What Is Sustainable Development, Really?

The way humans live—including the structures they build and the energy that powers them—has an impact on the planet. That impact has steadily increased since the First Industrial Revolution and today, the world faces major environmental and natural resource challenges. From climate change to water depletion, air pollution to deforestation, human activity is adding up. 

It’s time to change our ways.  

Worldwide, people are answering the call to pursue sustainable development. They’re working to manage and protect the planet’s atmosphere, climate, ecosystems and natural resources so that today’s generation and future ones will live healthy lives on Earth—alongside millions of other species who call the planet home. 

But that begs one very important question: what is sustainable development, really? Read on to learn about this critical concept and how companies like Sandbox are working hard today to create a better tomorrow. 

What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development is broadly defined as an initiative to reduce the human species’ impact on the environment. It refers to any form of development that meets the needs of the present, while being mindful of how it affects future generations.

The concept first appeared in print in 1987 in the Brundtland Report. The publication detailed the various environmental consequences of globalization and economic growth. Potential solutions to the problems caused by both population growth and industrialization were presented, serving as a guideline for decisions. 

Many of the sustainable practices deployed today are thanks to the ideas outlined in the report.  

Considering the triple bottom line

Sustainable development is of critical importance because many of the world’s leading issues— including water scarcity, hunger, climate change and so much more—can only be resolved on a global level by promoting systemic sustainability. 

There needs to be a real commitment to social progress and the balance of environmental concerns and economic growth. Here’s a breakdown of the key pillars of sustainability:

  • Environmental. Sustainability exists to protect nature. At the environmental level, sustainable development prevents nature from being used and viewed as inexhaustible or renewable, ensuring rational use and protection. Everything from saving water to promoting sustainable transportation, construction and architecture works to achieve environmental sustainability from a range of perspectives.
  • Social. At the social level, sustainable development improves and enriches the lives of people. It helps foster communities, cultures and people, aiming to provide a fairly distributed quality of life for all. Concerns like gender equality, healthcare access and education contribute to social sustainability.
  • Economic. This aspect of sustainability centers around economic growth—especially that which benefits all, without harming the environment. Equal distribution of resources and investment promotes other pillars of sustainability for a complete sustainable development. 

What does systemic sustainability look like at a large scale? The United Nations recently laid the groundwork for sustainable development with its 2030 Agenda. This sustainable development roadmap includes 17 distinct Sustainable Development Goals to address economic, social and environmental concerns, to provide protection for the planet and promoting the global well-being of all people. Each goal requires active involvement of everyone, from individuals and businesses to governments and administrations.

Sustainable development in the construction industry

Sustainable development at the global level starts with sustainable development at home, in local communities. This is where organizations like Sandbox can contribute in a major way, to something bigger that affects us all.  

Sustainability is of the utmost concern to the land development and construction industry, and several major trends have gained traction in the past decade. Environmentally conscious building is the standard in today’s construction industry. 

Here are some of the trends we look out for when it comes to sustainable building, and what we look for when it comes to choosing partners in sustainability:

  • Renewable building products. There are countless innovative and durable sustainable building products on the market. Eco-conscious developers can incorporate everything from insulated concrete framing to recycled composite insulation, smart glass windows and so much more. 
  • Sustainable sourcing. The journey materials take from their source to the jobsite matters. Eco-conscious developers look for materials that travel on a sustainable supply chain, always looking to source local materials to reduce carbon footprint.
  • Environmental land planning. Sustainable developers search for effective ways to deliver a net-neutral impact to local ecosystems surrounding a project. Master-planned communities can include sustainable elements—like native landscaping, for example—or greenspaces for an eco-focused approach to planning and design.
  • EV design. Electric vehicles are the future of transportation. Developers planning new communities should carefully consider EV charging capabilities for new developments, to promote a commitment to a carbon-neutral future.
  • Integrated site management. So many aspects of a development—from noise pollution to vehicle emissions—pollute the environment. Integrated site development makes the construction process faster, improving efficiency to reduce environmental impact. 

Sandbox is committed to sustainability

At Sandbox Development Consultants, sustainability is a core focus of all we do. The construction industry touches the environment across every stage of development, and it’s up to us to help create a more sustainable future, from the ground up.

Sandbox Development Consultants is leading the charge, creating projects that feature sustainable materials, employ green construction practices and reduce negative environmental impact as much as possible. Stay up to date with our latest projects by checking out our blog and following us on social media!