Sustainability 16: Research & Investigation
Considering all the knowledge, subtlety, complexity, nuance, and technology that may be required for success, research and investigation become crucial first steps in the creation, design and development of a sustainable project.
What areas must the developer, architect, designer or potential end user(s) research and investigate? Following are some of the possibilities:
Potential project site(s): Are there infill sites or properties that may be reused, repurposed or redeveloped? Are there new sites near transit facilities or networks? Are there opportunities that are part of larger mixed-use developments with synergies to offer? Are sites available that will accommodate the desired density and intensity of development or use?
Land form: What is the topography and geology of a potential site? Can it accommodate the intended layout and configuration of development, use and traffic? Can it bear appropriate loads, grading, drainage, landscaping, paving and other site use? Can portions of its land forms, contours, drainage patterns and existing native vegetation be preserved or conserved?
Orientation: Is a potential site suitably oriented to sun, wind and weather, to neighboring or related development, and to existing transit and roadway patterns or other infrastructure?
Infrastructure: Are possible sites served by an appropriate infrastructure of roads, pedestrian access, water, sewer, fuel, utilities, electrical power, data cable, and the services of police, fire, emergency, security, waste handling, etc? What levels of service, policies and practices are available from local utilities and services — water, sewer, natural gas, electricity, telephone, cable, satellite, waste handling, recycling — especially vis-à-vis sustainability, energy efficiency, and environmental aims.
Entitlements and regulations: Are possible sites entitled to the appropriate and intended zoning, land use, scale of development, density, intensity of use, construction type(s), design, layout, traffic, parking and service patterns? What building codes, energy codes, ordinances or other jurisdictional standards or restrictions govern or apply to the possible sites?
Collaborators and components: What partners, collaborators, vendors, suppliers, services, products, materials, assemblies, project components, etc., are available to advance the sustainability aims of the project?
Human resources: What is the available local or regional labor pool for design, development, construction, occupancy, use and customer market base for the proposed project? How does the proposed project serve the long-term goals of the local population, as well as its investors and developers? What local or regional allies or partners can the project enlist or collaborate with?
Civic involvement: What synergies do potential project sites present with neighboring or related development, or with the community at large? How can the project also serve the long-term goals and aspirations of the surrounding community? How can the project give back?
Green ‘labeling’: What certifications or approvals — global, national, regional or local —should the project seek to establish and promote its sustainability bona fides? LEED? Green Globes? Green Stars? Green Dots? Forestry Stewardship Council? Energy Star? Water Saver? etc.