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Building Tomorrow A Look at Sustainability
And the Development of the Future
Bassel M. Hamieh
Portland State University



Sustainably rebuilding the spaces in which we live in today, for the future, comes with many
challenges. When needing to address the worlds issues, the overwhelming whats, hows,
whens, and wheres begin to circulate as architects, engineers, and designers instigate ideas
and solutions to the above problems; where questions such as what are the greatest
challenges?, How will we power our cities?, and What will they be made of? surface. This
paper will address the issues and concepts of sustainable development economically,
environmentally, and socially, while discovering different approaches to solving these issues.


Building Tomorrow A Look at Sustainability
And the Development of Future Cities
Sustainably rebuilding the spaces in which we live in today, for the future, comes with
many challenges. When needing to address the worlds issues, the overwhelming whats,
hows, whens, and wheres begin to circulate as architects, engineers, and designers
instigate ideas and solutions to the above problems; where questions such as what are the
greatest challenges?, How will we power our cities?, and What will they be made of?
surface. Sustainability is a concept that has just begun to immerge as an essential necessity
because of the evident shortages in resources and the worldly shift to a simpler and greener
lifestyle. The materials and resources that we need for our survival and well-being depend, either
directly or indirectly, on our natural environment; and with the current and growing concerns
over global warming, transportation, and population growth, it is imperative that we initiate
solutions to these problems.
According to the article 10 Projections for the Global Population in 2050, the global
population is expected to increase by 38%, from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.6 billion in 2050, the
population of children younger than 15 is projected to increase by only 10%, a consequence of
falling birth rates, and the number of people 65 and older is projected to triple by mid-century,
from 531 million in 2010 to 1.5 billion (Kochhar, 2014). In addition to these already limiting
factors, climate change needs little introduction it is undoubtedly one of the big issues of our
day. In the past five years, however, the agenda has shifted significantly. We have gone from a
state of uncertainty about the facts to a sense that the outcome of climate science is clear and
there is an urgent need for decisive action. An article by the title of Climate Change states that
the results of a new study by the worlds biggest climate modeling system show that not only


could global temperatures cross the two degrees Celsius barrier, but may warm by three degrees
Celsius by 2050 if we emit atmosphere-warming gases at the current rate; which would result in
the collapse of agricultural systems around the world and a four foot rise in sea levels. Climate
change is already causing 300,000 deaths a year and $125 billion of economic losses. By 2030,
global warming could be costing us $600 billion a year. The number of people affected by
extreme weather has doubled over the last 30 years and is reached well over the 375 million a
year by 2015 prediction (Johannesburg, 2012). These global issues are a small sum of all the
factors that affect pollution and waste, mobility, economic growth, access to food, places,
energy, clean water, air quality, and the spaces we live in. It is important to analyze and study all
of these projections in order to be effective in using sustainable approaches when rebuilding our
future cities.
Overuse of renewable resources through direct exploitation or habitat damage can reduce
the capacity for ecosystems to replenish themselves. In some cases, it can even lead to
extinctions. It can also damage the capacity of our environment to remain resilient in the face of
challenges such as climate change. For example, according to the UN Collaborative Program on
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, renewable resources such as marine fisheries provide a
vital source of nutrition for a large proportion of the global population. Also, more than 120
million people are estimated to depend on fish for all or part of their incomes. In Africa, as much
as 5% of the population, some 35 million people, depends wholly or partly on the fisheries sector
for their livelihood. The entire enterprise of fisheries is now severely threatened, as 70% of the
worlds fish stocks are fully fished, over-fished or beyond their sustainable limits (2013).
In addition to their natural beauty, renewable resources such as forests also provide us
with critical ecosystem services: the function of man-made CO2 emitted into the atmosphere and


