (CBDs) have a high percentage of black African residents. 
  • Suburbs around CBDs generally have a high percentage of white residents. 
  • Townships, to the periphery of cities, have high percentages of black African residents. 
  •  More integrated neighborhoods appear to be suburbs near CBDs.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Human Habitat Creation

Habitats are defined as the natural environment in which an organism lives, or the physical environment that surrounds (influences and is utilized by) a species population.

This was the subject of an Institute of Landscape Architects of South Africa (ILASA) Seminar on 11 May 2016 and number of interesting presentations were made by John Masson, Siegwalt Kusel and Ben Breedlove.

My contribution was titled 'Human Habitat Creation' and addressed the following questions:

  • What is a sustainable human habit?
  • What are the specific requirements for a sustainable human habitat? 
  • How can sustainable human habitats be achieved?
  • Can a structured process be developed to enable this to happen at a neighbourhood level?

The presentations led to a very interesting discussion on how  methodologies used by Landscape Architects and Habitat Designers to design habitats can be applied at a wider built environment scale.  Copies of the presentation on gauge site soon.

Friday, 15 April 2016

What Africa will look like in 100 years

Interesting article in the Daily Telegraph on ''What Africa will look like in 100 years''. It makes the following assertions:

  • By 2100, it will be home to 4.4 billion people - four times its current population.
  • By 2050, more than half of Africa’s 2.2bn people will live in its rapidly expanding cities. That’s the equivalent of the population of China.

Given the implications of this huge growth, it suggests that current development trajectories are not promising and may not be able to  "deliver on the aspirations of broad-based human development and prosperity for all". 

Solutions recommended include;

  • infrastructure that improves  education,health and security and economic prospects
  • sustainable governance systems
  • embracing new urban paradigms,
  • better data, better decisions and
  • diversified economies