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Sustainability 19: The Human Factor
Because sustainable design hinges on our long-term viability as a species occupying our only Earth, it must be firmly based on human values and must always consider the human factor. That human factor should be represented in a number of different ways.
The first, and perhaps most obvious, consideration of the human factor is that we must be designing and developing things that humans actually need and want (or will soon need and want). Our housing choices must meet the desires and demands of our varied population, its ever-changing demographics, its mix of ages and abilities, and its types of family units. The retail facilities we develop — as well as the hospitals, the ballparks, the offices, the airports, the industrial facilities, the restaurants, the universities, the libraries, the hotels, the community centers, and the farms — must be suited to the identifiable needs of our city, town and village populations.
Secondly, we must design and develop projects and facilities suited to the human body, with all its abilities and limitations. Our furnishings and appliances must conform to ergonomic design. Our rooms and spaces must be conducive to human gathering, meeting, dining, working, entertaining and sleeping. The indoor air quality of our built environments must be supportive of, not detrimental to, human health. The materials we use must be free of harmful or toxic elements. We must design and build for safety, security and maintainability. We must limit and mitigate pollution. Our projects and developments must be designed for their entire life cycles — including their eventual reuse, dismantling, destruction or recycling.
Thirdly, we should design for human occupation and actualization. People must have challenging yet satisfying employment, with fair compensation. Worker safety and security should be preserved. Our projects and developments should support the social fabric of their communities.
Lastly, we must design for the human spirit. Our built environments must offer areas of refuge, rest, and relaxation. We must preserve human contact with nature, sun, sky, wind, water, wildlife and one another. We must strive to incorporate all the higher aspects of our mental and cultural life — art, music, philosophy, contemplation, aspiration, progress, faith — into our built world.
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