forests protect biodiversity across the globe by acting as habitat. In 2009, the top 100 companies
in the forest, paper and packaging sectors had sales of $318 billion. Yet deforestation and forest
degradation through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure
development, destructive logging, fires and so on accounted for nearly 20% of global
greenhouse gas emissions. That is more than the entire global transportation sector and second
only to the energy sector in Southeast Asia, for example, palm oil expansion for food and non-
food purposes is regarded as one of the leading causes of rainforest destruction. Using and
maintaining renewable resources responsibly will be key to maintaining a sustainable economy
into the future (UN Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, 2013).
As stated by the article Sustainable Transport in the Cities of the Future, cities are
fundamental to this green shift as they are the powerhouses of the global economy. They
concentrate 80% of the world economic output; are home to half of the worlds population and
are key engines of job creation and innovation. At the same time, they are the largest consumers
of natural resources and the biggest sources of CO2 (2013, p.1). The idea of sustainability is
much needed in order to effectively address the greatest challenges of our world Conservation,
population growth, and global warming being the two most urgent.
Energy and electricity have been a demand to humans since the day they were invented.
Fossil Fuels and Hydro Powers were the first to generate electricity as well as wind- power and
nuclear power. The article Sustainable Electricity states that today, we are well advanced in
meeting [the solutions for sustainable electricity]. Wind turbines have developed greatly in
recent decades, solar photovoltaic technology is much more efficient, and there are improved
prospects of harnessing tides and waves. Solar thermal technologies in particular (with some heat
storage) have great potential in sunny climates; though we have so many sources of good


energy, there now is a large demand for clean energy a kind with no harmful emissions, no
output, and no waste (Sustainable Electricity, 2014).
Thought these are ideas that are odd to comprehend, they are concepts with creative
brilliance that could rule the future. One idea delivered by Green-Energy Ideas so Crazy they
Just Might Work, is the use of artificial leave and trees. A company of the name SolarBotanic, is
building artificial trees fitted with "nanoleaves" that generate electricity from sunlight and heat.
In addition, piezoelectric generators capture energy from the wind, sound and rain. In theory,
the trees will blend in with their surroundings, providing an aesthetically appealing source of
energy. Another incredible idea is the attempt to harness energy from space, which is a very
approaching concept. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric, with the help of Solaren Corp, a
start up company, plan to beam down from solar panels in Earth orbit beginning in mid-2016,
with an advantage over ground-based solar power because of the ability of [its] space solar
satellites to generate power 24 hours a day as they are unaffected by cloudy days and Earth's
day-night cycle. Many of these energy producing ideas play into many aspects in future
development and sustainability, one being transportation.
A very promising fact by the article Sustainable Electricity is that most of our worlds
buildings now use 40% less energy than they did 30 years ago. This transition has created an
extra 100 million jobs in energy efficiency programs, with 2.5% of buildings retrofitted a year
since 2010. New buildings in many regions are built to near zero-energy demand standards.
Floor space has increased by 33% since 2010, but the total energy demand is slightly lower.
Most homes are now heated and cooled by solar and geothermal technologies. That is if they
require heating at all, as most new buildings require only heat recovery and passive solar gain.
This is extremely similar to some of the Portland State University Building, especially Shattuck


Hall (2014).
In an increasingly urbanized world, how we shape the future of transport will be decisive
for how sustainably our cities will develop in the future. Easy access is key in a sustainably
developed city, and with a road system that incorporates vehicles and public transit systems with
no emissions, and energy producing roads, it can be accomplished. Sustainable Transport in the
Cities of the Future says, Sustainable mass transport is the backbone of any successful city.
Those cities, which are making decisions that put them onto a low carbon, sustainable pathway
will reap considerable benefits in the future as well as adding a new and innovative approach to
these ideas (2013, p.2).
In most communities, Solar Panels are used only at the top of roofs, however, an idea
addressed the possibilities of them being used otherwise as roads. According to the U.S.
Census Bureau, it is estimated that installing solar panels on every home in America would
produce 3.75 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year, nearly on par with all the energy the
United States generated in 2011 (2011). However, as stated by Forget roofs, are solar roads the
next big thing?, a new invention challenges this fact, which is the Solar Roadway -
A solar roadway is a road surface that generates electricity by collecting solar
power with photovoltaics. The idea is to replace current petroleum-based asphalt
roads, parking lots, and driveways with solar road panels that collect energy to be
used by homes and businesses, and ultimately to be able to store excess energy in
or alongside the solar roadways. Thus renewable energy replaces the need for the
current fossil fuels used for the generation of electricity, which cuts greenhouse
gases and helps in sustainable development. Parking lots, driveways, and
eventually highways are all targets for the panels. Theoretically, if the entire


