MODELING SUSTAINABLE INDICATORS

MODELING SUSTAINABLE INDICATORS




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Sustainable indicators are commonly generated and agreed upon by the community. In Pullman, this community-developed process is in its beginning phases. This study predates the community generated process and takes a more theoretical approach based upon ecological or bio-logical criteria derived from the composite definition of sustainability. This ecological approach defines and balances human-environmental interchanges of the site as diagrammed on the left.








Bio-logical criteria for sustainable development operates from the premise that individuals and communities achieve an optimum level of self-sufficiency and improved quality of life by utilizing only the renewable natural resources which fall within their political and natural boundaries. Hence, a sustainable community is one which provides all of its own needs for air, water, land (or food and fiber), and energy resources within the confines of its own site.

Air
* AIR (one can live only two to three minutes without oxygen): Air quality is a critical indicator to human and planetary health. Considering evidence of rising CO2 levels, ozone depletion, and global warming, we can no longer presume that the air we breathe (indoors and out) is a "renewable resource." Balancing the community's CO2 to O2 exchange is a critical indicator of a sustainable system.





Water*WATER (one can live only two to three days without water): Humans require only approximately one to two gallons of water per day, yet we consume an average 150 gallons per day (indoor and outdoor household use). Modeling the input and output of water resources of a site provides another challenging indicator for sustainability.






Land: Food and fiber*LAND: FOOD AND FIBER (one can live only two to three weeks without food): Food and fibrous materials used for clothing, shelter, and paper are essential to sustenance and enjoyment. The three R's -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- are a useful model for sustainability. Total sustainable strategies would produce no need for disposal -- today's wastes become resources to be reused and/or recycled. Precycling to eliminate excess and non-recyclable packaging and products is important to reducing consumption.





Energy*ENERGY (the primary change agent in ecological systems): Sustainability can be modeled by a site or society's percentage use of renewable versus non-renewable energy resources. Full sustainability would require a site or society to completely shift to renewable energy systems.









Human Ecology*HUMAN ECOLOGY (a critically dominant quality-of-life indicator for society and environmental health): Human ecology defines the final and most inclusive indicator. Human ecology can and often does include the other four more biological indicators. The biological variables are separated in this model for clarity and emphasis with the conviction that they are more ecologically fundamental to society's ability to define, model, and measure sustainable development. Evaluating a community's commitment and action programs towards a sustainable future is critical in modeling this all inclusive variable.


In quantitative terms, the related ecological exchanges between the selected human-environmental systems of air, water, land (food and fiber) and energy for the community are also illustrated in the following bar graph. These interrelationships demonstrate the importance of modeling and measuring the selected set of indicators for sustainability. For each ecological interchange, the bar graph illustrates by number in relative quantities the following:



The existing use of each resource.

The non-renewable and renewable supply of each of the resources on the "site."

The proposed sustainable use and estimated % of conservation required to place each human - environmental system in balance.



Sustainable Human-Environmental Interrelationships and Graph Illustrating the Modeling of the

Selected Ecological Variables.



As emphasized, indicators of sustainability are based on the careful balancing of on-site human and environmental systems. Once modeled, the indicators can define a "program" for sustainability. The method, once used, demonstrates the interaction of each system and that 40-70% conservation is required to place each resource exchange in a sustainable balance. Also, the method conveys an invisible surprise, that air represented by CO2 to O2 (carbon dioxide to oxygen) exchange achieved through photosynthesis is one of the most overlooked yet fundamentally critical and representative of all the systems.





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This web site was developed with the authors and

Michael Mahaffy, Computer Systems Professional, School of Architecture, Washington State University





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