United States Interstate Highway system were surfaced with Solar Roadways
panels, it could produce more than three times the amount of electricity currently
used nationwide. (Nguyen, 2014).
Though there are many things happening to insure sustainable development, sustainable
waste management is not one of them. Excessive or poorly managed waste leads to
environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources, and can pose a danger to human
health. As stated by the Waste Management Index, biodegradable waste in landfills produces
methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Reducing the
amount of waste produced in the first place and reusing or recycling materials where possible
can help protect natural resources, reduce the production of greenhouse gases and cut the amount
of land needed for landfill sites. While statistics on waste are often difficult to find,
It is estimated that the European Union throws away 3 billion tones of waste each
year, of which around 90 million tons is hazardous. Currently, around 67% of
waste is deposited in landfills, largely comprised from the estimated 2.2 billions
tonnes of household and commercial waste produced globally each year. The
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has suggested that, by
2020, up to 45% more waste will be produced than in 1995, which would mean an
increase in the dangerous levels of pollution that affect the Earths air, water and
soil that are currently created by our waste streams. In addition to the
environmental crisis caused by global waste, the UN Development Program
(UNDP) estimates that more than five million people die each year from disease
related to inadequate waste-disposal systems. Closed-loop production processes,
increased levels of recycling, responsible incineration practices and shifts in


public attitudes to waste are all important measures which should be endorsed and
implemented (Waste Management Index, 2014)
Water is the least replaceable and most essential resource on our planet. Our bodies need
it for hydration, and its limits constrain the extent to which the environment can sustain the
plants, livestock and fish upon which we depend for food. Proper sanitation ensures hygienic
sewage disposal, and a clean and healthy living environment. The combination of safe water for
drinking and agriculture and hygienic sanitation facilities is a precondition for achieving better
development and environmental sustainability. Even with the current steady growth in access to
safe water supplies, the longer-term future looks uncertain because of upcoming water scarcity
Almost half of the worlds population (47%) will be living under severe water stress by 2030 if
no new policies are introduced over one billion more than today. In addition, there is a high
likelihood that climate change will intensify water stress as reinforced by the UNDP. The
problem of unsafe water and inadequate sanitation is often comprised of high rates of
urbanization (UNDP, 2011).
Water availability will affect every bit of our society, and a good example of its economic
effects is out of the Huffington Posts article The Future of Water Sustainability. It states that
multinational companies have historically taken water availability for granted. But this is
changing. A 2013 World Economic Forum report named water scarcity as one of the top global
risks facing companies in the 21st century. So far, 93 multinational corporations have committed
to the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, a public-private partnership to advance water
sustainability -- an exponential increase from the original six signatories in 2007. As more
business leaders recognize pressures related to water availability on their supply chains and
profits, they are growing more aware of the impact of irresponsible water use on "intangible"


business value such as reputation, brand and customer relations (Damon, 2013).
To be able to adequately feed and support the worlds growing population, our global
economy needs to continue to grow. There is growing awareness that our global economy is
environmentally unsustainable. Our prosperity depends on a wide range of resources and
services supplied by our planet, from fresh water, metals and minerals to crop pollination
performed by bees. Most of these are overexploited and underpriced, or not valued at all in
todays economies And the economy is not delivering quality of life for a huge section of the
worlds population: more than a billion people are undernourished, short of clean water and
without electricity. (Michaelis, 2011, pp. 5-6).
In the world today, many continue to go hungry, most notably in Sub-Saharan Africa
(where 265 million people are undernourished) and Asia (642 million). Groups that are
particularly at risk of hunger are the rural and urban poor, and victims of conflict and natural
disasters. The number of people at risk of hunger has continued to grow and not enough progress
is being made to meet the UN MDG (United Nations Millennium Development Goal) target of
halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015. The rising cost
of food is one of the biggest factors: at times of economic crisis the poor eat less of the most
nutritious foods, such as meat, fruit and vegetables. Efforts to reduce under nutrition need to be
accelerated if we are to meet that target and continue to progress towards a goal of zero hunger,
including increased and more accurate levels of measuring the hunger crisis, the stabilizing of
prices of staple foods subsequent to the economic crisis, and the leveraging of agricultural
practices and product distribution in developing countries. (Michaelis, 2011).
Extreme poverty is one of the most critical barriers to human development, and interacts
with most other areas such as food security and transportation. For example, poverty is the most


important barrier to accessing education, and uneducated people (especially women and girls)
are less likely to attain productive employment and gender equality. In turn, when these are out
of reach it can lead to a vicious cycle of further poverty. And poverty is also the most important
driver of poor health outcomes because an estimated 1.4 billion people were still living in
extreme poverty in 2005 according to the article The Millennium Development Goals Eight
Goals for 2015. Despite the current economic recession, the growth in developing countries has
so far been strong enough to sustain progress on poverty reduction, suggesting that the MDG
target of halving the percentage of people living on an income of less than a dollar a day can be
met. We need an even stronger focus on poverty reduction going forward, in order to maintain
the pace of progress and sustainable economic growth (2013).
Economic growth has been used with other terms such as development, modernization,
westernization and industrialization. It is, in other words, a transition from a simple, low-income
economy to a modern, high- income economy. Its scope includes the process and policies by
which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well being of its people. Though it is
often measured by rate of change of gross domestic product, it is generally understood in terms
of increase in per capita income, and attainment of a standard of living equivalent to that of
industrialized countries. Economic development is defined as the rise in the general standards of
living and quality of life - measured by the Human Developmental Index (HDI).
The HDI is a way of measuring development by combining indicators of life
expectancy, educational attainment and income. Economic development can only be achieved if
there is economic growth. Economic growth is the rise in a nations real gross domestic product
(GDP). Considering that "Development requires the removal of major sources of freedom:
poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation,


neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity of oppressive states" (UNDP,
I firmly believe that economic growth can lead to sustainable economic development.
However, the conflict between economic growth and sustainable development is not always
necessary. Economic growth does not always contribute to environmental degradation. In the
early stages of growth, quality of environment generally deteriorates but at higher levels of per
capita income, it improves. The link between income and pollution arises because the
composition of output changes with growth in favor of newer, cleaner technologies. Thus,
sustained economic growth is the key to sustainable development.
Unsustainable forms of development are not evenly distributed across the world. Some
lifestyles lead to a greater depletion of the Earths resources than others, and some people will be
more vulnerable to changes in the earths ecosystems than others. For example, challenges such
as poverty, inequality and malnutrition are most acute in the developing world, and addressing
them requires the support of wealthy, industrialized nations. For this reason, it is important for
people to see themselves as connected to each other and to look beyond national, cultural,
biological and religious differences.
All of the aspects of our future society and sustainability are incredibly intertwined and
complexly connected to each other, much like a positive feedback loop. If one of the pieces of
the puzzle were missing, the bigger picture would never be completed. If one of these aspects did
not reach a level of sustainability, we could never achieve a fully sustainable society. From
accessibility and energy, to water quality and waste management, it is crucial that we keeping
taking all the innovative ideas and all the necessary steps, in order to finally achieve a
sustainable, self-contained, world.


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